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Kettle’s Yard Cambridge | March 2010

A while back, early March on a bright Sunday morning I headed the few miles to Cambridge to take a a listen to some experimental music and in particular Pete Um.

One of the great things about living near Cambridge is the easy access to the experimental music scene, this does has have an horrific downside, that the many of the promoters in Cambridge are so far up their back-sides they can only comprehend local experimental, or Internationally known, which means there is a dearth of decent spaces for upcoming bands to find a berth to play to an audience who would like to listen to the music. Aside from that, Cambridge hates cars and getting anywhere is fraught with angst. Fortunately, on a Sunday the Council Office Car-Park is open, which is just a few strides from Kettle’s Yard.

The joy of a venue on Sunday lunch-time in Cambridge is the diversity of audience and on that Sunday the small audience of about 30 ranged from earnest Students, hoping to meet just anyone, to seasoned academics intrigued by new spaces. There were photographers trying to capture moments of enlightenment from obscure angles, as we sat in seats arranged for professorial discourses. The setting was in a hushed quadrangle of white walls and museum pieces, an antipodal point to the music to be played.

I was going somewhere here I am sure…… Oh yes, Babygrand



Absolutely brilliant. A dictaphone for looping, electromagnets for sound composition and they were off. Babygrand took us on a tour of 15 minutes of creative genius. The Dictaphone started to record the sound of a single bell, which was made by a wire connecting with the electromagnet, this was built, re-looped and re-recorded until there was a peal of bells, then Peacock feathers and so much more appeared on a small table and began to strike their sounds and we had some new loop backs, mobile phones fed-back through mikes to generate even more creativity and the whole time this was layered and looped over and over to a Dictaphone. Who needs a 64 track machine?

The acts were introduced by polite and an appropriately dressed compere, in quiet tonality and the audience politely clapped, I just felt this should be in a far larger space with people who were really interested and would appreciate the power of the composition, superb creativity played to an audience of 30, the world is missing out.

Pete Um, who readers of the website will know I appreciate, lumbered to his politely appointed space, which featured a tape to tape deck recorder, probably from the late 80′s and a laptop and regaled us with 30 minutes of magic.

Pete Um

Pete Um

This was the creativity that makes Pete Um who he is, as he fed his computer to the tape to tape and took me on a journey. Pete is best known for his one minute summations, but he is equally adept at improvisation. It is at settings like this, where musicians lay themselves on the line and expose their creative genius, or frailty, that experimental music can be truly appreciated.

As I said Cambridge is great for experimental music and internationally known bands, but if you actually want some promotion, it isn’t happening here.

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