Guide to the week of music: Sam Oliveira discusses Rhythm Lab, plus music news, new sounds and visuals

Welcome to our Guide to the week of music, a round-up of music news, media and releases relating to the Band on the Wall program and wider musical world. This week we speak to Sam Oliveira of Reform Radio, to discuss their recent Rhythm Lab video series and label launch as well as tipping a hat to George Clinton as he looks toward live music retirement. In addition to that, we’ve a round-up of great some great new music and music visuals from across the globe.

Sam Oliveira of Reform Radio takes us inside their innovative Rhythm Lab project

Last week, the creative minds behind the community-oriented, not-for-profile broadcaster Reform Radio, launched their innovative Rhythm Lab project. Its concept was simple: take two artists who’ve have never met before, facilitate a four-hour collaborative session between them and film as they worked to complete a single track.

Several exciting, Manchester-based artists were involved: Sam Healey of the energetic fusion duo Skeltr, folk songwriter and recent Manchester Hill residency participant Hannah Ashcroft and Lychee/Free Wize Men MC Blind MIC to name but three.

Pair by pair, the artists convened at Reform’s Old Granada Studio base and got stuck into some spontaneous creation. ‘I suppose I didn’t really know what to expect from it,’ Reform’s Sam Oliveira confessed in a phone conversation earlier this week. ‘We thought we might get a couple of nice tracks, but actually the music they created was absolutely phenomenal and way surpassed our expectations!’

The project’s five episodes were revealed over the course of five days, featuring interviews with each participant and footage of the creative process, revealing plenty about the dynamics of collaboration. Episode one featured multi-instrumentalist Denis Jones, who shares a studio space at Old Granada Studios with other Manchester artists, making him the perfect candidate for participation.

‘I was very keen that Denis was involved, [as well as] Sam who does a show for us and Blind Mic, who I knew – but I also wanted to bring in people that I didn’t know and who were new to the station,’ Oliveira explains. He consulted trusted friends such as Matt Halsall, Danny Fahey aka Fallacy and Mike Burgess before arriving at his final participant list.

‘There was a selection process, as we needed to make sure that the person was comfortable with collaborating,’ Sam added, ‘you don’t want to throw a person in there who hasn’t done that before’. Aside from those considerations, Sam’s chief concerns were ‘mixing the genres up and – in a very small city – trying to find two artists that had never met before!’

His efforts paid off, as what resulted from the experimental sessions was a handful of surprisingly strong pieces of music. “It was a really fun thing to to become the ‘fly on the wall’ and witness that first moment of two people working together,” Sam said of the filmmaking process.

Originally a project funded by the Arts Council, with an aim to explore the art of collaboration and to foster new creative relationships; it developed from a short film series into something bigger. ‘We launched Rhythm Lab records at the beginning of last week when we started premiering the videos,’ Sam stated. ‘We thought at some point we might do it as a station, but I think this project brought that forward for us. We felt like: here we go, we’ve got five really solid tracks and then we went and commissioned five remixes as well.’

Rhythm Lab volume 1, which features the five session tracks and remixes by Acre, Glue70, Spencr, Lack and SZAJNA, is available to stream and purchase via Bandcamp.

‘The plan is to start developing a second series as I’ve already had artists contacting me to say they wanted to get involved, which is really interesting,’ Sam explains. ‘It shows they’ve really engaged with it and are really up for the challenge. We’re looking at bigger, better, bolder: can we integrate other artforms, a music video element, could we get a visual artist involved…so there are multiple artists working together, learning how to collaborate very quickly and turning something around under quite a lot of pressure, while [we] document that process as well.’

Reform radio plan to relocate later this year and hope to expand the concept as they do so. Looking back, Oliviera cites FACT’s Against the Clock series as an early inspiration, explaining “I think it’s really interesting and sometimes you’re watching it and suddenly think ‘this person hasn’t said anything for ten minutes’ but its really [still] engaging. That was something we drew inspiration from – that idea of giving someone their deadline and letting them create.”

We’re excited to see the project develop and recommend you watch the whole series before dipping into Volume 1.

George Clinton to retire from live performance in May 2019

Living funk legend George Clinton announced his plans to retire from live performance last week. The committed and courageous 76-year-old will hop off the motherbus in May 2019, but emphasised in an interview with Billboard that his recent pacemaker surgery wasn’t a factor in his decision. ‘This has been coming a long time,’ he expressed, adding ‘Truth be told, it’s never really been about me. It’s always been about the music and the band. That’s the real P-Funk legacy. They’ll still be funkin’ long after I stop.’ The decision draws to a close a productive chapter in Clinton’s career. Over the past five years, he has performed in Manchester frequently, not to mention collaborating with Kendrick Lamar, putting out the first Parliament track in decades and delivering memorable Tiny Desk performances and informative lectures. Check out shots from his 2015 show at The Ritz and in related news, check out cuts he produced with the late Bernie Worrell in musician Gabe Gonzilla’s earthstrong tribute mix.

New sounds

Veteran pianist and composer Kenny Barron releases his first LP for Blue Note records today. Concentric Circles marks half a century in music for the seventy-five-year-old, who’s joined by a new look quintet of bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, drummer Johnathan Blake, saxophonist Dayna Stephens and trumpeter Mike Rodriguez. Impeccably recorded, mixed and mastered – its set is similar in mood to his late-eighties collaboration with John Hicks, but benefits from a richer sound and more relatable group dynamic. Reflections, the solo piece with which the record ends, is an astonishing demonstration of Barron’s ageless touch.

Joe Armon-Jones’ debut solo record – featuring the likes of drummer Moses Boyd, producer and MD Kwake Bass, vocalist Asheber and saxophonist Nubya Garcia – hits shelves and digital platforms today. Its release ends a week which saw Jones and his Ezra Collective bandmates pick up two Jazz FM awards and you can check out live renditions of cuts from it via Red Bull Music. The third track, with its crossover, dub-wise flavour, is named after and highlights Ezra bandmate James Mollison.

Fans of French cinema and the soundtracks of Ennio Morricone should definitely dive into the new Transversales release of work by François de Roubaix. Soul and R&B fans my wish to investigate the new Daptone release by James Hunter Six and fans of out-there sonic combinations may wish to become acquainted with the Beijing-based Cosmic Project – synths and sitars in perfect harmony!

Gabriel Garzon Montano released a new single recently which is well worth a listen, and on the techno end of the spectrum, Roman Poncet’s new triple record and the new 12” dedicated to and featuring the late Marcus Belgrave, are serious efforts!

New visuals

Coops’ new animated video is a cracking hip-hop visual, as is the new video from The Mouse Outfit, featuring Ellis Meade in a number of Northern Quarter spots.

House of Waters’ rendition of Midnight for Congohead is a tremendous introduction to their unique trio sound, while Trevor Powers (who played one of his final Youth Lagoon shows at Band on the Wall) returns with some new and exciting sounds and visuals that further his experimental intentions.

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Sunday | 20.05.18

House of Waters + BotW DJ

Band on the Wall, Manchester