As 2018 comes to a close, we reflect on the year – from our favourite releases (not just on nonclassical!), to best live experiences, to personal highlights. We’ve made a year-end playlist featuring our top releases and some of the artists that delivered our live highlights of the year – take a listen, and let us know any of your favourites on Twitter @nonclassical.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at nonclassical! We look forward to seeing you in 2019 for our first gig of the year on 23 January: Battle of the Bands.
Eleanor Ward // Executive Director
2018 has been a jam-packed year for me. From the Hague’s Rewire Festival to the Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival, via Boudica Festival, Green Man and Simple Things - and that’s just festivals! Add in two massive nonclassical-produced events in Rise of the Machines and the National Theatre’s River Stage festival, and a load of live gigs across London and beyond. This was also the year that I (belatedly) discovered electronic pioneer Suzanne Ciani. And how can I forget Janelle Monae’s live show at the Roundhouse? A musical year to remember...
Featuring some of my favourite performances this year, including Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Thundercat - who were both sublime in their very different ways. They were only topped by the amazing stilettoed performance of the fabulous Arca. Three nights of no sleep and staying on a boat in Port Forum, and it almost broke me. Almost, but not quite… I'm heading to Primavera Porto in 2019 - and looking forward to it already.
Tom Richards - LP and launch gig
Maybe this is a bit of cheat, but my second choice is Tom Richards' Pink Nothing LP and accompanying album launch, curated by the good man himself. The LP is stunning, and the launch was a perfect nonclassical gig - full of interested and interesting people, and some simply amazing music and musicians. I'm so glad that we were able to make a conversation between myself and Tom – almost 12 months earlier – a reality.
Arriving at the end of September, Gazelle Twin's album Pastoral has become one of my favourite records of the year (and it seems like both The Quietus and Stuart Maconie agree with me…) And just a couple of weeks ago, I had the immense pleasure of seeing NYX experimental drone choir perform it with her. Their words seem to explain it more than I can: "Together, NYX and Gazelle Twin...channel the dizzying anxiety of post-truth Britain, in a distorted dreamscape of whispers and operatic chaos." Perfect for a cold December night in the midst of the end of times.
Nathan Comer // Marketing & Label Development Manager
Among other things, and I’ve enjoyed releases by Low, Elysia Crampton, Tirzah, SOPHIE, Ross from Friends, Phil Venables, Marie Davidson, Skee Mask, Amnesia Scanner, Mount Eerie, Eli Keszler, RP Boo, Eartheater, US Girls, Sarah Davachi, Laurel Halo, Heather Roche, Lucy Railton, Puce Mary, 0PN, Kate NV (thanks Aidan), and, against all my expectations and better instincts, Arctic Monkeys. Standouts were:
Chaines – The King
Slip have had a belter of a year and I could have picked almost anything they released – but this one is just amazing. A creepy and addictive soundworld that draws on Twin Peaks, video games and a real curiosity for just making noise. Listen to it.
Autechre – NTS Sessions 1–4
A staggering 8 hours of music that I keep getting lost in. Weird, shape-shifting, and totally fascinating.
Eiko Ishibashi – The Dreams My Bones Dream
Working with Jim O’Rourke on the Langham Research Centre Tape Reworks EP (another real highlight of the year) got me digging out his back catalogue again. That led me to this record by his frequent collaborator, Eiko Ishibashi. One of the best songwriting-focused albums I’ve heard in ages.
Live hightlists include seeing Eliza McCarthy playing piano works by Mica Levi in an old dentist’s office, gigs by Elysia Crampton, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Pan Daijing. I enjoyed reading Crudo and, for some reason, getting obsessed with John Le Carre novels.
It’s also been a year for stultifying politics and current affairs, so thanks to Stephen Bush for demystification and Chapo Trap House for righteous/riotous indignation.
Heather Stephenson // Marketing & Events Officer
Paul Dunmall, John O'Gallagher, John Edwards + Mark Sanders at The Vortex
This was a free gig I went to back in February. I went to check out alto player John O'Gallagher – I heard him play in Jeff Williams' band the year before and was intrigued to hear him in a free context. There's a real intensity to his sound that I think is really unique and was great hearing him with perform alongside such a heavyweight lineup. First time I'd heard Paul Dunmall as well – will definitely be checking him out next time he's playing.
Ornette Coleman/Pat Metheny – Song X (with Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette and Denardo Coleman)
Not sure if this counts as it's an old release but I got into a big Ornette Coleman phase earlier this year and think this is one of the most intense, uncompromising and beautiful albums I've heard. The great thing about Ornette's writing is that he has the ability to write happy tunes that sound really hip – something I think very few composers are able to achieve. Incredible lineup too. Check out 'Endangered Species' on the album – serious chops!
The Riot Ensemble playing Philip Venables at Kings Place
I really love Philip Venables' piece 'Illusions' so it was great seeing that live – the audience was in stitches throughout! The gig also had pieces by composers I wasn't aware of – Sarah Nemstov, Lee Hyla and Helga Arias Parra – so was great to hear them.
Nick Luscombe // A&R Consultant
Eric Chenaux – Slowly Paradise
Two seemingly disparate musical conversations become one in this true masterwork of songwriting and instrumentation
Ross From Friends – Family Portrait
Colourful, nostalgic and warm electronics that looks back and forward at the same time.
DJRum – Portrait with Firewood
Incredible mix of sound design, deep techno and classical.
Other highlights include:
Comparing field recording notes with Ryuichi Sakamoto and watching his CODA documentary.
Launching Musicity in three cities in China
Touring Japan with Langham Research Centre
DJing the Nonclassical stage on the Southbank during a weekend of the long hot summer of '18.
Solen Fluzin // Label & Artist Development Intern
Benedict Taylor / Stephen Upshaw at The Victoria, 15 Nov
This was my first show as part of nonclassical and one of the most cathartic evenings I ever attended to be focused entirely on viola. I did train in classical violin as a child/teen and mostly retain distant and painful memories. Both Stephen and Benedict displayed uncompromising, joyful and wild talent on stage, highlighting the beauties and imperfections of this instrument, pushing it to new frontiers of improvisation kin to the Ouvroir of Musique Potentielle and mingling with electronics. On my Christmas list this year: getting my violin and bow serviced!
Hackoustic Christmas Party at Iklectik, 15 Dec
Reminiscent of a visit to the MIT fab lab and How To Make (Almost) Anything program, this gathering of minds and Work In Progress projects was set in the very cosy space inhabited by Iklectik, from super low-tech carrot whistles to machine learning infused compositions. Each project unique, compelling and well worth a google search: Ales Alessia Milo Aural Fabric interactive textile map of Greenwich, London, Andrew Hockey premiering his brand new and interactive Water Bowl Piano, Graham Dunning and Sam Underwood demoing the Mammoth Beat Organ for its London debut, Rob Thomas taking us on a run through his composing/technologist path.
Walking in the studio of video artist James Alec Hardy, Warrior Studios Camberwell Arts Open Studios, June
Lured in by the BBQ smells, I fell into the most effective arts and technology bear-trap.
JAH explores the poetics of obsolete video and audio technology, resulting in vivid and sometimes resonant multi-screen video pieces flowing with looped and glitched geometries, taking over walls and floors alike. Most of all, his laboratory (crammed with screens, recorders, mixers, audio equipment, cables, doodads and gewgaws of all sizes, shapes and colours) and his process (exhaustively described in this interview) are endlessly fascinating.
James performed a live drone set generated by manipulated analogue feedback from video output last February at Iklectik, billed alongside Thomas Stone, winner of our 2015 Battle Of The Bands (an event currently taking applications and coming back on 23 January at The Victoria, mark it on that brand-new calendar!). This piece was released by Champion Versions on an ultra limited 7”, head cleaner (bandcamp link).
Currently showing at Saatchi Gallery as part of Harder Edge (survey of recent abstraction, group show curated by artist Dominic Beattie).