“When pondering the relationship between music and water,” says Ben Eshmade of the eclectic, ever-expanding Arctic Circle collective’s new venture The Bubbly Blue And Green, “the first thing that came into my head was a jaunty Disney image of a big iron bed drifting like a meandering melody along the bottom of a Technicolor ocean.”
As if that wasn’t enough to be getting on with, he continues: “Dismissing childhood cartoons, I then began thinking about other, more literary resonances: the angry sea in Shakespeare’s The Tempest or the watery poignancy of Coleridge’s The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner. This festival of concerts at Kings Place presents an opportunity to tap both vaunting classical and more quotidian marine references via a glistening miscellany of musical genres, from electro-acoustic experiment to film score and everything in between.”
The Arctic Circle collective is an extended family of musicians and artists from around the world who all share a musical vision. Dedicated to spreading its gospel of musical experimentation, diversity and plain old fun throughout the land, The Circle’s latest venture finds them in King’s Cross of all places, housed in the chic modernity of Kings Place.
Over four nights from the 24th-27th of February, The Bubbly Blue And Green Festival will explore its aquatic theme in a myriad of styles, tones and atmospheres, beginning with a real must-see event. The two finest, most innovative purveyors of dense, dreamy ambient turntabalism around, Philip Jeck and Janek Schaefer are each premiering new works. Jeck is performing An Ark for the Listener, a new work inspired by Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem The Wreck Of The Deutschland, while Schaefer brings us Phoenix & Phaedra Holding Patterns, a “Found Sound Radio Play” for FM transmitter, nine portable radios, surround PA and an empty stage.
Thursday night sees Dusseldorf prepared-pianist Volker Bertelman, aka Haushka, collaborate with Icelandic cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir in what promises to be a mesmerising blend of the charmingly melancholic with the starkly foreboding. They are followed by reclusive electronica veterans ISAN, who are poking their heads above the parapet for a rare live outing to preview tracks from a new (aquatically-themed) album.
Friday features a collaboration between Molly Nyman and Harry Escott’s 12-piece Samphire Band, who are collaborating with film-maker and artist Pedro Serrazina, providing a live, sea-shanty-based soundtrack to his short animation The Lighthouse. They will likewise be providing the accompaniment to a film created by Nick Hornby, an intriguing prospect to say the least. Following them will be Ulster-born folk singer Dale Grundle, whose Sleeping Years project tonight incorporates the recently-formed Arctic Circle Brass Ensemble as well as arrangements by John Jermy and Robert Kirby, the latter a veteran collaborator with Nick Drake.
Saturday is the most densely-crammed evening of the lot, kicked off by Paper Cinema and their eerie lantern/video-projected puppetry. It is often said of them that their live paper cut-out animations with simultaneous, improvised musical accompaniment takes us back to the silent cinema, and the two lo-fi narratives they will be performing tonight, King Pest and Night Flyer (the former based on an Edgar Allen Poe short story) promise to be suitably grimy and full of child-like magic Next up, we welcome back cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir. This time she collaborates with the extraordinary lungpower of Irish singer Iarla ó Lionird, one of the leading exponents of the Gaelic Sean-nós (‘old-style’) singing tradition for what has the potential to be the most haunting collaboration of the festival.
The London Snorkelling Team are up next, a 1950s cabaret band stranded (underwater?) in the 21st century, once again accompanied by live projections courtesy of the Perrett Brothers. The Festival ends with an honest-to-goodness orchestra: The Willkommen Orchestra, to be precise. Comprised of various members of Sons Of Noel And Adrian, The Leisure Society, The Climbers and Shoreline, it should be an uplifting and rapturous finale to what looks like an unmissable four days of saltwater, music and film.