She Robot Assimilates the British

Images used with kind permission of

Gail Foster.

 

Summer Sunday afternoons in the beer garden of the British; it’s a Devizes thing, a ritual stretching back long before I anchored on these shores. Yet it’s unusual for an android to be found there. In all truth, if any kind of automaton did start socialising on the pub scene, the British Lion would probably be bottom of the list. There’s nothing modern or chic about this favoured watering hole, no ultramodern silver-plated décor, just a good bunch of humans, the odd canine, a happy atmosphere and casks of affordable drinks.

The name of this Devizes Arts Festival free fringe event somewhat misleading, I expected She-Robot to be mysteriously mechanical, and gregariously unresponsive, akin to a robot, even if it was to be that she wasn’t really a robot. I suspected weirdness, machinelike repartee, as the name suggests. Instead, Suzy Condrad is most definitely human, affable, humoured and inspired, wearing her heart on her sleeve regarding her art, and modest with her talent.

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Queen of the Boss loop station, this multi-instrumentalist, one-woman band interlaces, effects and autoharp, glockenspiel, thumb piano and random objects to produce a unique sound, reflecting synth-pop and electro of yore, yet with a twist of contemporary ambient house like a strong bassline, and perhaps most poignant, her echoing voice and beatboxing.

She Robots hails from Bristol, her loose, avant-garde repertories remind me of Portishead, least the Bristol techno downtempo scene, to an extent, yet it’s more inimitable and individual. Captivating the audience to silence as she glides through her own compositions, and discretely reassigned covers like Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill, and one I virtually missed the source of through her own take, KRS-1’s Sound of the Police.

So yep, there’s something unquestionably electro-80s about Suzy, archiving influences I suspect from Depeche Mode, Joy Division and Yazoo, to perhaps the Art of Noise. Yet, here’s the thing, the style, the namesake gave me this preconception it’d be Kraftwerk-stiff and structured, Art of Nose secretive, but the sound flowed stunningly, ambiently and she spoke with poise and ease during prolonged breaks as she aligned her technology and instruments to perfection; far more down-to-earth than your typical robot.

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She jested, with accounts of previous gigs, such as excusing malfunctions in her loop-pedal as mud from a festival, or recounting an amusing episode gigging in Camden where the sound of an ambulance siren got caught in the loop-pedal. See, robots don’t do that, they cannot articulate socially, joke and frantically dance like a raver, with all the joy of presenting her music unto us, and that, was the most appealing part of She-Robot’s show.

So, I could argue her one-woman-band was not the master of a particular instrument, more so, the skill is the precise timing, using that loop-pedal like an instrument all of its own. I pondered what atrocity of unorganised clamour I’d create given half a turn on the thing! Yet to turn away, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was a full band up there.

Aptly, and prior to her encore, Suzy finished on Blue Monday, pure and effective nod to her principle influences, and doubtlessly as it’s an irresistible foot-tapper. But along with her genial charisma, and immense skill, it was the individuality which allured me, and her use of the ukulele, in particular, to bless the otherwise electro-synth pop sound with a reggae skank; trust me to pick up on that!

If I was informed in the past, the free fringe events of Devizes Arts Festival often failed to attract attention, it was not the case here. I hope I’m getting through those who may wear this out-of-date typecast of what the Arts Festival is about, because let’s not name and shame, I’ll admit I was once like you, but now I’ve seen the light.

 

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De Novo; New Beginnings for Claire and Mark

 

What’s all this about then, another invitation to “like” a Facebook page? I was glad to catch up with Claire Gilchrist yesterday, as she announced a new venture with other former People Like Us originator, Mark Povey…….

The fresh electro-acoustic duo dubbed, De Novo, promises to “create something frickin’ stratospheric!”

Bassist Mark left People Like Us after a sell-out New Year’s Eve gig at the Three Crowns, Devizes back in 2017, while Claire left towards the end of last year. Let’s not dwell on details, I wanted to press Claire for what we can expect from this silver lining, for does she see it as thus? “Quite,” Claire agreed, and informed me, “De Novo is Latin for New Beginning.”

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But is De Novo something dreamed up on a whim, this Sunday afternoon in a beer garden? “No. Mark and I have been toying with the idea of a duo for a while now,” Claire explained, “but I was far from ready to sing again after last year.” The split from People Like Us left Claire disheartened, so we are pleased to hear she’s found her feet again, and that wonderfully punctual and expressive voice too, obviously.

But, what kind of music can we expect?

“We will be producing our own take on chart and album songs, old and new,” she explained.

How far do you plan to go back? I inquired, requesting them to give us some eighties!

“Foo’s,” Claire namedropped, “Beach Boys, Adele, Guns & Roses, The Police…” Then Erasure, The Human League, and Simple Minds were also cited.

A broad pop mix, “choosing your favourites?!” I asked.

“The One and Only!” came a knee-jerk reaction, I hope in jest! “Yes, but also songs that people won’t necessarily recognise.” The blurb on De Novo expresses: Anyone who knows either of us already will not be surprised to read that our duo will not be that of the ‘every day’ kind.

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Original People Like Us line-up, Andy, Nicky, Claire and Mark

Claire agreed with my belief, that it’s fascinating to cover songs, when putting your own stamp on them. But what about originals, has the duo their own compositions up their sleeves?

“Yes, Mark and I are songwriters.”

“Together?”

“Yes.” Claire was keen to open up to a little of her history, “I had a record deal with an independent label when I was in my early twenties. My song-writing partner and I had songs that were put forward to artists in Nashville, at the time.” Yet she sings and plays by ear, “I always need an ‘actual’ musician to realise stuff properly.”

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Mark and Claire are at “the very beginning of our musical journey together,” and we wish all the best for this promising duo, but are they ready?

“Not quite yet, we’re honing our act. We don’t want to go out and perform without being 100% happy and ready,” she explained, “but we’re hoping to pop up over the summer to give people a free taster and be gig-ready by September. Like flash-mob, out of the blue, street kinda stuff.”

“Buskers,” I jest, though Claire professed the importance of busking, informing me her idol KT Tunstall started as a busker. So, track their progress by giving the De Novo Facebook page your “like,” and we look forward to hearing from them soon.

 

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My Kind of Science Fair!

 

Virtual Reality

Throw on your lab coats and grab your goggles: My Science Fair 2019 is here!

 
For the eighth year running, on Sunday 3rd March from 10am-3pm, the Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford on Avon will host the free family event My Science Fair. The annual Fair, which attracted over 400 visitors last year, promises a jam-packed programme, full of activities, presentations and performances designed to engage young people aged 5+ years in the amazing worlds of music, movements and science.

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The day will begin with a bang as Bath-based Fun Science and presenter Cressida Bullock (known by her scientist alter-ego ‘Chemical Cress’) take to the Centre’s Auditorium stage for an interactive experiment with colour, excitement and fire. The Fun Science team will also be conducting roaming experiments throughout the day around the Centre!

 

This opening performance will be followed by a percussion workshop exploring the fast-paced rhythms of samba music with music leader David Garcia, who will be putting a scientific twist on the vibrant dance music genre. Later, electro-acoustic composer Duncan Chapman will be recording soundbites from My Science Fair attendees to create an enthralling lullaby, complete with the swooping and ethereal sounds of the Theremin and the haunting vocals of an Indian raga singer.

Supriya Lullaby MSF

 
Elsewhere around the Centre, children can look forward to creating their own plastic models with a 3D printer from the University of Bath or blast off with water powered rockets out on the field. Explore the exciting world of electricity with a Van de Graaf generator in a hair-raising experience, or discover the science behind the music we hear with sonic crystals. Experience a Colourscape installation where you are able to create sounds and digital imagery using your body movements or explore far-off worlds using a virtual reality headset. Budding engineers can check out the LEGO robotics stand, as well as Bot Club, where you can create your own mini-robots, and find out how to use ultrasound to levitate solid objects with University of Bath students.

 

QUESTION MARK GIRL
The Fair also marks the culmination of the My Science Fair competition, for which students from 14 primary schools across Wiltshire and Bath have been devising their own exciting experiments exploring music, movement and science. Experiments will be exhibited throughout the day and will be judged by an expert panel, including scientists from the University of Bath, University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, as well as automotive-test specialists AB Dynamics, the Ministry of Defence and Unilever.

 
As you make your way around the Centre make sure to visit the experiment stands to find out about their investigations, which explore questions such as “Which ingredients are important in a cake?”, “Is it possible to make butter using a bike?” and “Classical or funky music – which is best for sleeping?”

Duncan Chapman Lullaby
My Science Fair is being generously supported by the Bradford on Avon Area Board, the Jack Lane Charitable Trust, NFU Mutual and Wiltshire Music Connect, as well as Wiltshire Music Centre Season Sponsor AB Dynamics. Entrance is free and there is no need to book tickets. Simply bring your enquiring minds and join in on Sunday 3rd March to investigate, discover and create!

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SUN 3 MARCH 10AM-3PM
Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon, BA15 1DZ
TICKETS: This event is FREE to attend. There is no need to book, simply bring inquiring minds on the day and get ready to discover something amazing!

TIMETABLE:
10am-12pm: Fun Science Experiment, Samba Science with David Garcia
12.15pm-2.30pm: Lullaby Recording and Performance with Duncan Chapman
2.30pm: Prize Giving for Young Scientists
All Day: LEGO Robotics Workshops, roaming experiments, Colourscape, virtual reality, Bot Club, water-powered rockets, Young Scientists’ Experiment tables.

 

MSF Robots banner

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Visit http://www.wiltshiremusic.org.uk/mysciencefair

or call the Wiltshire Music Centre Box Office on:
01225 860 100

Colourscape

FOLLOW, LIKE AND SHARE:
Using the hashtag: #MyScienceFair2019
Twitter @wiltshiremusic
Instagram @wiltshiremusic
Facebook @WiltshireMusicCentre

 

 

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