The restlessly inventive Welshman performs his new record Babelsberg with the London Contemporary Orchestra, adding further intrigue to his beautifully offbeat compositions.
Babelsberg was originally recorded in 2016, but the songs were put into hibernation until additional scores were added by composer Stephen McNeff and performed by the National Orchestra of Wales, eighteen months later. The result is an album bathed in lush strings and ebullient horns, underpinned by Rhys’s signature Welsh drawl and droll lyricism. The record focuses on misplaced optimism with Rhys noting the Tower of Babel as an inspiration, stating of his thought-process ‘people building towers to reach an idea of heaven (but maybe creating a kind of hell)’.
Rhys is best known for his work with Super Furry Animals, who came up in the height of Brit-Pop hysteria but forged their own path, creating music that had Indie-Rock at its centre but touched on elements of Folk, Psychedelia and Electronica. Rhys started his career as the front man of Ffa Coffi Pawb, has released two albums as Neon Neon (alongside Boom Bip), and with Babelsberg marks his fifth solo record.
Featuring the London Contemporary Orchestra alongside peculiar insect techno duo Native Instrument and ingenious, avant-garde soprano Juliet Fraser.
The London Contemporary Orchestra returns to Open Ear following sell-out appearances at Tate Tanks last season. As the action rotates around separate stages in LSO St Luke’s Jerwood Hall, they’ll be joined by Berlin-based electronics duo Native Instrument who combine the sounds of nature with electronics and the human voice forming a peculiar and mellow insect-techno. The other human voice we’ll is hear is that of EXAUDI co-founder, Juliet Fraser, as she premieres a new piece for voice and electronics by Lisa Ilean.
Singer-songwriter and producer RY X performs new versions of his soulful songs with the London Contemporary Orchestra.
Spurred along by lyrics of isolation, solidarity and humanness, RY X’s searching vocals are here buoyed by the strings of the London Contemporary Orchestra. Built into something even more encompassing, it’s as if his fragile songs, built on acoustic guitar, piano and electronics were waiting for these orchestral arrangements.
From Australia to LA, RY’s life in music has taken him across continents and genres. When he wasn’t sweating in warehouse clubs in the small hours, he was producing Electronic music as part of Howling and The Acid; and, when he wasn’t experimenting with synthesisers and drum machines, he was writing fragile, reverb-drenched songs for his tape-recorded debut EP, Berlin. Released in 2013, he soon found his two-minute tearjerkers on mainstream radio alongside some of the world’s biggest Pop hits, yet it’s his sincere and deeply human songwriting that really sets him aside.
Giacinto Scelsi Uaxuctum The Legend of the Maya City, destroyed by themselves for religious reasons (UK premiere)
John Luther Adams Become Ocean
Experience the self-destruction of an ancient civilisation and our planet engulfed by the vastness of the ocean in two massive audio-visual portrayals of a dark past – and still-avoidable future.
These two modern masterpieces share a single unignorable message. John Luther Adam’s Become Ocean imagines our planet succumbing to the rising sea in music of startling, bottomless beauty in what Alex Ross declared ‘may be the loveliest apocalypse in musical history’. And Giacinto Scelsi’s Uaxuctum is equally ravishing in its own way; a vast orchestra creating a fierce, haunting atmosphere through sounds as strange as they are prophetic, building to a point of no return as the ancient Mayan city implodes.
London Contemporary Orchestra & Choir
Robert Ames (conductor)
Philip Glass: Symphony No.1 (Low); Symphony No.4 (Heroes)
Philip Glass: Symphony No.12 (Lodger) for orchestra & organ – from the music of David Bowie and Brian Eno (European premiere)
Attend the European premiere of Philip Glass’ Symphony No.12, a tribute to the chameleon genius of pop mastermind David Bowie.
It’s performed alongside his First and Fourth symphonies by trail-blazing new music ensemble the London Contemporary Orchestra with innovative organist James McVinnie.
Philip Glass’ Symphony No.1 and Symphony No.4 reimagine the first two albums of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, Low and Heroes, as classical works.
Bowie had moved to the East German capital in 1976, where he joined forces with Brian Eno over a triptych of albums to create a more experimental sound, bringing together aleatoric techniques (involving elements of chance), Krautrock influences and synthesizers.
Glass describes his Low Symphony, composed in 1992, as ‘a real collaboration’ between his music and the work of Bowie and Eno on the first album in the trilogy, released in 1977.
A few months after Bowie’s death in January 2016, Glass’ Heroes symphony became the first classical work to headline Glastonbury. Composed in 1996, the six-movement work responds to Bowie’s brooding Cold War album, out just seven months after Low, and its well-known title track.
Bowie liked the symphonic version so much that he used it as walk-in music at his live appearances, and according to Glass, privately superimposed his own vocals over the recording.
Bowie and Glass had discussed a third symphony, and now, finally, the work has been realised, in a Southbank Centre co-commission with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra.
London Contemporary Orchestra
Robert Ames conductor
Hugh Brunt conductor
James McVinnie organ
vocalist to be announced