‘Live at SpaceFest 2019’ by Pure Phase Ensemble 9
Exclusive album premiere of ‘Live at SpaceFest 2019’ by Pure Phase Ensemble 9.
Pure Phase Ensemble is an international instrumental collective created especially for the SpaceFest! festival. Several musicians from different countries take part in a workshop in the beginning of December. Together they compose the music material which is presented to the audience during the festival. The songs are recorded live and then released on a CD.
Pure Phase Ensemble 9 was curated by Adam Franklin and Wojciech Jachna. Produced by Karol Schwarz.
Writing this in late November 2020, I last played a live show with an audience almost a year ago in December 2019 at SpaceFest in Gdansk, Poland and it almost seems like a dream to me now.
It was towards the end of a slightly gruelling US tour that I received the invite to appear as co-band leader of Pure Phase Ensemble 9, the house band of the festival, along with revered trumpet player Wojciech Jachna.
The list of previous Pure Phase band leaders includes Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab, Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mark Gardener from Ride and Will Carruthers from Spacemen 3/Spiritualized and the remit was simple enough – workshop from Monday to Friday, write a set and perform it live at the weekend.
The band was made up partly of players who had applied to perform in that year’s band as well as musicians selected by the organisers, and so it was that we ended up with a twelve piece band: the four piece horn section led by Wojciech, a four piece guitar battalion – we set up facing each other in the rehearsal room and kept the same V shaped line-up for the show – as well as bass, drums, keyboards, harmonica, clarinet, djembe, Indian flutes.
The first thing we did in the rehearsal room was play a G chord and tune up and make some noise before slipping into the sweet groove that became ‘Sun Is Setting’. We then spent a day and a half just playing and seeing what happened and on the second night Wojciech and I listened through to the recordings and selected sections to develop and turn into songs throughout the rest of the week.
Now I’ve never captained a football team and certainly not one where everyone speaks a language I don’t understand and there were some moments of heated debate in Polish in the rehearsal room where I didn’t understand what everyone was getting so worked up about but had an idea. In a way this actually made it easier for me to step back and ‘lead from the back’. When you’re thrown together with eleven other musicians the whole thing has to work as a collective but I also wanted everyone to have their moment to shine and I think we achieved this with a set that had a lot of scope, covering a fair amount of ground.
Back home in the UK on the Thursday it was the general election and possibly the last chance to row back on Brexit. Of course it ended up as a Conservative landslide which I watched unfold in a bar with UK music journalist Dom Gourlay and our musings on the state of a divided and broken nation ended up being the theme to the three songs I sang and so the set sails out with ‘Day is Breaking’ and a chorus of “C’est la vie”.
On the night of the concert I set up on stage-right at the sharp end of an overall V-shape. To my left were fellow guitar players Magda, Matt and Seb and opposite us were Wojciech’s players Adam on trumpet and saxophone players Jakub and Lukasz. Bogumil (keyboards/harmonica) and Piotr (bass/flutes/djembe etc) were alongside them at the back of the stage next to Jedrzej’s drum kit and last but certainly not least PPE veteran Karol Schwarz, moonlighting between synths, bass, vocals and all-round cheerleading!
I’d like to thank Martyna and Ania for the invitation and Karol and all the band members of Pure Phase Ensemble 9 for the unforgettable time – I’d happily do it all again.
November 29th 2020
Adam about songs:
We started the live set as we had begun the first rehearsal, jamming in G and ‘tuning up’ like an orchestra might.
2. Sun is Setting
This was the first groove that we settled into on the first day of rehearsal. It could have been titled ‘Sun is Rising’ because it sounds like the start of a beautiful day but we decided instead that we were on a journey into a dark night of the soul.
Guitar player Magda and I noticed we had similar reverse reverb pedals and decided to write something around that sound. We both played a four-note motif that reminds me of the main riff on Roy Budd’s ‘Get Carter’ soundtrack tune.
997 used to be the emergency police phone number in Poland and there’s something of the sound of the streets in this free jazz piece which starts with Seb and Matt down on their knees operating their pedals to make swooshing lazer gun sounds while Wojciech led Adam, Jakub and Lukasz through noirish horn parts evoking civil unrest and police sirens and Jedrzej’s drums freefall all around.
5. The Road Less Travelled
The horn section came up with the main riff while I step up to the microphone for the first of three vocal songs.
6. Piano Nidka
This tune was written around Bogumil’s Italian horror film organ part. Piotr switched from bass to Indian flutes and I backed up Magda’s spidery guitar pattern with faded in chords. Karol’s synth and Jedrzej’s propulsive drums carry the tune away from folk horror and towards a 5am rave.
7. You’re Falling Down (Again)
A great staccato horn riff in an unusual time signature in E composed by the horn section inspired the guitar quartet to get pretty heavy here, like it’s the darkest part of the night. I sing “you’re falling down again” because something brought to mind the image of a whole country stumbling and falling off a cliff.
Interstellar James Brown vibes here with Karol whipping the crowd up into a frenzy – I’ve no idea what he was going on about but it did the trick! I loved the horn part so much I suggest we reprise it later in the set over different chords and a slower beat.
Karol switches to bass and sings as Piotr takes up the ravdrum. I love the way Jacub’s clarinet and Magda’s guitar weave beautiful shapes around each other and it makes me think of Jefferson Airplane in 1968 or something, I’m not sure why.
10. Day is Breaking
Finally the long night approaches an end with this tune which reprises the horn part from Energy. The night that Dom and myself had spent in the local bar watching the UK election results come in had me lamenting the state of a country – and a world – divided. “C’est la vie” indeed. But it’s an uplifting ending and one of the most dreamlike aspects is simply hearing the sound of the audience.