London, a modern edifice on a mediaeval footprint, is the blueprint for Ealing Feeder, a steely, unsettled love letter to the city.
Devised over many years of performance, some tracks will be familiar to people who’ve seen Sarah’s live act, others are entirely new. A Wren in the Cathedral, set in Limehouse, collides electron theory with city birdsong and Hawksmoor’s architectural formalism. Cow Heart Pin is inspired by a London butcher in the 1920s who impregnated a desiccated heart with nails to curse a rival. The Bows recalls a transfiguration myth on the River Thames. Sky Bullion reflects on some of the more venal forces shaping the city skyline today.
This work – the first to distill Sarah’s solo set into an album – reflects the ecletic nature of her music making. An electroacoustic composer with a deep interest in the history of electronic music, as a teenager, Sarah cut her teeth as a live musician in folkclubs. Her formal musical education was in Baroque and Renaissance music, yet she builds and performs with her own robotic inventions, viewing them as a theatrically compelling alternative to the laptop. Through music, she explores resonances between folklore and early notions of telecoms and machines. Among these tracks, you’ll hear examples of augmented theremin technique (for instance using theremin to control birdsong), robotic carillon (an instrument Sarah designed and built to play riffs at inhuman speeds) and her unusual take on the loop pedal. This variant stretches every strand of sound subtly as it plays, transforming the most consonant music into something more angular as it makes beguilling, unexpected musical collisions – something with a family resemblance to Renaissance music.
Ealing Feeder is composed, performed and produced by Sarah Angliss using theremin, recorder, saw, spinet, robotic carillon, field recordings and Max. With thanks to the following guest artists:
Jenny Angliss – vocals (The Messenger)
David Bramwell of Oddfellows Casino – vocals (Cow Heart Pin)
Flora Dempsey – spoken word (The Messenger)
Emma Kilbey – spoken word (The Bows)
Stephen Hiscock – percussion (A Wren in the Cathedral, The Fancy Cheese People, Sky Bullion and Fever Van)
Colin Uttley – spoken word (A Wren in the Cathedral, Ventriloquist and Fever Van).
On Thursday 20 April 2017, in collaboration with Art Assembly, Sarah will be performing this album live, at Kings Place, London. She’ll be joined on stage by percussionist Stephen Hiscock. The launch night includes a guest spot from Ian Rawes (aka London Sound Survey) who will share archival treasures in London’s Lost Worlds of Sound. There will also be some of DJ Special K‘s favourite tracks, including London-themed rarities.
Counting and feeding the gathering crows from a window that’s level with the London tree canopy. Performed live in one take using solo recorder and Max. The Max patch reiterates the live recorder while subtly stretching it in time.
Here, a theremin coalesces with the song of a wren in this piece inspired by Stoppard’s description of the random movement of electrons in an atom. Sarah uses Max to augment the theremin, moving seamlessly from a classic electronic instrument to a birdsong controller.
Inspired by London folksong ‘The Bonny Bows’ (also known a ‘The Cruel Sister’). In the original song, a woman murders her sister by pushing her into the Thames. When the corpse is dredged from the water, the breastbone, hair and fingers are used to make a fiddle which speaks, revealing the identity of her murderer.
This version uses Sarah’s recordings made in the Submarine Emergency Escape Training Tank, Gosport, just before it was decommissioned.
Incorporates an excerpt from Wordsworth’s autobiographical poem The Prelude, listing the attractions in Bartholomew Fair, Smithfield.
The beauty here is an old Camberwell piano that was given to Sarah three years ago, lifting her spirits after she’d sold her own piano to pay the rent. The Camberwell was such a wreck, it didn’t make the cut on this album – but it did catalyse her to begin playing again. She used the Camberwell extensively on the soundtrack for Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape (at The Old Vic, then The Armory, New York) – a commission that bought her a new piano and paid the rent.
The bells on this piece are played by the ‘Ealing Feeder’ – the polyphonic, robotic carillon Sarah built to play riffs at lightning speed.
Reimagining the transfiguration myth in the English folksong The Two Magicians, in which two men continually shapeshift as they chase one another to the death. This version moves the action to Lucha Britannia, a masked wrestling club in Bethnal Green. With thanks to Lucha Britannia and photographer Gaynor Perry.
The Fancy Cheese People was a 1960s warehouse on the Farringdon Road which mysteriously seemed to do very little business. At the time of its demolition, around 2002, it was revealed to be a front for MI6.
A curse that may be mistaken for a love song. It’s inspired by an account in Edward Lovett’s ‘Magic in Modern London’ (1925). Lovett writes of a butcher in East London who impregnates a desiccated cow’s heart with nails and pins to curse a rival. Sarah adapted the words from some Anglo Saxon cunning magic, used against someone who has stolen cattle.
A short piece, inspired by an account in Edward Lovett’s ‘Magic in Modern London’ (1925). During World War One, Lovett noted a resurgence of interest in amulets containing a caul – the preserved amniotic sack of a baby born with the membrane intact, covering the face. Sold around the London docks, the caul was seen as a magical object which could protect the wearer from drowning.
The vardøger is a Scandinavian Doppelgänger – one who traces your actions a few minutes before you do. The vardøger may have arrived in the docks with the London wood trade.
An expression of all that is venal about London property speculation. ‘Sky bullion’ is a term used by those using the London property market as a safe haven for money. Sarah asked percussionist Stephen Hiscock to extemporise with a recording made that morning of the building site outside her flat – this was the result.
In the 1930s, before the vaccination era, the fever van removed contaminated Londoners from their homes, transporting them to the fever hospitals. This track mixes the sound of London sirens with the words from Ushers Well. In this folksong, a woman is visited by her three young sons who have died while away from home.
Inspired by an early imagining of mobile telecommunications, published at the end of the nineteenth century in an engineering magazine. This is Sarah’s original version of a track that was reworked by Belbury Poly for the Ghostbox Study Series. Featuring archive recordings from Prelinger and the NASA Cassini Probe.
‘A Wren in the Cathedral’ – video directed by Tom Hadrill.