Statement – ORE

After a period of reflection Stuart and I have decided to cease ORE as a duo project. This decision is predominantly Stuart’s as he plans to focus his attention on a number of other musical projects. It is with no hard feelings that we part ways as a tuba duo and we have no doubt we will work together again in future.

As well as working as Mr. Underwood and Glatze, Sam will continue to make tuba doom under the moniker ORE. This will most likely be in the form of tuba and other low brass/reed instruments, and as a studio project featuring electronics.

Stuart will continue to release collaborative drone-based studio projects as Lachenalia, as well as playing bass and tuba in Isle of Everywhere and returning to his explorations of English folk music under his own name. He will also be morris dancing.

We have had many wonderful times playing as ORE and we would like to thank everyone that has made this a possibility.

Sam and Stuart.

New album details

We’ve been holed up at Sam’s studio this weekend recording the studio follow-up to Granolithic, with a working title of Three Fountains. The result of the sessions is a very different record from Granolithic – it certainly feels more focused, more varied, and for the first time there are guitars along with the tubas, organ and percussion.

Another break with existing ORE convention is that there are a couple of cover versions, both of which will be familiar to those of you who have seen us in concert a number of times. We’re paying our dues to two men who have been a massive influence on us, namely Dylan Carlson and Mark Hollis – the covers are Ouroboros is Broken by Earth, and I Believe in You by Talk Talk. In view of the latter it’s no coincidence that all of the improvised material on the album is the very first recorded take.

Aside from a medieval French tune, C’est La Fin, there are four original pieces, two of which are completely new; Beyond Tree and Stone from our first EP, and Morton from the live album Gullet are present in radically reworked forms.

We’re very excited about sharing this album – even at a rough mix stage we’re confident it’s the best thing we’ve done. Onwards!

Gig news

ORE support Anna Meredith in London at The Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston on 16th January.

Venue details here:

For our set, we are delighted to welcome soprano Natalie Raybould as a guest – this will mark ORE’s first appearance with a vocalist and promises to be a unique performance.

We are hoping to announce additional collaborators for this gig in due course…

Oxbow Orchestra tour diary part 4.1 – Paris


I wake early to load the Land Rover; as I get to the hotel car park I discover I’m there just in time to unblock a couple of vans full of workmen.

We get back to the Union Chapel, our meeting point for departure. We are starving. Greg and Sam are, understandably, cold and aching after spending the night in the van, with only an insubstantial beer-blanket for warmth. There are no eateries immediately visible. We wonder whether the stylish but non-functional chairs in the shop next to the chapel are edible. I doubt it.

"Perhaps we could eat one of these?"

With Niko and Celine on the train to Paris, there’s more room in the main van, so David switches vehicle, leaving me, Sarah, and the two Sams in the Land Rover. We guess that we can get away without the roof bag, which necessitates more climbing.

"Can we bring step-ladders next time?"

The journey to Folkestone is relatively uneventful. Sam rings the Low Emissions Zone hotline and they’re ready to take £200 off us until he mentions that their website says that a first offence can receive a warning letter. He reinforces this by saying that we wouldn’t even have come if we’d known about it. There’s a brief moment of suspense as the lady on the other end goes to speak to someone; when she returns to the phone she tells Sam that a warning letter will be sent out and there’s no bill to pay. Phew.

The journey to the Channel Tunnel in itself is pretty uneventful; it’s once we get to the various security barriers at Folkestone that the high-jinks begin. First off, we approach a barrier that says “please declare all firearms”. I wind the window down and say “Hello, we haven’t got any!” in a cheery manner. The lady in the red jacket isn’t amused.

When we get to French customs, the gendarmes are about to dismantle a car two places ahead of us in the queue. At this point we’re already late as although Eugene has bought our return ticket, the flexible pricing has buggered up and if we want a sociable return time after the Belgium gig there’s another fee to pay.

One of the gendarmes approaches the Land Rover with something in his hand. I misunderstand his hand gesture and pull forward, nearly flattening him in the process. Oops. He’s not a happy man. He shouts at me. By the time I remember how to say “sorry” in French he’s several yards away, and his replying gesture suggests that if circumstances allowed, he would probably spit at me.

Luckily, the gendarme in the window checking passports is much friendlier once I try to explain myself in French. He finds my spoken French quite entertaining. This will become something of a pattern.

We now need to get the crossing ticket thingy updated to mid-day-ish on the day of the return journey. We have about 5 minutes to spare before boarding finishes for our train. The woman at the kiosk hasn’t phoned ahead. We miss the train.

Boarding closed. Arse.

We queue for the next one, and after half an hour, tootle along to the top of the ramp for approaching the train. A grumpy French chap has parked a car there to stop us from going. Distracted by all the shiny things and big trains in evidence, I fail to apply the handbrake, and it’s only when there are cries of “DON’T CRASH! DON’T CRASH!” from the back of the van that I realise I’m about to squash his car. Again, oops.

On the tunnel train, I set the Land Rover’s alarm off more than once. Apparently loud noises and flashing lights scare the train. Oops.

Calais, and driving on the wrong side of the road proves easier than expected. The others get very excited when we overtake slow-moving lorries (being rather slow-moving ourselves). Needless to say, we don’t have a prayer of catching Eugene in the Mercedes van – they’re long gone.

We stop at motorway services for lunch. French bins look like spaceships.

French bins look like spaceships

After Little Sam, Sarah and I watch a very rude Indian lady demanding that her (salad) sandwiches be heated up (greeted with a resounding “NON!” from the waitress) we change drivers. Mr. Underwood does a couple of laps of the car park accidentally by missing the exit and then we’re on our way.

At this point, it all starts to go a bit Spinal Tap.

<– Back to part 3

Oxbow tour diary part 3 – Union Chapel, London

22.10.12 – in which some intrepid adventurers head south in a rusty green Land Rover.

Sam arrives at my house at 8 a.m. in order to help sort through our tat – sorry, “merchandise” and secure the waterproof roof bag to the roof bars.This involves both of us climbing onto the wheels of the Land Rover. By the time we have finished we are absolutely filthy. And it’s only 8.30.

Yes, we're really going to travel almost 1000 miles in that thing

We meet the others at the Paragon Hotel in Birmingham, and find out that we may or may not have a gig in Paris as someone has apparently been murdered outside the club we were due to play. French law requires that the venue is closed down for a while, so we’re currently without a place to play.

We set off for the smoke. Our journey is pretty uneventful (the only one that will prove to be so) and we trundle down the M6 and M1 as fast as the Land Rover will carry us. Which isn’t very fast at all. That said, the hire van, with Eugene at the wheel, has a few problems when setting off, and despite the lumbering speed of the Land Rover, it isn’t until we’re a good distance down the M6 that they pass us.

As none of us usually drives to London, we are blissfully unaware of the Low Emissions Zone. We see a sign with a big green circle on it, and don’t give it another thought. Mistake. The Land Rover is, after all, nearly 20 years old.

View from the Union Chapel stage under the stage lights

The staff at the Union Chapel are perfectly lovely. The crew are helpful and considerate, we are fed some great home-cooked food, and best of all, we discover that one of Sam’s good friends has recently taken the post of musical director there. We soundcheck acoustically and then decide to take others’ advice and use a little amplification for reinforcement.

Niko rehearsing the string section backstage at the Union Chapel

The Oxbow material is starting to come together more – I’ve stopped counting some of the knottier time signatures in favour of simply watching Niko’s hands, and this is working better.

It’s only when I come to pay the congestion charge that the spectre of that Low Emissions Zone sign comes back to haunt me. TFL website informs me that I’m liable for a £100-per-day charge for driving the thing down the London streets. Ah, bollocks. Needless to say, I discover this just as we’re about to go on stage. We decide to play just two pieces in our set – “Rebirth” with Earth’s “Seven Angels” interpolated, and “Waltzing into the Doldrums” off the Beyond Tree and Stone EP. I take a few minutes to settle into it after the “this gig is costing me £200” shock, but once in the zone everything takes flight. “Seven Angels” feels massive and heavy, and the Union Chapel feels like the most appropriate venue ORE have ever played.

The Oxbow Orchestra set feels more together than it did at Supersonic. By comparison, Supersonic now feels like more of a rehearsal than anything. There is a mishap as Niko jumps around on stage a lot and manages to dislodge the power supply to his effects pedals, but otherwise things proceed well. Eugene delivers an electrifying performance which, we discover in conversation afterwards, has given more than one of us goosebumps. Our lips are flagging a bit. The idea of a night off in Paris is suddenly very appealing.

We stick around at the merch stall to meet some punters and sell a few copies of the album and the KK Null collaboration. I speak to one very friendly chap about classical music, and neither of us can remember Ligeti’s name. Later on he dives back in to shout “LIGETI!” at me and then runs back out again.

Backstage things aren’t running quite so smoothly.

It turns out that we can’t leave our gear in the venue and leave for Paris as early as we need to in the morning as none of the staff is at the Chapel early enough.

Marie (Mariexxme on YouTube etc.) who is a film-maker and friend of the group, has agreed to come to London with us instead of going back to Paris if she has somewhere to stay. It transpires that, for whatever reason, nothing has been organised and she doesn’t have anywhere to stay. ORE to the rescue! Sam and Greg, our sound man, agree to sleep in the van outside the venue; Sam’s bed at the hotel is taken by Marie. This seems only fair – especially as she has so graciously agreed to put four of us up in Paris the next night – and there’s no way we’d see her go without somewhere to sleep.

I pull the Land Rover into the hotel car park and – surprise, surprise – it’s already full. I block some large Transit vans in and leave a note on the windscreen. I speak to the man on reception, who has a terrifying scar on his head that looks as though he’s been very badly glassed in a fight at some point, and he doesn’t seem unduly concerned.

I shower, ring my fiancee for a quick chat, and so to bed.

<– Back to part two

Oxbow orchestra tour diary 2 – Supersonic Sunday

Supersonic Festival, 21.10.2012

An exhausting day.

Oxbow Orchestra soundchecking at Supersonic

With a 2-hour soundcheck scheduled to start at 11, performing at the subscribers’ “Tea Party”, and then sets with KK Null and Oxbow, we are anticipating premature exhaustion. We arrive reasonably fresh for the soundcheck and Tea Party, but after that we wander around trying to find somewhere comfy for a snooze.

Playing with Kazuyuki Kishino is challenging because of the sheer volume he employs. The composition he plays before we join in is trouser-flappingly loud, even observing from backstage, well out of harm’s way. The bass vibrations through the stage cause my chair to turn through nearly 360 degrees, while one of Sam’s tuning slides is rattled free from the instrument to land on the floor beneath. He only discovers this at the beginning of our performance as his tuba fails to make any sound and a friendly punter in the audience helpfully points at the hapless piece of dislodged tubing.

We get going and play “Waltzing into the Doldrums”. Kazuyuki joins us towards the end, and through the ensuing 20 minutes we play more loudly than we have ever done before. I throw caution and good sense to the wind, crank both my distortion pedals up full and indulge in a little feedback solo.

KK Null with ORE

Kazuyuki K. Null, Sam, and Stuart on stage in the Old Library

The set finishes. We are sweaty, and elated.

We have a few hours before Oxbow Orchestra takes the stage for the first time, and we use it to do very little, apart from generally shuffling about, catching up with a few people, and watching bits of Tim Hecker and Goat’s sets.

Then it’s time. Estell’s first law of Mikrophonie is that given a microphone and a cable, and an opportunity to fall over said cable presenting itself when swapping between instruments, I will do so with gay abandon. I nearly manage to destroy my microphone twice, with hilarious results. Thankfully Eugene and Niko cover for me pratting about in the background by having a nice chat with the audience.

The set hangs together remarkably well given the limited rehearsal time we’ve had; the audience response – as always for a Supersonic Festival – is warm and attentive, and we finish the evening as shattered as we expected, but happy.

Tomorrow: London.

<–Back to part one (rehearsals)             Part two: London –>

Oxbow Orchestra tour diary – part 1

20.10.12 – Saturday – Supersonic Festival

I’m the first to arrive at South Birmingham College for rehearsal. The Land Rover is full of effects pedals and general electronic gubbins not usually associated with tuba players. And my tuba, naturally.

(That may seem to be stating the obvious, but I did once set off for a brass band concert without it.)

The security guard is unexpectedly helpful, and when he realises that the combination of Land Rover and roof rack is far too tall for the college’s underground car park he volunteers to open up the side gates so that I can park in a kind of courtyard area at the side of the building. What a gent.

I bring my stuff in and loiter for a while, finding coffee and doing a few technical exercises as warm-ups. Sam is next to arrive, followed by Lorna who is our “artist liaison” person. For someone who was up until silly o’clock the previous evening she is effusive beyond belief. I went to bed early and am by far the groggier.

When Oxbow’s Niko Wenner it turns out that the impression he gives when communicating by email is completely accurate – he’s a true gent: quietly spoken, and an obviously passionate musician. We rehearse a few tunes with Niko and Philippe, our second guitarist for these concerts. They’ve been given Blackstar amps for the day, and their guitars chime with lovely valve tone. Our tubas reverberate nicely, the sound bouncing off the high ceiling.

The rest of the musicians arrive gradually – first more brass players, then the strings. By the time we’ve all worked together through the numerous and often thorny time changes in a couple of songs it already feels like we’re already a band. The vibe of the whole enterprise is wonderful, and when Eugene starts to add vocals it’s clear just how special these performances are going to be.

Oxbow Orchestra rehearsal

From left to right, Kasia, Eugene, Niko, Philippe, David, Alexa and Alexis

The first artist I want to see is Dylan Carlson; his new DRCarlsonAlbion project is a strange beast, with his laptop providing beats and spoken word for the first two pieces, after which he’s joined by a singer and percussionist. Highlights are a solo improvisation on “The Faerie Round”, which is an Elizabethan lute piece, and the group’s version of “Reynardine”. There’s lots of potential in this, and it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves. I catch up with him after the set and give him a CD copy of our album – he’s the first to receive one – and a spanking new ORE t-shirt, which I promised him ages ago.

I then wander over, at Sam’s suggestion, to see the Corsano/Flower Duo. They’re obviously great musicians but I’m not in the right frame of mind for what they’re doing and retreat to the Old Library for Jarboe, whose dark cabaret-style performance is mesmerising. What a voice. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never heard her before, but as is so often the way with Supersonic, I’m only too glad to have been introduced to someone whose work I want to investigate further.

After a bit of Bohren and Der Club of Gore, it’s time for Merzbow with Oxbow. After a lengthy intro with live drums, Eugene stalks on stage, moving slowly and deliberately towards the mic stand. I’ve never seen Merzbow live before, and I’m struck by how peaceful the whole thing is, despite the enormous volume. I find myself slipping into an almost meditative state, with my eyes closed. I open them and look round. There are a lot of people doing the same thing; someone down the front, though, is dad-dancing and waving his arms around, despite the fact that there is no discernible pulse to the music.

Eugene departs, Niko arrives and wrestles an entirely suitable squall from his Les Paul to complement Merzbow’s noise-storm. Just as suddenly as it began, it ends. I’m converted.

I want to see Zeni Geva but it’s going on 10:20 and I’ve had a chest infection for the last couple of weeks. Anticipating several days of sleep deprivation, I amble off into the night to pilot the Land Rover home and get some sleep.

Go to part two

Releases news

We’re pleased to announce that there are two ORE releases due in the very near future:

Archispirostreptus gigas
CD only – limited to 100 copies

This release will go on sale at the Supersonic festival in Birmingham, 19th-21st October 2012. Once it’s gone, it’s gone; there will be no reprint.

CD and digital album

This release is also being timed to coincide with Supersonic but is a non-limited release.

Granolithic features four tracks, none of which were included on the recent EP Beyond Tree and Stone. Ranging from peaceful, immersive drones to fierce, shredding distortion, via raga-based improvisation and a tribute to the “Lady with the hammer”, Soviet Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya, this is heavy music like nothing you’ve ever heard.

ORE and KK Null announced for Supersonic Festival 2012

“ORE and KK NULL are delighted to announce a distinctive collaboration as part of Supersonic 2012.

In many ways, KK NULL’s collaboration with Lash Frenzy (with Sam on tuba) at Supersonic 2010 acted as a proof of concept for the amplified tuba sound of ORE, so it’s entirely fitting for Capsule to bring the two entities together this year. Better still, KK NULL and ORE have gelled so well in the early stages of working on this collaboration that they have also decided to release a CDr single of jointly-composed material, which will be available at the festival.

They will be performing a specially-written piece together, culminating in a vast cacophony of sound. Be scared.

This performance is one of a number of special collaborations taking place at the tenth edition of the festival.”

We will also be participating in the OXBOW ORCHESTRA:
“In advance of the world assault subsequent to the band OXBOW’s spring 2013 release of their long-awaited new record the THIN BLACK DUKE, there is this, the OXBOW ORCHESTRA. Strings, woodwinds, brass, operatic backing vocals and classically contained renderings of the OXBOW song book and featuring EUGENE S. ROBINSON and NIKO WENNER from OXBOW, the ORCHESTRA delivers songs new and old in a format unaccustomed to the blood and sweat of a typical OXBOW outing.”

Needless to say, we’re looking forward to both of these performances immensely.

For more information about the festival: