The joys of spring. Its been pelting with rain for 36 hours straight and The Southbank Centre, London’s concrete edifice to art is looking fairly bleak.
At the Queen Elizabeth Hall there’s a loud clanking gear shift crowd wise, as the heavy coats and grey hair of a Beethoven Cello Sonata audience push up their umbrellas and scurry into the rain, an assortment of hairstyles and slightly hipper folk arrive for the launch of the Kwesachu 2 mixtape. The first 200 punters snaffle an upfront cassette of the mix to treasure, and quizzically ponder if they know anyone that still owns a tape deck (they could of course download it here).
Charming is the word I’d use to describe Kwes, declaring himself “chuffed” that people have braved the monsoon weather to come down. He’s said he doesn’t savour being the centre of attention but his music ensures he will be. In the last year he’s produced Speech Debelle’s new LP, worked with Damon Albarn in Africa, and braved the spotlight live with his solo material.
Kwes clearly loves collaborating with like-minded people both on record and with one-off live events. After providing a deliciously sparse remix of The Invisible he’s now playing a one-off joint show with them and of course tonight marks the 2nd chapter of his 2009 collaboration with Micachu, “Kwesachu“.
Watching the video (below) about the recording of “Kwesachu 2” what comes across is the mutual admiration that Kwes and Micachu have for each other. It’s also a chance to rope in a load of talented friends, a steady stream of which pop on stage across the course of launch night (with the notable exception of Ghostpoet who’d just got off a plane and didn’t quite make it).
Kwes & Mica are joined by the phenomenal drummer Kwake Bass and Shabaka Hutchings who adds another layer to the sound with some incredible sax work. Kwake Bass and Mica have previously teamed up to create another mixtape last year (download).
At 7pm Speech Debelle was tweeting that she needed to learn her verse but by the time she joined Del for a Big Dada double-header on “Plastic Coins” she’s flawless. A fleeting appearance and a reminder that I really need to see her full live show.
Dels is the mainstay of the evening featuring on three tracks, including the excellent “Bird Milk“. He deadpans the line “Some say I’m just anxious, but I just think I need to eat cheese less” while Bella Wilde brings a touch of glam to the night rocking a pair of zippy PVC trousers and heels while delivering the song’s chorus.
Micachu herself takes main vocal duties on “Awol/Amen” which recalls the poppy accented swagger of Jamie T at his best (and I honestly don’t mean that as an insult). Kwes’s production skills are equally adept to this pop gem as they are to the much harder electronic rap featured elsewhere.
It’s the unassuming Tirzah who steals the show, wandering on as if she’d got the call while she was on the sofa watching The Voice. Previously she’s appeared with Micachu on “Go” which has a slightly batty video featuring Tirzah’s head nodding like the Churchill dog. That gave no hint of her voice, she holds the mic almost apologetically away from her mouth and looks as if she’s barely uttering words, but out floating over Kwes’s rumbling backing comes this divine voice.
— Mara Carlyle (@MaraCarlyle) April 29, 2012
Apparently Viv Albertine of The Slits was there and she was equally glowing:
Micachu wonderful Great songs, melodies, structure, lyrics, guitar playing, voice, drummer, keyboards Can’t praise enough Check her out
— Viv Albertine (@viv_albertine) April 29, 2012
The mixtape itself contains a version of “LGOYH” from Kwes’s Meantime EP. Who else but Kwes could so sweetly sing “I mean it when I say you’re beautiful” and “worthwhile love is a handful“?
The unenviable task of following Kwesachu fell to Conscious MC, who was also hamstrung by the sound system failing mid-way through his set. With the help of drummer Kwake who gamely declared “let’s go acoustic” and the ever adaptable Shabaka on sax he rose to the occasion until the scrambling techie got it all working again. A guest appearance from Sound Of Rum’s Kate Tempest is always a good trick to have up your sleeve, and when she wasnt on stage she was hollering support from the front row.
Kwesachu Mixtape Vol 2 – Tracklist:
‘HCHMWBIA’ – ft. Ghostpoet/Grant Armour of CLOUT!
‘DJ Set’ – Micachu & Kwes.
‘Beast’ – Raisa.K ft. Evian Cafun
‘Awol – Amen’ (Micachu & Pete Wareham)
‘Plastic Coins’ – ft. Speech Debelle/DELS
‘(Ripped) Blossomshoes (excerpt)’ – w. CLOUT!
‘Visual Mind Control’ – ft. Speech Debelle
‘Bird Milk’ – ft. DELS/Bella Wilde
‘So What’ – ft. Bang On! & Scott
‘Nothing’ – ft. Tirzah
‘Glub (excerpt)’ – Dorovio Bold
‘Papertigers’ – Action Pyramid
‘LGOYH (alt)’ – ft. Dels/Kwes./Elan Tamara/Hebe Jones/Evian Cafun/David Okumu of The ‘Invisible’
‘7-5 (Change)’ – ft. Coby/Grant Armour of CLOUT!/Elan Tama
Awkward journeys in a lift for Kwes’s Bashful single: