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28 May, 2005

Performance is the Product

I keep meaning to spread the word about a band I particularly like, and of which readers are unlikely to have heard, for reasons which will become obvious!

Currently, The Bays are: Andy Gangadeen (drums), Jamie Odell (keyboards), Simon Richmond (samples & effects) and Chris Taylor (bass). Richard Barbieri, of Porcupine Tree, has also performed with them several times; that's how I discovered them. They're all very experienced session players who have appeared on several top-ten albums, so the concept of improvising live apparently isn't too daunting (the challenge is making it listenable...).
That's useful, as their music is best described as 'live electronic club music'. That might seem vague, but performances incorporate a wide variety of styles, such as house, electro, garage, drum'n'bass, hip-hop, ambient, techno, dub, funk and ragga.
Individual commitments permitting, they play regularly, mainly in the London area, though they'll be on the festival circuit this summer. They headlined the Big Chill Festival in 2003 and will do so again in 2005.

There's nothing unusual about all that, but a couple of points render The Bays unique.

Their music is totally improvised. Totally.

  • Nothing is pre-programmed (even as a safety net in case something goes wrong).
  • They have no planned 'song' (actually they only perform instrumentals, with the occasional vocal sample) structures, though it has to be acknowledged that if they perform, say, a techno piece, the generic conventions of the genre provide a natural guide – their music isn't wildly experimental.
  • They never rehearse as a group. Each practices individually, and only hears the others' ideas at the same time as the audience.

They don't record (in a studio). They have no albums, nor merchandising of any type. The only way to hear their music is to attend a concert, either in person or by downloading from the web. Many concerts are recorded and made available via their website and elsewhere. Sharing is welcomed.

The fact that they have declined several record deals and hence have no affiliation to a record company may seem some sort of protest against the music industry, but the band explain it in terms of artistic freedom.
If there were albums, listeners might expect to hear those tracks performed live, and perhaps be disappointed when they're not, and when the whole feel of the show differs from the hypothetical albums. By its very nature, every set is entirely different, not only in specific material but also in overall tone. One show might be predominantly ambient, whereas if the mood in the room demands, the next might be predominantly high-energy drum'n'bass.
By operating slightly outside the system, The Bays can also avoid marketing hype. To quote Chris Taylor (bass) the intention is to:

... play music that has a depth to it but people want to hear as opposed to playing music that people are told is good.
Which slightly invalidates this recommendation, but never mind. ;)

You'll have to try them for yourself.
The band's site tends to have a couple of shows available in 192kbs mp3 format (registration required; just an e-mail address, I think. I've been registered for a year or so, and have received no spam). Older shows are apparently available via the Soulseek and Limewire p2p networks (I don't do p2p, so can't confirm that). Two other sources are:

  • BBC Radio 1 offers a download of the 06/03/02 session recorded for John Peel (one of three he broadcast between 2002-2004). It's in RealMedia format, and features Richard Barbieri.
  • The British Council (the eminent government agency promoting educational and cultural relations abroad) currently offers a full concert for download in mp3, but regulars at the thebays.com forum say the tracks aren't from the one concert cited (Rostock, Germany, 14/02/04), but are a compilation of material from other shows.

Comments

Thankyou :-D I've been chilling out to them all day

Posted by Siobhan Curran at May 29, 2005 08:32 PM
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