Perhaps Contraption is some sort of ever-evolving, genre-bridging musical performance collective. It has morphed through various styles and lineups to arrive at what we experience today. I write this mainly to document my own journey, (for nostalgia and improvement) but if you are at all intrigued as to how I arrived at this current musical location, read on.
The first incarnation was founded in Bristol, March 2004. It was assembled on a course named Access to Music. We blurted out avant-rock and psychedelic folk detritus, alongside a healthy obsession with Frank Zappa, the Rock in Opposition movement and augmented 4th’s.
The name emerged from a general scrambling and merging of my most liked words. I soon realised the “perhaps” part came to represent the lashings of improvisation we used to create and perform our music. The “contraption” represents the love of intricate, mathematical structures. It just seemed to fit, so stick it did.
The device began as a rock quartet; exploring bendy time signatures, maximalism, free improvisation and spontaneous theatrical outbursts. Herein a fascination with discord and harmony, (surprise and comfort) evolved throughout a feverish period of writing, improvising and performing on the Bristol music scene.
Live shows were infused with the humour and tragedy of contemporary society; swilling a confused political/existential brine and spewing it forth in frenetic fits of meticulously mathematical rock, surrealism and performance art.
Spectacles included a range of absurdities. “Singing” with a mouth stuffed full of cutlery was a common occurrence, as was mugging planted audience members, tape machine defibrilators, sermons from the Argos catalogue, blood capsules and also parsnip glasses were a few of our early performance “highlights”.
During this desperate, exciting period our first two albums Sludge and Tripe and Business were written, refined and gradually recorded. This seemingly inexorable process spanned 5 years, yet the official releases arrived much later.
We established a work method. Themes, structures and lyrics were generally sketched by myself, and then brought to the rehearsal room to be embellished by the talents of the others. Without their insight and enhancement, the ideas would have probably collapsed.
Documenting these songs became my painstaking obsession; where I cut my teeth on composition, engineering and production (alongside all the practical and irksome considerations of self-releasing an album). Blissful musical ignorance and zeal reigned.
In 2005 the core moved to East London after (miraculously) receiving a grant to enroll on an artist development course at The British Academy of New Music.
Yet, for various confusing, painful and farcical reasons, the band promptly imploded halfway through 2005.
Undeterred, a number of feverish shows as a 2 piece with DeeDee followed, and from the rubble a new ensemble emerged. This began with Mr. Pimi Mayfair on Bass (who thankfully heard Sean Organ play our music on the almighty Resonance 104.4 FM). Soon after, Gideon Brazil on tenor saxophone and Zara Gaze on bassoon joined. A creative union was also formed with the ever unique Susie Showers; who became the band’s muse, poet and general ukulele brandishing wonder woman.
The new group continued to perform for little money or glory on the London avant music scene.
But still, somehow, it made me happy with it’s own unique insights, challenges and idiosyncrasies.
In early 2008 we self-recorded an as yet, unreleased 3rd album of “difficult” music at our capacious ex-catholic woman’s hostel in Stoke Newington. It still waits patiently in the sonic vaults.
By mid 2008, after years of exploration and production dead-ends, Sludge & Tripe was finally completed. Yet it wasn’t until 2009 that the funds were secured to press and formally release this monolith (thankfully, to a fanfare of positive reviews from the avant music community). Thus, the beast was finally purged from my ailing system. It was during the summer of 2009 that this lineup wangled our way into Glastonbury Festival for the first time. It felt good.
Shortly after (early 2010) our second album, Business was released as a download and CDr in bizzarre limited edition bespoke yellow latex packaging created by ourselves and Am Statik.
An altogether gentler, more coherent effort than its predecessor based around finger-picked acoustic guitar and woodwind. The production talents of Peter Z helped this come into fruition much more swiftly.
In the summer of 2010 a new incarnation returned to Glastonbury, this time cutting our teeth as a nascent roving ensemble. I felt a pull away from a reliance on rock and electricity. And so, utilising the mutant-pram-kit, an acoustic guitar, an intricate bell lyre harness system for Susie Showers, and enrolling the help of the illimitable Mickey Bones on trombone we paraded around Pilton’s grubby pathways and stages, peddling new material.
After this experiment, Susie Showers and myself ventured to Burning Man, Black rock city, Nevada, to air our burgeoning 2 piece show. This set combined comedy, Susie’s incredible poetry and intimate warblings stinking of English whimsy. From manifestos for the sandwich to questions about your orgasms, the set was a success. An album entitled Parlour Games containing this material has been recorded. This too waits patiently in the vaults.
Crucially, during this excursion we joined forces for a string of performances in the desert with the Transformational Fire Conclave All Stars Marching Band. This group, curated especially for the event, had the esteemed honour of parading around the man before he was ignited. Such was one of the most wondrous experiences of our little lives; mobile, acoustic and united in song.
The dusty epiphany therein inspired me to return home and curate a new brass driven, roving incarnation of Perhaps Contraption. This decision tested my composition skills by removing the crutch of the guitar and electricity from the equation, and adding more acoustic awareness and choreography.
And so, by May 2011, through a process of perspiration and serendipity, the 8 piece Mobile Device was born.