John Peel show, Maida Vale, 8th April 2004
The bays, the Bays, the BAAAAAAAYYYYYY(S). Say what? The Bays are playing
tonight for John Peel who’s currently stretching his arms and watching
the scene from his glass dj booth, face as familiar as a cool Queen Victoria.
We’re in the Maida Vale studio for a live session from the band for
his midweek radio show. Arthur Baker’s in the audience, Sheikh’s
kindly invited us along, I’m a Maida Vale virgin – foreign country
that West London is – but the beats... well the beats are both new
and old friends.
The Bays are a four-piece - that’s Andy Gangadeen on drums, Chris Taylor on bass and Jamie Odell and Simon Richmond on keys. Tonight they’re joined by Richard Barbieri, he of Japan fame with his trademark mop of black hair now gray. Gangadeen and Taylor look like a couple of squat refugees – Gangadeen dresses in black paratrooper boots, black zip trousers, black poloneck and black wool hat, Taylor’s in ripped jeans and suit jacket and a preoccupied air. Odell and Richmond seem younger - vigorously swaying and nodding over their keyboards they’re reminiscent of 808 State’s Darren Partington and Andrew Barker as they and Barbieri weave atmospheres, little melodic figures and vocal samples around the rhythm section. Gangadeen and Taylor are the focus of the group, the powerhouse around which the keyboard players flit like moths to the proverbial flame – Gangadeen speeding up and slowing down like a human dynamo, hitting his snare drum muffled by a (black) towel, his legs and the rest of his kit - keeping the rhythm going even in the brief ambient sections.
If you’re not familiar with The Bays’ - their manifesto is redolent of the oppositional stance of squatters: famed for not selling records (avoiding marketing) and always improvising (never rehearsing), you’ll only get to know them by hearing a session on the radio like this one, downloading mp3s from their site or going to a gig. As they say on their website:
“Firstly, on stage you are seeing a piece of music at it's conception as opposed to the recreation of a moment long past, and secondly, off stage there's nobody swaying the direction of the music with agendas about marketing us to the unseen masses, cos we don't sell anything. So we constantly move on like musical nomads taking bits from here and there and working them into creating a sound that is totally our own, and there maybe is our ultimate goal. To be just The Bays.”
The improvisational aspect of the group is remarkable given that it's the complete opposite of the offshoot of 60s free jazz, commonly known as free improv, whose primary aspect is the rejection in any form of repetition or groove. In its verisimilitude to the oceans of dance musics it's also remarkable that The Bays' music is played and not programmed.
The Bays explore the potential malleability and relative melodic simplicity
of dance music to travel into the unknown. There are no shocks or ruptures,
however - that's not the intent - as a result the mp3 downloads from their
hadn't impressed. With hindsight that negative reaction can be ascribed
to a) The Bays needing to be heard live, loud and preferably in a space
where you can dance (everything else is likely to be a shadow of that experience),
and b) thinking they were something they weren’t. I had them down
for live Junglists and although breakbeats form a staple part of their evolving
repertoire, they’re something different. Which is? How about a 'freely-improvising-group-intent-on-creating-a-developing-and-changing-groove-in-which-a-wide-range-of-different-rhythms-including-techno-house-drum-n-bass-ambient-and-much-else-are-woven-into-a-silky-flow-state'?
If Trance weren’t an extant and all too predictable genre then I’d
be calling The Bays Trance.
My favoured way of sinking into the musical stream is to close my eyes and dance – in the darkness I'm subsumed without distraction into the transitions and beats and the atmospheres which float like smoke across the ever-mutating rhythmscapes. After an hour or more, and all too soon, Gangadeen stacks the beats into a hyperactive frenzy and Taylor’s bass kicks in with grin-inducing junglist bass effects – they reach an urgent, driven crescendo and it’s over. This listener’s persuaded – when’s the next gig?