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It’s back. The more hopeful human tomorrow – Good Friday April 19 2019. Or is it? Timo Peach returns as the bloke from the podcast that tries to pull together the themes all around us in the now of fearsome realities, to make more human sense of the possibilities in the madness. If that’s even possible.
Is it time to get thinking outside the box? Or the circle. Since last year, Momo has been resting the broadcast voice and planning the infamous podcast that spent it’s first 20 episodes trying to make some loose sense of the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals. For, as revelatory as they were, was there value in pursuing the format beyond them?
” I did wonder if there was good enough reason to bring back Unsee The Future,” says Timo. “It was a very complete idea, series one – using the slightly baffling SDGs as a structure to look at the world’s set of challenges. But sitting with the idea, I simply thought it might be a shame to stop the flow of it, having learned so much so far. About the topic and how to do it.”
The return of the show opens up the idea of trying to form a complete picture of the human planet today by circling back around the connected challenges of it at slightly finer grain.
“There are just so many themes of now, the Now of fearsome realities as I often call it, that it seems still a good vehicle to go further. Like the Global Goals were just the launch pad” he says.
“We are here precisely because old business as usual is failing. It’s time for new stories of us like never before. I hope to find some.”
But rather a lot has happened since the special super-bumper episode 20 Art went out.
“If anything, things have gotten crazier,” Timo says. “The political theatre in my home country alone is beyond all reason now. But in all the exploratory spaces I’ve been to in the last six months, outside the bubble of Twitter and old media, people seem to be mainly just getting on with work and planning. You have to be careful with the nation-testing drama of Brexit that we don’t believe all the hype. While also being bold in exploring way more positive visions of the future than the misery of this cultural cloud, and others. We are here precisely because old business as usual is failing. It’s time for new stories of us like never before. I hope to find some.”
Launching a new platform.
With the new series comes a new dedicated website.
“Yep, Unseethefuture.com is launching on the day too, just to keep things nice and tidy. Between my work as an artist, trying to make personal playful sense of things through the music of Momo:tempo, and my work as a creative director, attempting to encourage new ways of seeing in other people’s initiatives and business with Momo:zo, Unsee is my public research project. And somehow, I feel they all three fit together. But often folk will only find one of those circles of Momo and this is just fine – the podcast on its own is a nice little world of thought and I’m happy to create a space all for it. Into which I shall be adding some videos around the official radio episodes, which I’m hoping to keep to half-hour events each.”
And the topics we can hope to explore?
“Well, across this ten-episode second season, you can expect a random series of subjects. But components of now that I think are worth stating some obvious things about, to help us get them straight in our heads. And hopefully too, one or two helpfully new ways of seeing things.”
Momo is reminded of a favourite score, as writer director Andy Robinson opens his remarkable film to general release, sharing ‘a day in the life of a pair of shoes’.
An audience favourite in many festivals over the last couple of years, Two Feet Tall finally sees the outside world, giving a glimpse into a true film lover’s art – and how the art of collaboration sits at the centre of it. For Andy Robinson’s short fairytale is a story of ingenuity and partnership as much as boldness of storytelling – something the bloke from Momo:tempo can attest to, after working with the director on the project.
“Andy knows how to craft a vision,” Timo Peach explains, “but he also knows how to trust those he chooses to join his production team. Working with my dear mate is always a joy – and I feel like I’ve completed a module or two at film school.”
Two Feet Tall is shot entirely from the knees down, without dialogue. It follows the fortunes of one character walking through her ordinary day, and how she comes to see her days a little less ordinarily by the end.
WATCH TWO FEET TALL:
WATCH MOMO SHARE HIS APPROACH TO SCORING TWO FEET TALL:
The Devon film maker had to employ some of the tricks of the true budget movie production trade to improvise everything from tracking shots to effective puddles, but Robinson describes it as: “one of my favourite filmmaking experiences to date.”
“When music and film are paired together, and the cogs mesh, a wonderful alchemy can take place where the sum is truly greater than its parts” he says. “In our film, there are such moments for me”.
A sentiment echoed by Mr Peach heartily.
“It’s a film that hits the emotional sweetspot” he says. “It’s clever but uncomplicated, and it connects very directly somehow, all without facial and vocal acting. It harkens to the earliest days of film in a beautiful way.”
“I am proud of the work Andy inspired in me for this one,” Timo adds, “it’s a score I’m very happy to have written for such a film. After this, it’s been a delight to have his head so squarely involved in helping to develop my own project The Shape of Things To Hum – he’s bringing all the human connection of Two Feet to it beautifully. Anything I can do to champion Andy’s brain and outlook I will do wherever I can. The world needs his creative soul, frankly.”
Of his own film, the director himself simply concludes: “Two Feet Tall is unrepentantly a feel-good movie. And in a strange, fairytale way, an empowering one too. I don’t know about you, but right now, I think the world could do with a few more stories like that.”
Director Danielle Arden’s little tale of sexpectations in an apparently very British bedroom called for a score with suitably mixed emotions, as tweedy formality finally finds its loving swing.
Long after doing the rounds of film fests and guest screenings, Bristles is getting comfortable with itself, and Momo can share its involvement in the story of how Lilly and Lisle found their groove. A subtly hyper-real world set in a traditional seeming boarding house in the swooning English countryside, Danielle Arden’s short film follows a young couple on their honeymoon, trying to find the right words… and moves.
South coast composer and creative Timo Peach approached the score with an immediate style in mind for such an ambiguous period romp.
“It had to be some undercurrent of electro-swing” he says. “The obvious placing of these characters musically was to create a pallette of buttoned-up strings – a genteel chamber orchestra. Very sensible tempos and flat rythmn to the surface of their marriage. But what you want to do to that is subvert it with beats at some point” he grins.
The fact that Grant Leat’s Lisle is a little intimidated by Noor Lawson’s Lilly, as she confesses she is not altogether virginal on their wedding night, only serves to show the other side of this meeting of worlds – the blinkers of a ‘classic chap’ rather too caught up in his own insecurities to see his new bride’s own vulnerabilities. It takes confidence to be a giver, after all. And the music had to allude to the possibilities between them.
“It’s a nice sound they have together,” says Timo, “but it’s a pretence at the beginning. Their little theme is just too nice. But when they open up their vulnerabilities to each other, they can let the beats and the bass in. It’s not simply jazz they allow in, but the club dance floor. A nice natural mash up of the characters and their mashed-up world. Seemed a great fit for Momo.”
In the vein of such mashing up, however, there is another moment of style wonk that gave Momo a great excuse for another big love of Mr Peach’s. The sound of the 1980s.
“This was my outstanding memory of working with Danielle, apart from how positive, clear and still open she was – and I’m obviously hoping it’s her’s too. She asked for a full 80s ballad for a scene where Lilly escapes to the cinema for a matinee howl on her own. And we decided to weave in a raft of horrible knife-twisting lyrics for the poor character as she hears the song presumably throughout the film she’s watching, in unsurprising floods of tears. So Danielle penned words around the script and I turned them into the most 1980s-gosh-darned melody and sound I could.” he explains.
“Then one day, I called her on Skype. And when she answered I simply held up my finger to the camera with a shush and said: “No, don’t speak. Let us have only this moment.” And I rolled my chair back to the piano and sang the whole ballad Fight for the future of our love as meladramatically as I could, almost mustering tears at the end. Then just rang off.
“Making film is fun,” he adds.
Supported by Realstrings’ Pete Whitfield, with Simon Lockyer on cello, and sampling one or two horn sessions from past electro-pops orchestra recordings, Momo’s sound for this plays squarely into playing at home for him – playful, lyrical, hinting at groove and with one eyebrow somehow firmly raised throughout the score, with moments of touching connection.
“It’s cabaret, really” says Mr Peach. “That slightly over-posterised tone that tells a story in contrasts. Almost cartoony, but somehow right for this. Well, that’s my bag isn’t it?”
Shot and completed in 2015, the film’s composer adds that it’s nice to revisit these characters after so many years.
“I know Danielle and her team Kickstartered this on a shoestring, but there’s something genuinely touching about these two as they find each other again. This to me feels almost like a charming proof of concept to do something more with them together. Bless Lilly and Lisle, eh? Who knows if their marriage would ever work? I think the interest might be in discovering it did.”
Momo plays out a second little contribution to this year’s Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe by joining the production cast of Peter John Cooper’s experimental play exploring the fine line between alien and human.
A week after coming out with his own conceptual theatre production, Five Songs to help us Unsee The Future, Timo Peach appeared in a creative role with fewer high-kicks, contributing some live sound design to two performances of Life and Death and Everything In Between, at Factory Studios in Boscombe for BEAF2018. And the result was at least as cosmic as anything else on the richly creative schedule that May. And as grounded, ultimately circling an especially thoughtful centre of gravity – mental health.
Starring Julian Harrow as Eamon Porktraddle and a small cast of characters and sound makers drifting around this almost one-man performance, captured photographically by Howard Shep, the play explores the last day on Earth of a man who may or may not be from another planet – or, indeed, on one. And as we are introduced to Porktraddle’s irascible collage of a life, it is hard to know where reality and fantasy begin or end; what is inside or outside his head.
An immersive, intimate production, Life and Death invited its audience to take part in a ‘great experiment’ – to soak up the performance, sitting around the physical space of it with the players, and then to contribute memories and fleeting impressions of their own, brought to mind by the play’s touching themes and impressionistic storytelling. A combination of the emotional and the fantastical realms of humanity that Mr Peach really wanted to be a part of.
“Peter is the best of Englishmen to spend time with,” he says of the author and producer. “He’s most importantly a terrific laugh – but he’s a great thinker in words even more broadly. So just the chance to jump into his world and work together was like being caught in the headlights of oncoming sureality when he asked me to join the team.”
A poet and playwright indeed in the very English tradition of the absurd, Cooper pulled together a story as dense in word play as contrasts.
As Jeremy Miles reviewed in the Bournemouth Echo: “With one sandal, a coat tied on with string, a tinfoil hat to keep the voices out and a flatulence problem not helped by a diet of strong beer, Eamon Porktraddle is confused by the chaos and unfairness of life. We’ve all seen people like him raging at the moon but society tends to turn its back on them.
“It’s a clever piece of writing incorporating poetry, sound and song that chronicles Porktraddle battles with his own nihilistic tendencies and his extreme flights of fancy. This is a man, who between flatulent outbursts, can equate the makings of a cheese sandwich with Einstein’s theory of relativity.”
As Momo himself put it, trying to turn some of this sequence of dream moments into sound: “Peter works in the echoes of Forkbeard Fantasy Theatre or Douglas Adams or Python – a delightful preposterity, a willfully intelligent silliness, that sets out to undermine the pompous follies of human loftiness in the face of the horrors of existential scale. Life and Death offers a sort of cheery nihilism that subverts our grand schemes for, well, a kind of reverence for life’s sheer unlikeliness. Something I’ve been discovering in my own way with The Shape of Things to Humand Unsee The Future. But where I can’t help but be theatrically hopey-changey, Peter’s outlook is much less camply didactic, even as it’s even more absurd, inviting us to suspend disbelief in the finest traditions of high-concept but heartfelt sixties experimental theatre.
“It is a hefty perspective-puller, this play, and I found it more and more moving the more time I spent with it.”
With actor and Exploreystory director Trisha Lewis as Gloria Swansong, jazz champion Paul Kelly as Mr Brass, Holly and Elinor Cooper as the Mermaids, creative music explorer and legendary alternative Bournemouth DJ Conrad Barr as The light of the Galaxy and Peter himself narrating as The Poet, Momo’s role as The Sound of the Universe was, he feels, to contextualise story a little in true manner of a film score.
“Paul was providing some ‘source’ music with live trombone and horns and looping, bringing moments of the human sound to the scenes of Porktraddle’s encounters. But surfing a laptop live, I’d sonically shaped the grander scale of things in the character’s head – the implications of how we was seeing the world: As a tiny world, lost in a vast universe, with tiny, ridiculous people trapped on its surface, refusing to see their true… predicament? Or meaning? My job was to be gently otherworldly and suggest the dilemma of someone feeling like they don’t belong: To stay or to go?”
“I think Julian and Peter had worked together long ago, somewhere in the legendary past of true experimental theatre, with who can only imagine what results at the time. But their trust showed – Julian had to kind of wring himself out in this performance, combining songs and rich libretto, but he seemed to eat it up like someone trusting a creative vision.”
Timo adds that in the end this fantastical immersive word and sound fest was exploring something he feels is of great significance to our times. Mental health.
“It’s one thing to feel comfortable with one’s own pottiness,” Timo says sagely. “I think both Peter and I cross over in such a state of mind. But that’s probably partly because, as creatives, I suspect we both have inkling or experience enough to know the fraglility of the thing that powers the human imagination – our emotional life. Our mental wellbeing. Our collective unwellness in this regard sits at the heart of global challenges, I’ve come to believe. So this couldn’t be a more pertinent subject to explore.
“And how best to approach it than by peeling away the normal scenery flats of our outlooks and storytelling, and suspend disbelieve for a curious, absurd hour. It can take us to other worlds of outlook entirely. And maybe bring us back to this world inspired with a kinder perspective.
“This is the purpose of art, to not just scratch an itch or let out some enormous fart of self importance. It’s to encourage us to see differently the things we may feel trapped by. Or may not have seen at all before.”
There may be another Momo:tempo LP on the way, but with a unique test-bed production, Five Songs to help us Unsee The Future performed as part of BEAF 2018, Bournemouth creative Timo Peach has taken a boldly-coloured step towards exploring a human tomorrow he thinks is about a lot more than music – a more hopeful vision of what could be possible for us all, that might only be unlocked by art. And the kind of collaboration it can inspire.
As reported by the Bournenouth Echo, it might have been more than two years in the making, but Timo Peach thinks the work-in-progress production revealing first ideas from Momo’s new futurism project is just the beginning. Disrupting the elegant main hall at Talbot Heath School for one night, the Bournemouth creative director and music maker took a select audience on a quick ride around the history of some things yet to happen, including landing the first artist on Mars… all from the perspective of the future, thanks to a special one-off show exploring the fearsome challenges of now from a more playful perspective. And all while debuting some brand new songs from the forthcoming album.
And, as the buzz built in the coridors outside the hall, guests were left guessing about what on Earth they were about to experience.
“We’d described it as a neon cabaret for the end of the world,” says the bloke from Momo himself, “which is a fair summation of the structure – songs and storytelling, talked around by two illustrious hosts, The Ghost of Future Shock and The Muse, played by my counterpart Hazel Evans. And the whole collection of elements, including scenes from an original short film and a general graphic environment, all play into the spirit of that kind of show, in a way – cabaret’s sometimes unnerving audience involvement and ecclecticism. But I don’t think anyone was expecting to be asked to blindfold themselves and hold hands with strangers before they could even begin the show!”
The show did set out to do the obvious – share new music from The Shape of Things To Hum, the forthcoming LP itself, from which debut single Behave New World is taken. And it was an ecclectic selection, showcasing Momo’s playful comfort with different musical moods, all celebrating some idea of electronic music’s broad creativity, and it’s capacity to fire the imagination. But the music acted more like a structural platform to tell a bigger story, with Five Songs sharing the structure that the envisioned full five-part show surrounding the tunes will take – with pre-scenes of the production’s special short film from director Andy Robinson featuring between the songs.
“Andy was the first person I went to about the project,” explains Timo, “because I pictured a film narrative punctuating the on-stage live daftness, and his particular storytelling voice I pictured getting it just right. So I went to him before I’d even codified the structure properly and briefed him with the general idea, which he seemed to really get.”
Alongside the core LP of music, the full vision for The Shape of Things To Hum is to create a motion graphic environment for each chapter of the mosaic it builds up of the story of science fiction, set in a theatre in the round and augmented with a digital element for the audience to interact with. All flowing together with a specific extra narrative turning up between the live performances – the idea always being to take the audience to Mars, as well as the further flung future and ultimately home to Now. The Now of fearsome realities we are all facing.
“I asked Andy in those earliest meetings to develop a script around the idea of a first manned mission to Mars embedding an artist on the mission” says Timo. “That was the hook. And what he came back with in the very first draft of The Martian Artist just put the soul into the entire production. And for our totally unfunded test production, Five Songs, he actually ruddy well managed to take us to Mars.”
Starring Veronica Jean Trickett as Nina Bonnestell, the first artist on a new world, the elements we saw on the night of this first public performance showed a woman saying goodbye to the tactile realities of life on her home planet, to take the risks of making a first mark on another one. A production filmed in a front room in Hove and a back garden in Exeter, says Robinson.
“We managed to take Nina to the red planet with a few judicious bits of old fashioned camera trickery, and the end effect of those shots does kind of work” director Andy smiles gently.
“I spent ages trying to find the right astronaut’s glove for one shot and nothing seemed quite right,” he says. “Then I was in Wilco one day and I saw just the right pair of gardening gloves… it was like a beam of heavenly sunlight fell upon them and I knew I could complete the shot” he laughs.
But all the elements of the production are exploring the idea central to Timo’s unfolding podcast, Unsee The Future. Namely, that in order to save the one human planet we’re currently living on, the most important thing humanity can try to do is find new ways of seeing. Ourselves and everything. The purpose, he says, of art.
“Art is not a nice to have, once we’ve got the plumbing and security systems to work,” he says.
“Art is more than crucial to us making sense of where we are, working through our very decisions-effecting feelings – it’s crucial to where we picture ourselves going. Without those pictures, we travel blind. Thankfully, a century of scifi has been trying to show us the way.”
It’s a rich but simple idea, Momo wants to explore in later itterations of the production: Has science fiction always been teaching us the future? And might this mean we can find some hope in fearsome seeming times?
“It’s a show that I want to park up outside all manner of different ways into the subject,” Timo says. “If we can develop a way to turn the full production into a kind of UFO we can dump on the lawn of everything from Green conferences to scifi cons, science festivals to art events, we might be able to use the playful energy and suspension of disbelief to help do the one thing we are all desperate for at the moment – find hopeful inspiration. I believe it’s out there, but we have to conciously close our eyes to the old future turning us blind with its visual noise, and perhaps listen out for the still small voice of a bigger reality.”
Leaving it’s audience with much to think about, now that the first ever show is done, what happens next for Timo, Andy, Hazel and the team behind Five Songs to Help Us Unsee The Future?
“We will be sharing film of the event and putting together a whole package of material promoting The Shape of Things To Hum as a show we want to spool up from this first work,” says Timo. “It’s the job for the summer as I get into final recording sessions for the LP and go looking for the next level of support for what we have in mind. It’ll be special, if we can do it – but what will be special about it is the very thing that will make it work, and that made this debut production work: The people it draws together.”
“From the amazing energies brought by Andy and also by my dear mate Hazel, both cheering this on with such time and talent, to the incredible enthuiasm of first real sponsors Octopus Farm – how much Mike and Michele brought to my belief in this project as people I’ve only been getting to know properly in more recent times. And those augmented reality posters Mike made work – a tiny brilliant foretaste of things we have in mind. And from the wonderful skills of long-time collaborator core to the Momo family Pat Hayes and the world-class musicians he helped me draw together for this one, to uplifting energisers and practical pros like production manager Becky Willis and her husband Dan, founder of Why, or Evan Grant taking a Sunday out from Seeper to bring some projection magic, or the incomparable Pete Alcock making us sound wonderful, and my first time working with Joe from Lamps & Amps, I may have never trusted a team more than with this, and been so inspired in the making together. How Becky Cutts built us a set around doing her finals I shall never know, but as ever Treehouse Digital advised us well on many things, and it was great to share their beautiful video for Behave New World on a big screen.
And the terrific presence of Veronica as Nina Bonnestell – she really embodies who we’re picturing coming to life in the whole film and she was a delight to work with. Photographer Rob Amey was a great ambassador from Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe, encouraging much, and it was great to just essentially stand with so many other artists in our local scene brought together by such a brilliant grassroots festival. While our official photographer Danika Westwood has done so much to capture great moments with Momo over the years.
And of course there was Mark Masters of the ID Group, who didn’t just interview me at the end to help the audience make sense of it but who has done so much to inspire, encourage and share the work I’ve been up to in all this. He’s another key energiser in this mix helping me not feel mad and alone.”
As Timo concludes, this is all an attitude any future production will have to amplify in order to happen.
“This is just what we will have to do with supporters and partners going forward. This sense of trust in shared values, wanting to inspire and champion each other. Like Alan at Absolute Music simply wanted to, as he has so much musical creativity across my home region for years – they have brilliant attitude as a business, showing how to encourage community. What will get me most excited from here is building a platform to talk about the potential new members of our future family – the people already building the future today. Technically perhaps but also in attitude. That’s who I want to meet, that’s who I want to listen to, learn from and use Things To Hum to champion. Because they’re the ones creating hope for the real human tomorrow. Who wouldn’t want to encourage that?”