This week’s new live music

Sun Ra Arkestra | Contra Pop | Meltdown festival | Sturgill Simpson | Green Man festival | Sibelius At The Proms

Sun Ra Arkestra, On tour

For their gravity-defying headgear, communal approach and the claimed talent for interplanetary travel of its late founder, the Sun Ra Arkestra would have found a place in jazz folklore even if they had hardly played a note. But the collective’s unique repertoire – splicing 1930s big band swing, freeform squalls, honky tonk, electronica and vocal choruses that often sound endearingly like Georgie Fame with a sock in his mouth – has made them a revered and influential musical force. Last year at the Barbican, they celebrated their founder’s centenary with a mixture of warped standard songs and swing hits, street-sharp pieces that could have accompanied rappers, doo-wop, bebop and energetic acrobatics from the sprightlier members. These shows should demonstrate their power to play older jazz styles as vibrant lived histories, not museum pieces.

Cafe Oto, E8, Mon to Wed; Summerhall, Edinburgh, Thu; Green Man festival, Crickhowell, Fri


Contra Pop, Ramsgate

Curated by Extra Normal records, Contra Pop hits the sands of Kent this Friday. With a rum yet excellent lineup, unusual choices for a beach festival include French experimental vocalist Ghédalia Tazartès, who may play a collection of children’s toys, grunt and holler, sing a Gypsy ballad or none of the above. Elsewhere, Heatsick will work his way around earwormy Casio loops, young electronic composer Klara Lewis will feed field recordings with ambient drones and booms, and Glasgow afro-punk group Golden Teacher will raise the roof. The DJ lineup is gold-plated, featuring Kent local Adrian Sherwood. Tickets are free but available to book in advance.

Ramsgate Beach, Fri to 23 Aug


Meltdown festival, London

Rather than just “art-punk”, David Byrne has spent his post-Talking Heads career being “art-” just about everything. An inquisitive musician, Byrne was one of those people who was globalised before the internet, in 1981 releasing the world/ambient album My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts with Brian Eno, and founding the world music label Luaka Bop. His curation of Meltdown features impressive flamenco (Estrella Morente, Mon), and a screening of There Will Be Blood with Jonny Greenwood’s live score (Wed), while the music of William Onyeabor is celebrated in the Atomic Bomb! show (Thu), a performance in which Byrne himself appears.

Southbank Centre, SE1, Mon to 30 Aug


Sturgill Simpson, On tour

Johnny Cash called himself the “man in black”. Sturgill Simpson, (a man with strong philosophical ties to Cash) has no such illusions of mystique – he recently referred to himself as “King Turd of Shit Mountain”. Really, though, after 10 years in the music game, with stints in bluegrass bands and the navy behind him, things are looking up for Simpson. A performer with traditional country music appeal (lovely voice; witty lyrics; a vibe of honourable manual labour), his tough-life tales give him a crossover appeal comparable to that once enjoyed by gangsta rap. Most impressively, Simpson is unwilling to rest up. After his 2013 debut High Top Mountain, his next one, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, swiftly hinted at the progressions into funk and psych once made from country music by Jim Ford and Mickey Newbury.

Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Tue; Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, Wed; Islington Assembly Hall, N1, Thu


Green Man festival, Nr Crickhowell

Although seemingly unconcerned with such things, Green Man is an event you can imagine selling out whoever was playing. The natural beauty of the site has a lot to do with it; a verdant stretch that can’t help but enhance the experience of what’s on offer. That sense of bucolic ease extends to the booking policy, too. This at one time meant an interest in “folk” and its many modern readings, but a more general relaxation now pervades the music policy. The festival has managed to curate its own destiny, and now finds a comfortable place between new and “heritage” acts, a mixture of electric and acoustic that feels progressive, idealistic and somehow 1967 in spirit. St Vincent, Hot Chip and Super Furry Animals are the headliners, but there are great things all over: from Jamie xx to Calexico, Matthew E White to Television, the event’s musical heart overrides any other external pressure.

Glanusk Park, Thu to 23 Aug


Sibelius At The Proms, London

Although they can revive the fortunes of composers who have been unjustly neglected, there is always a danger of overkill when musical anniversaries are celebrated. But for Sibelius and Nielsen’s 150th birthdays this year the balance seems just about right. Both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic gave a complete cycle of Nielsen’s symphonies, while the Berlin Philharmonic’s February London residency included all seven of Sibelius’s symphonies. The Proms is offering a rerun of the latter with the BBC’s own orchestras. Thomas Dausgaard starts with the BBC Scottish Symphony, before Ilan Volkov and the same orchestra play the Third and Fourth, as well as Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. Then the BBC Symphony takes over for the final triptych, conducted by perhaps the finest of all living Sibelius interpreters, Osmo Vänskä.

Royal Albert Hall, SW7, Sat to Mon



John Fordham, Jennifer Lucy Allan, John Robinson & Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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