Maya-Victoria Kjellstrand and Frances May Morgan
Insititute of Contemporary Art, London
2 November 2008
Maya-Victoria Kjellstrand joined the all-female improvised noise ensemble Polly Shang Kuan Band at the age of 20, only a few weeks after her initial exposure to the UK noise scene. Simultaneously working on personal projects, Kjellstrand hatched the idea of forming her own band. The result was Leopard Leg (2005-2006), a large, percussion-driven, all-female ensemble that included over 20 musicians during its existence.
Each of Leopard Leg's performances and recordings was based on a new visual narrative explored by the musicians, who played stripped-down drum kits as well as the occasional bass, guitar or synthesiser. The band produced many tape and CD-R recordings, as well as a 12" EP recorded during a night-time session in the South Downs. Leopard Leg - who were part of an evening organised by Electra at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, in 2006 - mixed some of the most interesting elements of noise, DIY punk and improvisation, and such a large group of women and instruments also imbued their performances with a strong visual power.
Since Leopard Leg ceased to exist, Kjellstrand has continued to work on musical projects, including her tape label, Hex Out Tapes, through which she releases her own recordings and those of others. Kjellstrand's other activities include Sound Of The Exquisite Corpse, a project staged by Electra in 2007 as part of The Wire 25 season, which involved inviting members of the public to create their own mixes from pre-recorded tapes by some of the most eminent noise musicians including John Weise, C Spencer Yeh and Dylan Nyoukis.
Kjellstrand has also continued her involvement in groups, including Vard Ov Ard, in which she collaborates with Frances May Morgan. Kjellstrand and Morgan share a fascination with the mathematics of insect formations, and the latter have influenced the band's musical scoring. Recently the two musicians have created the Macroprosopus Dancehall Band, a larger ensemble able to realise more ambitious scores (the group is named after a form of magic that employs the elements of earth, wind, fire and water, and which Kjellstrand and Morgan also draw on for their scoring).
For ICA's Nought To Sixty collaboration Electra invited Kjellstrand and Morgan to perform with the Macroprosopus Dancehall Band, which had its debut at the ICA. The performance involved 30 participants: ten in a stringed bass section; ten in an "electronic manipulation section" which includes cassette walkman, radio and synth; and ten in a vocal section. The musicians were volunteers from across the UK noise music community, expanding Leopard Leg's network (and including men as well as women). These three sections assembled concentrically to form a semi-circular arc that enveloped the audience both sonically and spatially.