FRACTURED AIR

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Central And Remote: Iarla Ó Lionáird

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Interview with Iarla Ó Lionáird.

“So you manage to track the different phases of life through music which is also for me very important to realize that music could have a real function in society, a real place in everyday life.”

— Iarla Ó Lionáird

Words: Mark Carry, Design: Craig Carry

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The Gloaming’s self-titled debut album has been gracing the earth’s atmosphere ever since its release back in 2013. The super-group features New York pianist Thomas Bartlett (Doveman, Anthony and the Johnsons, Martha Wainwright), Chicago guitarist Dennis Cahill, Irish sean-nos singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, fiddler and hardanger innovator Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and fiddle master Martin Hayes. A common thread that connects these gifted musicians together is the masterful use of language, sentiment and desire to elicit emotion of the truest and rawest kind. Ó Lionáird’s mesmerising voice blends majestically alongside the fiddle of Hayes and Ó Raghallaigh’s trusted Hardanger d’Amore. The opening ‘Song 44’ comprises of lyrics adapted from original poem no. 44 by poet Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh. An unfathomable beauty is unleashed by The Gloaming that utters, with every sacred note, to phrase a poet: “the godly-given prize” of true art and treasured music. ‘The Necklace of Wrens’ contains lyrics adapted from the original poem by Michael Hartnett. The piano line of Bartlett serves the aching pulse to Ó Lionáird’s fragile vocal delivery. Some moments later, Cahill’s guitar adds new layers of depth and elegance. The words and music of ‘Opening Set’ — the album’s longest cut — represents the crowning jewel of the group’s towering debut album. Distinct movements begin and end throughout the heavenly sixteen minutes, as the instrumentation of guitar, voice, fiddle and piano casts an everlasting spell upon you that further confirms the abundance and exceeding beauty of its native music.

I feel the beautiful poem ‘The Music or the Folk’ by Seosamh Mac Cathmhaoil translates the sheer beauty of The Gloaming’s truly transcendent work into fitting words:

From time eterne unto these living hours
 They count their heritage;
 And fresh as wood-bells wet with April showers
 It wears its weight of age.
 The stream of nature-song runs quick the-day
 As it ran in the world of years away.”

One of Iarla’s latest projects is the special collaboration with American composer Dan Trueman, poet Paul Muldoon and American ensemble eighth blackbird, entitled Olagón. In the legendary Irish tale Táin Bó Cúailnge, two brothers are forced to battle one another for three days. Cuchulainn slays Ferdia, and lets loose a powerful, guttural, mournful cry, the cry known as “olagón”. The rich and conflicted notion of “olagón” is the starting point for a new hour-long concert work, created by composer/performer Dan Trueman, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, and ensemble eighth blackbird.

For all the latest projects and releases from Iarla Ó Lionáird, please visit:
http://www.iarla.com/
https://www.facebook.com/iarlaolionaird

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Interview with Iarla O’ Lionaird.

It would be wonderful first of all to talk about The Gloaming; it’s such a special album with all these incredible musicians and the result when you all come together and in turn, what you create is so magical.

Iarla Ó Lionáird: Well we don’t get to play together too often and maybe that’s why it works out [laughs]. But it is part of it I think that we don’t do it too often, funnily enough because I think when you do something very often – and you’re very good at it – the problem is you’re very good at doing the same thing. And I think the way The Gloaming is set up, you don’t get to do it so often and falling into an habitual way of playing so it always feels fresh and on the edge and at the risk of doing ourselves some reputational damage we’re always a little bit under-rehearsed as well but just enough to do the gig. And even the last time we played, we had an hour’s worth of new material – quite fresh and not totally understood maybe but we were going to go for it anyway – so I think there are some of the other things that keep things fresh for us and it creates a sense of adventure when we meet because you don’t know for example how long a tune is going to last or how quite to set up something; we just let things happen as much as possible. That is not to say we’re lazy about it, we do want to hit the sweet spot if possible and that’s the biggest challenge to stay fresh and to hit the sweet spot and to keep doing it.

The fact that you are all involved with your own projects as well, for example with the projects you’re involved with in the meantime and then when you go back and for the others too, it must give you new perspective when going back to The Gloaming and you may have a different approach than the last time?

IÓL: Yeah I mean I think a couple of things happen when we get back together that I really like. First of all, I’m always a bit surprised at how nice it is, how nice it feels you know and how powerful and emotional it is. I suppose it’s how good these guys are, I’m speaking just as a singer. These guys are so good, they’re able to do things on the fly and they’re so responsive to each other. I mean from the very early time, I was surprised by that, you know. I mean it’s an odd thing to say that I would be surprised by such a thing because I have worked with other bands and other groups but these guys are very instinctive and lead-footed and also they reach into emotional territory very quickly by the way they play, each and every one of them. So when you’re in their midst and you haven’t been for a while, I always get this powerful feeling you know. There is this energy generated and it’s a very emotional feeling, very emotional energy and I love it and it surprises me usually.

You’re right, when you’re away from it and you’re doing other things, some of the things I undertake when I’m away from it are very difficult – I find them difficult anyway – complicated and I end up outside of my comfort zone but when I meet the Gloaming, the challenge is different. I find it’s very comfortable but at the same time it’s edgy and I’m on the edge of my seat wondering what’s going to happen and also really enjoying the feelings that we generate with the audience, I think that also came as a surprise to me compared to other things that I’ve done which might be a bit cerebral comparatively. This stuff with the Gloaming especially as we don’t do it too often to become too self-aware, it always moves us a lot as well which is a huge bonus.

I love how the album itself – and it’s been a common theme from previous records in the past – takes traditional material and utilizing or adapting it to your own needs and into music. It’s something very powerful, even some of the specific lyrics on the album for example.

IÓL: Well the funny thing is of all of us in the band the only person who really decided to be a traditional musician was Caoimhín [Ó Raghallaigh] if you like because he grew up in Dublin that’s not to say that Dublin is any lesser of an area for traditional music. But Martin [Hayes] and I were born into it, do you know what I mean, we just didn’t have a choice. And Thomas [Bartlett] also comes from the outside but I feel that myself and Martin if we hadn’t grown up with traditional music, we could have become something else entirely even if we were musicians we could be other kinds of musicians. So I think there is a desire amongst us – certainly myself and I’ve discussed it with the lads many times – to bend the tradition to our will and to imagine ourselves maybe not even as traditional musicians. It just so happens that is the sandbox we find ourselves in and this area of play if you like and that’s the language we use.

To all intents and purposes I mean –I’ve often said it before – if you listen to the playlists that people have on their iPods in the Gloaming you might be surprised of the lack of traditional music through it [laughs]. It might be embarrassing but the fact is many of my colleagues in the Gloaming would spend much more time listening to other forms whether it be interpretative jazz or progressive alternative music in the pop area and then also mixing that up with very old retrieval stance when it comes to traditional music. So we try to bend it to our will.

I love old text sources. Just to give you the impact, I was down in the studio working on something for this group 3epkano who do movie soundtracks and I’m a guest vocalist with them and my usual aim there is I listen to the backing track and I have a bunch of lyrics and I just let things happen. I just see what pops out and then I start crafting that so there is no plan; whatever comes out is already inside but I didn’t see it. So, it’s almost like a question of I really believe it’s inside and I just let it out.

Even in this day and age, there are so many artists that can’t be pigeon-holed in the best way possible in the sense that people like yourself there is no boundaries and you wouldn’t know what project you’d do next which is obviously a great thing.

IÓL: Yeah I mean there is a certain amount of freedom, obviously there are some limits, I mean people would be shocked –perhaps horrified – if I did rap or something like that, I would be more shocked even [laughs]. But there are limits I mean there are aesthetic directions that we are drawn to but the interesting thing is these aesthetic directions, they superimpose, they overlord genre. That’s an interesting distinction I would like to make, these aesthetic choices musicians make today, they have an overlordship over genre, historically derived consideration. So that in other words, someone of my own background in traditional singing doesn’t have a philosophical difficulty with working in neo-classical or in realms of music that is more alternative pop or whatever or alternative rock or progressive modern music.

There are limits to my own creativity and my aesthetic is what creates boundaries for me more than anything else, things that I would like, things that would appeal but not genre so much funnily enough. But that also speaks to the truth that genre all over the world is opening up, not just our traditional music. In other words there is more permeability in the pop world to a degree, in the classical world to a degree and folk music has gone through a huge revolution in the last ten years. It’s very trendy to be a folk musician now [laughs]. I mean I even see on your own stuff online under Fractured Air, folk is there as well as these other forms of modern music. So like when I was growing up, folk was not trendy [laughs]. I’m not saying you’re trendy but it was very much in its own –I don’t want to use the word get-out because that would suggest people didn’t like being in it – but it was in its own zone and the freedom of movement between genre that we see now simply didn’t exist so it’s actually a great time to be creative.

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I can’t wait to hear your newer project with Dan Trueman, Olagón, which sounds really interesting altogether.

IÓL: [laughs] That’s going to be very weird, I can definitely say that. One of the challenges with Olagón is that we went to Paul Muldoon with this rather nice idea you know, an idea that had a certain coherence: Cuchulainn’s lament for Ferdia upon killing him which in itself is rather Irish – I’ll kill you but then I’ll lament you [laughs] – almost thespian. We went to him with that idea and we came back with something really quite evocatively different. And then because he had done it and because he worked so hard on it and it was so good, we have had to mock-run it and one of the challenges for me in that piece which we’re working on at the moment with eighth blackbird, we meet every 3 or 4 months to workshop it, usually in the United States and right now Dan Trueman is working quite feverishly at aspects of it. I had to decide at one point how many Iarlas there are. Normally I could be one sort of character doing a show, you know the Gloaming or whatever but in this project I’m having to unpack what it is to be an Irish folk musician into many different and distinct parts. I’ve been listening to The Dubliners, I’ve been listening to traveller music, I’ve been listening to sean-nós all of them are finding a voice in me so that’s very odd for me and very good for me I think.

I suppose you crossed paths with Dan Trueman quite a while ago, Iarla?

IÓL: Oh I did. Actually the funny thing is when I first got to know Caoimhín O’ Raghallaigh, he’s a great pal of mine: I adore Caoimhín, he’s such a wonderful friend and such a beautiful presence in our musical lives and he is a true friend. And he brought Dan down to see me when Dan was visiting Ireland having spoken to me about him quite a bit. So ever since then Dan and I have been very good friends and he’s a wonderful man, he did quite a lot of work for me a couple of years ago when I was performing with the RTÉ National Concert Orchestra, he did three of my songs for orchestra and he did a magnificent job, a standout job. So I’ve been over and back to him quite a bit in Princeton where he works and it’s been very interesting and very challenging I hasten to add. Dan likes complex music, I think he is aware of my limitations but I suppose quite rightly he’s not making it easier for me either [laughs], sometimes I wish he did.

When you’re writing new works, for example the Vanburgh String Quartet earlier this year, you’re working away quietly and then when it comes to the performance and the touring; it must be very rewarding to see how an idea unfolds to the resultant music.

IÓL: It is, I mean you are quite right a lot of it is quiet backroom stuff for months and months and months and in the case of Olagón with Dan Trueman years, we won’t actually perform that to the public until 2017 having started talking about it a year ago. With the Linda Buckley pieces for the Vanburgh that was a very enjoyable experience for me. I felt that she wrote very beautifully for me, very knowing of what I would like to do but at the same time, bringing me somewhere I hadn’t been. A lot of it is because she is a singer herself and I remember listening to the mock-ups and I thought they were so beautiful and at one point I told her maybe I shouldn’t sing on them at all, she should do it herself [laughs] because they sounded so good.

You’re right there is an aspect of you’re sitting in the studio on your own a fair bit for long periods of time. And you’re always working closely with colleagues on imagining many different things: first of all, it changes from composer to composer, in the case of Dan Trueman I’m co-writing with him so I end up frequently writing a lot of the melodic lines I sing myself, in the case of Linda, I asked her to create something and I’m glad I did so it can change. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in terms of the fine detail and then there’s the rehearsal phase, which is very difficult sometimes because I don’t read music functionally and so therefore I have to learn things by heart and I have to find a way of being in the place I’m supposed to be with an ensemble and at the same time understanding their dynamic, their sense of flow and their sense of time and then at the same time performing and it really takes me up to the wire to get it. I mean in the case of Linda, I do remember the rehearsals being worrisome – that was the only worrisome part of it – the performances were just great and it’s beautiful when it comes together in the end, you get a sense that you created something that didn’t exist before which is very special.

Your collaboration with Gavin Bryars was very special as well and the setting of the old Irish text formed the basis of it I suppose. I just loved the instrumentation with your voice on that particular record.

IÓL: That’s right. We were very lucky that some academic work had been done on providing a collection of ‘Lon Anama’, which is Food for the Soul which was a spiritual text or collections down through the ages, going back 1500 years, a long way back. We’re uniquely positioned in Ireland because you can locate very ancient textual poetic works – by any standard very ancient in written form through the various phases in history, medieval, pre-Christian, Early Christian and through the phases of the evolution of the Irish language. It does change quite a bit, I mean early Irish is almost unrecognizable compared to modern Irish in its syntax and structure and sound. I don’t obsess over it every day of the week but I absolutely love being aware of our pre-history not just as Irish people but as human beings, our mysterious paleontology going way, way back to when we stood upright at all.

And our own story as Irish people is mostly overlooked really by people because it’s in a language that they’re not comfortable with, which is tragic but understandable. I remember I grew up speaking Irish – I made no effort to learn Irish – had I made an effort I wouldn’t speak it at all. So I’m very sympathetic to people who don’t share my fluency or my ease with the language but what it does allow me to do is to navigate through time at will and I absolutely have a huge yearning for that. I inherited it from my parents actually. And even with the Gloaming I was using very ancient text sources because they’re just so beautiful and they’re so poignant and they still speak very clearly to me today with absolute clarity they speak out and they do to most people who are interested in words if they could take the time to read them, even in translation and to sound them out in their own language is also very beautiful.

And the other thing I should say is I find the Irish language a very beautiful thing to sing. It just sounds great, it’s got a beautiful vowel-shaped structure and sound meaning in itself and I feel very comfortable with it and I feel blessed that I love doing it. There are those who would say you’re a missionary to bring it into the contemporary world; I don’t see it that way as such but having said that it’s probably inevitable because I listen to so much music from now and so my ears and my eyes they meet inside the text and inevitably then I make it contemporary.

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I love also the aesthetic of The Gloaming’s album where there is obviously periods of instrumental music and then your voice coming in at the different parts, almost like a collage in a way. It makes it more poignant then when your voice returns.

IÓL: Yeah I suppose so, that’s the kind of band it is. It’s not a band in the sense that there will be a song followed by a song followed by another song. And curiously enough when you look at my career such as it is that was the kind of thing I was always doing even with the Afro Celt Soundsystem. Each album was pretty much a mixture of songs and instrumental work. I like it because in a sense although I listen to a lot of instrumental music and singing, the human voice is interesting because when you’re not hearing it, part of you is waiting for it and then when you hear it you get this massive –well probably automatic so it’s not always noticeable – but you do get this sense that there is a connection made. So in a sense the fact that I’m not always there is a huge advantage for me because when I come in, it’s audibly an additional, humanised message.

But having said that again I have to remind myself that to compare like Martin Hayes, he uses his instrument as though it were a voice: it’s so liquid and it’s so languid and he tells me that he feels like he’s singing and he breathes when he’s playing as though he were singing. And that’s also fascinating for me to consider and I never really considered it until I was with The Gloaming. But each instrument that these guys play is an extension of their human, physical desire to express and to emote and to feel. Each of them are saturated in this sound field that they create which is a feedback loop, which manipulates their intonation and every aspect of the sound that they’re making so that they’re satisfying a message they want to send out.

It’s a beautiful complex and to be in the middle of that in a live show, you know I often think that I’m cheating because the harmonium allows me to sit there with them; thank God for the harmonium because I don’t want to be walking on and off. Even though I do walk on and off as it were on the records, I’m there all the time onstage, I absolutely love it, it’s an incredible privilege. I’ve always wanted to be in sessions but I couldn’t [laughs] so I was very jealous at that. As a singer you wouldn’t be involved in the same way, you know.

I’d love for you to go back Iarla to the period of time when you were in a choir and the whole world of sean-nos and how you developed your singing voice.

IÓL: Well I was in a choir from the time I was a little boy and it was a great proving ground. I’ve often used the metaphor that it was like being in a little group of trees and there were little trees and there were big trees and the big trees shaded you and allowed you to grow. It was a safe place to be, you weren’t exposed and also there was great listening. I recall particularly being in listening mode whilst singing: hearing the different voices, the different colours and also there was of course the exploration of repertoire and the different things that asks of your voice all inside a sort of protected sphere that helps you to nurture your talents. And I’ll be honest as well, there came a time when I started imagining how would I do this where the “I” started to be more important than the “we” but that’s natural and that’s also a good place for that to happen: a choir. Many is the singer across the world have started their singing experience in choirs; it gives you a confidence, it gives you some knowledge of the range of what’s possible but it also is a safe place to expand and to grow.

I took a lot of lessons from Peader O’ Riada then on weekends – a small group of us used to go to his house – and that was really great where I started digging more deeply into very old songs. I was very young, I mean I started going there when I was about eight or nine and continued until I started recording my early recordings of these big vision songs. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been doing it when I was only a little boy but I was very drawn to them even though I didn’t understand really fully perhaps what emotional language they were trying to express because they were adult themes. But singing in the choir was a beautiful experience for me. I mean I do tend to idolize it but it was great craic as well, the Cuil Aodha people were great craic and there was great craic to be had travelling with them, a joyousness. Also we would sing of course in a cultural sense like in our own small society, we had a function you know: singing at mass, singing at funerals, things like that. So you manage to track the different phases of life through music which is also for me very important to realize that music could have a real function in society, a real place in everyday life as it does in many countries other than the west.

Like with any artist when you look through the different albums, I love how each album tells its own unique story but there is a certain special space in time for each one where there is that particular place that each one brings you to as a listener.

IÓL: That’s true I mean it’s almost impossible to make a record, in a way there would be something wrong with a record if it didn’t in somehow or other demonstrate the “now” of your life, you know even if you don’t want it to it will. My first recording with Real World [‘The Seven Steps to Mercy’], I was much younger – it was 1997 – I suppose they wanted me to do a record that had evidence of an older culture but at the same time, was brought into the contemporary world. The next record then I made [‘I Could Read The Sky’] – I made it here at home where I’m sitting here now – in my studio and that was a very personal record; very empowering because I was producing it myself and I had a great colleague with me, Kieren Lynch; an engineer for many movies and many different people, he’s a great guy from Donegal. And he worked so hard and he was so dedicated. On that record I was able to write about the fact that I had just become a Dad and so forth. My little son is in it actually, saying the word ‘hedgehog’ [laughs], it’s the only thing he says in it [laughs] because I actually liked the way he said it, you can barely hear it. There’s a song on there about my daughter.

Then the next record, ‘Foxlight’ I made with a really great English producer Leo Abrahams. I made that here and in London. I was a good bit older by then and really when you turn forty you start thinking in a different way; maybe I was suffering from tired Dad syndrome to some extent. These things track different phases of your life in an odd kind of way. I’m not sure if The Gloaming has done that funnily enough because it’s not that autobiographical but we’ll see what the next record turns out like.

As you say that Iarla, I wonder can you shed some light on the new music because there must be a considerable amount of material collected at this stage?

IÓL: There is actually. When we played last spring in Dublin we felt we really needed to start creating new material, so we did go into a studio for a while – or into a room rather – and we created about an hour and a half of new material including lots of new songs. We’ve decided we’re going into the studio sometime in early December, it’s all booked and we’re going to put those down. I mean some of them aren’t fixed yet. There is one song of my own which I have written myself which is not finished so I’ll have to sit down with Thomas one of these days [laughs] and get him to finish it with me. But there is a lot of new material and I like it I must say. It’s using what we have learned in terms of how to be together a bit better and it’s not throwing the baby out of the bath water because we don’t need to do that yet, it’s stepping further into the water of being together.

So when we made the first record it came together very quick. We may not have fully understood; what the first record told us was that there was so much we could do, you know. It only told us that afterwards really and this next record is just another step in that direction. But I have a fair idea about what it’s going to be like and I’m quite excited about it. There will be just a bit more integration with the songs and the tunes. The first record was like two people watching each other in a dance hall [laughs], wondering which one is going to blink first but on this new record they get to dance more.

One last thing Iarla, has there been any music, books or films you’ve been inspired by in the past while?

IÓL: I’m inspired by every kind of thing that’s the truth now. I made a distinct decision about less than a year ago to start listening to more music. When you’re a Dad with young kids for a period of time your life really changes and it takes a while to get back into sort of ‘me’ mode. But I have a new stereo [laughs] and I’ve been listening to a huge amount of music. One of the things I like very much is listening to all kinds of things and there is something to be got from everything. I’m buying a lot of vinyl now with my son – he’s fourteen – he’s into Godspeed! You Black Emperor and whenever I say that to people they say, wow, he’s cool; he’s a lot cooler than I am [laughs]. He found that himself and he listens to a lot of things himself online and he knows what he likes. But we’re buying a lot of vinyl, most of the vinyl came out in the 70’s and 60’s, we’ve been buying a lot of jazz from the 50’s and early 60’s, we’ve been buying a lot of American music from 60’s and early 70’s, everything from Marvin Gaye to Tom Waits. He’s very much into ambient music so we’ve been listening to a lot of that; everything from Roedelius to Brian Eno.

I have a huge collection of Brian Eno here, I’ve been listening to him for years. It’s a bit easy to say but it’s true, I used to buy his LP’s in Crowley’s in Cork when I was a young boy, as a teenager. I hitch-hiked to Cork from Ballyvourney when I was my son’s age. Now would I let him hitch to Dublin? I wouldn’t, I mean life has changed hasn’t it? But I remember buying ‘Music For Airports’ and God knows what else years ago. So it’s great having kids; I’m very fortunate my kids are into music and my son is just so into music, he’s so into listening to it and he’s a good piano player, he wants to learn the guitar and my girls and my wife, they’re mad into music – they love Lorde – I’ve been trying to get them into St. Vincent but they’re not biting – maybe they’re a little young, they’re like nine and twelve but they love Lorde. There’s a lot of good young women musicians out there now. I mean there always was, I was a huge fan of Joni Mitchell and people like that. I love listening to vinyl I must say, I don’t know why, I just like putting them on. I’ve been listening to Early Music for example and Early Baroque. I’ve been listening to The Books, I love their stuff.

 

 


 

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The Gloaming’s self-titled debut album is available now on Real World (EU) & Brassland (USA).

http://thegloaming.net/
https://www.facebook.com/TheGloamingOfficial

For all the latest projects and releases from Iarla O’ Lionáird, please visit:

http://www.iarla.com/
https://www.facebook.com/iarlaolionaird

 

Don’t Look Back: 2014 (Part 1)

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“Don’t Look Back” is our look back on the year from the perspective of both musicians as well as various members of the arts community at large, who — despite varying geographical locations and backgrounds — all share the following in common: a deep passion and love for music. We’re both honored and delighted to be able to share the words of these special people through their personal accounts of the year that was: 2014. 

Part 1 of a 2-part series.

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Susan Schneider, The Space Lady (Colorado, USA)

There are fewer people in the universe more deserving of such a rewarding and special year than The Space Lady. And 2014 has been that (and so much more) for the much-fabled Outsider Artist Susan Schneider, who, after the NightSchool Records release of “The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits” in November 2013, suddenly found a whole new audience (and new generations) of adoring music fans. After decades of street busking across the States (San Francisco’s Castro and the Haight areas would become her adopted home) with her beloved Casiotone keyboard and iconic winged helmet (with flashing red light), 2014 would see The Space Lady embark on her first ever tour of venues, where she toured extensively across both the United States and Europe to universal critical acclaim. 

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What a cosmic whirlwind 2014 was for The Space Lady, after what I thought was her long-ago retirement. First, a tour of America’s West Coast, then off to the UK and Ireland in April – where those strange rumours about TSL having thousands of adoring fans around the world proved overwhelmingly true, and held true throughout the European tour, and then in Denver, Toronto, and finally in little, picturesque Crestone, Colorado.

From the daily struggles of playing on the streets – dealing with traffic noise, inclement weather, dying batteries, complaints to police, and indifferent, or sometimes outright rude people – to playing to enthusiastic crowds of TSL fans in artistic, counter-cultural settings with powerful sound systems, my songs – and my self-esteem – sky-rocketed!

Not only that, but with the support of my husband Eric, “The Space Manager,” I realized I could actually have a music career, doing what I really love, not just what I had to do to make money. Once again, Joseph Campbell’s advice to “follow your bliss” became a viable alternative to doing what’s expected, schlepping along uninspired on that proverbial wage-slave treadmill. All those years of hand-to-mouth struggle not only weren’t wasted – after all, I did support my family of five – but my unique sound and style had taken on a life of its own and traveled around the world, thanks to the internet and word of mouth.

Coming back home to quiet, conservative Colorado after the tours was not unpleasant….in fact, at first it was replenishing. Then a book by Elizabeth Kolbert, ‘The Sixth Extinction’, slapped me upside the head. Of course we’ve all heard about climate change to a nearly numbing extent; but the author’s dispassionate, scientific reporting on eco-collapse from around the world shocked me awake like never before. I found myself almost paralyzed emotionally with despair. What can I possibly do? Well, the next right thing for me was to get behind my keyboard and mournfully wail, which led to the creation of my new song, ‘The Next Right Thing’. I call it a love song to Mother Earth…and a call to action.

Then more recently, Eric discovered another book called ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible’, by Charles Eisenstein. Upon reading that, my hope for the future of nature and humanity was rekindled. It’s all about inventing a new cultural “story,” i.e., making a very necessary shift from our old, black-and-white story of separation, frantic competition and endless expansion, to a new story that creates a world of inter-connectedness, steeped in kindness and patience. To illustrate, Eisenstein quotes an African tribal chief who was warned by activists that his world was about to be destroyed by encroaching civilization, and that it was urgent for him to fight back. The chief calmly replied, “Urgency is not something we have here.”

We can’t fix what’s wrong in the world by simply revamping those old methods that got us here. We have to change our way of being. So we really have nothing more to do than follow our hearts and practice patience. That’s what I began doing in 1980 when I joyfully started busking with an old accordion in downtown Boston, which led to the creation of The Space Lady. But after 20 years of playing on the street, I had given up. Now, thanks to my fans, promoters, agents, record producer Michael Kasparis, and most of all to Eric – my ever-supportive husband/manager – I am following my heart again. Thank you all – you’ve given me the opportunity to once again step into the role of The Space Lady – that cosmic, other-worldly messenger who comes to us on Wings of Song!

 

—Susan Schneider

 

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‘The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits’ is available now on NightSchool Records.

http://www.thespacelady.net/
http://nightschoolrecords.com/

 


 

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Iker Spozio (San Sebastián, Spain)

Italian artist Iker Spozio is an illustrator, engraver and painter whose artwork is handmade using traditional techniques (such as monotype, collage, ink and paint) and without computer. Spozio’s work has been widely reproduced and seen in the context of music: producing album sleeves for such musicians as: Colleen, Hauschka, Mark Fry, Adrian Crowley, Half Asleep and working with music labels such as FatCat, The Leaf Label, Thrill Jockey and Deutsche Grammophon. Spozio is represented internationally by various illustration agencies (including London-based Folio) while his client list also includes publishers Laurence King and Penguin Books. Extensive commission work for Laurence King for a series of Artist books entitled “This Is” will be published next year (including “This Is Magritte”, to be published in Autumn 2015).

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– Jamaican music.
Mostly old 7″s, 10″s and 12″s which haven’t been reissued yet. My favourite find of the year would be Lee Van Cliff’s ‘Wiser Than Solomon’ 10″ (HitBound, mixed by Scientist).
Also several reissues released in 2014 by Pressure Sounds, DKR and OnlyRoots.

– Tommaso Landolfi.
My all-time favourite writer. I treasure all his books (which are being repressed by Adelphi in Italy) and always will.

– Medieval art.
I’ve always been interested in it, but only in 2014 I took the time to investigate it in-depth. I saw many great examples of it during a holiday in the South-East of Italy, this year, and read several interesting books on the subject. I’ve grown a great passion for Mozarabic miniature painting in particular.

– Italy in the 70s.
I was a child then, hence I don’t remember much about it. I’m currently trying to learn as much as possible about a particularly complex period in the history of my native country.

– Birdwatching with Cécile by the river, especially to see my beloved kingfisher.

 

—Iker Spozio

 

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http://www.ikerspozio.net/
https://www.facebook.com/iker.spozio

 


 

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Cécile Schott, Colleen (San Sebastián, Spain)

The Paris-born musician Cécile Schott has been making music as Colleen for over a decade now: beginning with a string of much-loved records for The Leaf Label (debut 2003 album ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, 2005’s ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ and 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, as well as 2006’s ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’, an E.P. originally created for Atelier de Création Radiophonique as a commission from France Culture). After a four-year break, Colleen made her long-awaited return to music in 2013 with the release of her album ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ via London-based label Second Language, its eleven songs featuring, for the first time, Schott’s own voice as well as a new-found love for Jamaican music and rhythm. Colleen’s hugely anticipated fifth studio album ‘Captain Of None’ will be released by Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey Records in April 2015.

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2014 started promisingly with settling in my newly renovated rehearsing and recording studio: the doors and windows of this former olive and pepper brinery were literally 50 years old and full of gaps, so that a lot of noise passed through them, making recording possible only late at night. Everything was changed for state-of-the art triple glazing, and tiles were added to a part of the floor that suffered from dampness problems, and these two changes have made a world of difference and turned an OK place into a truly welcoming and adequate work environment.

This in turn led me to a major upgrade of my recording equipment. I’m quite the anti-consumerist and believe a minimal mindset can be beneficial to making music, so whenever I make a new purchase, it’s usually preceded by months of thinking and research on the product that will best fit my requirements. With this finally silent working environment, it made sense to invest in my first nearfield monitoring system (the basic mixing tool, which I did without for all my previous albums exceptLes ondes silencieuses’). My soundcard was from 2003, so that also needed a major upgrade, along with a new computer, two pairs of really good headphones (one for mixing, one for recording), and an analog delay Moogerfooger pedal which unexpectedly ended up playing a major role on my new album.

This all contributed to making the recording of my fifth album by far the most pleasant and pain-free recording I’ve ever experienced. It was actually the first time I was able to record in a near-professional environment, with the invaluable advantage of this being my own place, which means unlimited time and freedom, and no neighbours to worry about. It was also the first time I recorded during the spring, and the light coming from outside, although filtered, imparted a real sense of joy to these sessions. It was awesome to get out of the studio at 8 in the evening and still see the light outside!

I finished the album in early July and got the confirmation that American label Thrill Jockey would release it, which has been tremendously exciting, and is hopefully the start of a long and fruitful working relationship with a label that has a truly impressive and diverse roster of free-thinking artists.

I was then able to relax for real during the beautiful summer, and in September, due to having to rehearse with more bass frequencies than in the past (the 5th album contains lots of bass lines), I also bought a small PA system, which has made rehearsing for the shows a much closer experience to actually playing live, making it all the more exciting.

The walls of our home have been vibrating daily to the sounds of Jamaican music almost non-stop for more than 2 years now, vastly thanks to my partner in life and in art Iker Spozio, whose  obsession with the Jamaican stuff keeps the house filled with new vinyl. I’ve listened to Jamaican music several times in my life, including when I was very young and had no clue as to what it was, and it seems entirely logical and natural that it has finally entered my own music.

Last but not least, in a year that also contained some very sad news, some small creatures have come to play an increasingly important part in my life and help me stay sane: birds. I started to get into birdwatching last year, in great part thanks to Martin Holm who curated the Music and Migration series at Second Language, the label that released my fourth album ‘The Weighing of the Heart’. My interest progressed steadily with the acquisition of the birdwatching Bible that is the ‘Collins Bird Guide’ and a good pair of binoculars, and since then there’s been no turning back. It’s hard for me to describe in words what it is about being in nature and observing birds that feels so right to me… Apart from the sheer amazement at their beauty and at the biodiversity that was right on my doorstep without me even knowing it (I live in the Spanish Basque country which is very varied in terms of landscape), there is something incredibly liberating about an activity that has nothing to do with us humans, and indeed with me: birds don’t care about us and that’s why watching them is so great – the feeling of disconnecting from modern life and reconnecting with something wild and ancient is truly priceless. For me, birdwatching even acts as a metaphor for life and how I should try to live it: I used to think I paid attention to my surroundings, but now I know that I was half-blind, and that when you start to *really* watch, *really* listen, you discover a whole new world that was there all along – and I can’t really think of better news than that.

 

—Cécile Schott

 

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http://colleenplays.org/
https://www.facebook.com/colleenplays

 


 

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Julia Kent (New York, USA)

World-renowned Canadian cellist Julia Kent has three solo albums released to date: 2007’s ‘Delay’ (Shayo); 2011’s ‘Green And Grey’ (Important Records) and 2013’s ‘Character’ (The Leaf Label). Previously, Kent worked and collaborated extensively with numerous musicians and groups, including: Antony And The Johnsons; Rasputina and Parallel 41. This year, Kent contributed original scores for numerous film works, including award-winning short film ‘Oasis’, directed by Carmen Jimenez and Chris Boyce. As part of artist Peter Liversidge’s exhibit, “Doppelgänger” at the MAC, Belfast (which took place during October), Julia Kent made a special one-off collaboration with Kentucky-based pianist, arranger and composer Rachel Grimes. During November 2014, Kent was in Italy, performing live with Balletto Civile (a company of performers, established in 2003) for “How Long Is Now” in Genova and “In-erme” in La Spezia and Florence.

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I can’t remember at all the beginning of 2014; it’s been, for me, a rather vague year, involving a lot of traveling and a bit of consequent disorientation in terms of time and space…but I do remember vividly playing in Cork this past March with the spell-binding Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, after a stressful and dramatic journey involving the temporary loss of my cello and the enormously gracious and generous loan of another, from a sympathetic music store in Cork, Pro Musica. It was my first solo show ever in Ireland, and was a memorable and beautiful experience: Cork is a special place, and I’m so grateful to the Carry brothers for bringing me there, and also to the welcoming audience! It was also a really special experience to play with Caoimhín in Cork and Dublin and have a lovely and wide-ranging chat on the journey in between.

For me, time is really defined by the people and places I encounter, and 2014 brought some other wonderful encounters: I was thrilled to have the chance to collaborate with the extraordinary Rachel Grimes for Peter Liversidge’s metaphysical and fascinating show, “Doppelgänger, in Belfast; to create live music for the dance companies Balletto Civile in Italy and Compagnie Tensei in Paris; and to contribute music to other theatre works, dance, and film, in the U.S. and Europe. Performing at William Basinski’s festival in London was another highlight of the year: he brought together so many incredible artists to celebrate the spirit of his and James Elaine’s glorious Arcadia, a seminal arts space that contributed so much to New York and still is sorely missed. And just this past week, I was so thrilled to share the experience of seeing some images from Antony and the Johnsons’ and Charles Atlas’s “Turning” on the breathtakingly enormous screens in Times Square…it was incredible to see those heartbreakingly beautiful images in that context, and in the company of some of the iconic women who embodied them on the “Turning” tour, which was and always will remain a special and emotional experience for me.

I’m looking at my calendar to try to remember some other details of 2014…and seeing the week where I went from Athens to Joshua Tree to Torino. I continue to feel enormously fortunate to have the chance to travel and play music in such disparate, beautiful, and inspiring places, and encounter, along the way, equally beautiful and inspiring people. Right now, since I’m home for a moment, I’m working on a new record that I hope will come out next year…and I hope will distill some of the memories and essence of this one…thanks for letting me share some of them!

 

—Julia Kent

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“Happy Holidays NYC, 2014”

 

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‘Character’ is available now on The Leaf Label.

http://www.juliakent.com/
http://www.theleaflabel.com/

 


 

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Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (Dublin, Ireland)

2014 has been a remarkable year for Ireland-based composer and fiddle player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Firstly, January saw the release of contemporary quintet The Gloaming’s stunning self-titled debut album via Real World Records. Subsequent concerts would be performed across the globe (including Sydney’s Opera House and triumphant homecoming shows on Irish soil including Kilkenny’s St. Canice’s Cathedral) to mass celebration and widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as touring with his other band, the Irish/Swedish quartet This Is How We Fly, across both Ireland and Europe, Ó Raghallaigh also performed a series of truly special solo concerts (entitled “In My Mind”, a solo fiddle and film show) across the length of Ireland for the month of October, organized by Music Network Ireland. Despite the hectic touring schedules, Ó Raghallaigh also released two stunning works: the solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ (via Dublin-based label Diatribe Records as part of their ‘Solo Series Phase II’ project) and the mesmerizing ‘Laghdú’, a collaboration between Ó Raghallaigh and U.S. fiddle player Dan Trueman. 

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Time marches on, there’s no stopping it: do you remember a time when the only way to pronounce 2014 was two thousand and fourteen, when even the year 2000 seemed like the far distant future?

We find ourselves here at the tail end of twenty fourteen, looking back on a euphoric whirlwind of a year. My thirty-fifth year on this bluegreen orb has been truly wonderful, in so many ways. There have been major milestones and moments of wonder and beauty. This act of looking back is welcome, too, this year in review, not something I naturally do, and it brings home just how special it has been.

Above all else, ‘Laghdú’ has given me endless pleasure this year. Musically, it’s the thing I’m most proud of I’ve ever made, and playing that music with Dan has been unfailingly rewarding and delightful. Equally wonderful was working with Rossi McAuley of Distinctive Repetition, whose design for the ‘Laghdú’ packaging continues to surprise and give immense pleasure every time I touch, see and feel it. And I love that we have an ongoing relationship with the object, as we must continually assemble the albums ourselves from the printed card, discs and rubber bands, spending time touching, feeling, learning and living with this beautiful object, deepening our relationship with it.

One day I called over to Rossi’s studio while he was working on the design, and he told me the music on the record really reminded him of Patrick Scott’s work, whose extraordinary retrospective was still occupying the Garden Galleries at IMMA. Experiencing Scott’s work for the first time at that exhibition was one of the highlights of 2014 for me, as was Maria Simmonds-Gooding’s retrospective at the RHA. Maria is a neighbour of mine down in Kerry, and her large-scale aluminium pieces have been living inside my head for a few years now, married to a line of Beckett’s: “they were things that scarcely were, on the confines of dark and silence”. But it was her plaster canvas works and the carborundum prints that got inside me at the RHA, and live there still. Like Scott, I find her work deeply satisfying and profoundly moving. Instructive, too, informing the music I wish to make, the feeling I wish to produce, and it somehow inspires a conviction in the worth of doing so.

Earlier in the year at the RHA, Richard Mosse’s “The Enclave” completely blew my mind with his infrared immersion in that jungle of sadness that comes of war. To be surrounded by that violently pink world of the Congo, to feel that sound move your innards, to see these unknown things and feel them twist your insides, it was nearly too much, and wiped the floor with your soul. Powerful beyond words.

Early in the year, too, we released The Gloaming’s debut album, and what a year for the Gloaming it has been, going to #1 in the Charts, playing the Royal Albert Hall and the like. But playing the Sydney Opera House beats all, I truly never imagined such a thing was possible. I woke that morning well before sunrise, at jetlag’s insistence, and set out across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, looking down at the Opera House and trying to process the idea that we’d play there that night. The following morning myself and Iarla took off for a long old walk before breakfast, down through the Botanic Gardens and out to Mrs Macquaries Point, the pair of us looking incredulously across Farm Cove to the scene of the crime and the Harbour Bridge beyond, hardly believing we had rocked that House the night before. You know, I still don’t quite believe it.

The Gloaming were in residence at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August, and it offered an opportunity to showcase other of our projects. Myself and Dan premiered ‘Laghdú’ there, for instance, and the This is How we Fly gig on the Saturday night really took off. There were a series of secret pop-up gigs in fancy Gardens around the town, and the one I did with Cleek Schrey gave rise to my favourite moment of the festival, when our cheeky sunspectacled selves sidled up to Nic Gareiss, who reached into his pocket, pulled out an appropriately bright vivid yellow pair of shades and started dancing up a storm on the loose gravel path on which half the audience stood. A totally joyous moment, mischievous, irreverent, unexpected, ecstatic.

Cleek is a fellow 10-string hardanger d’amore fiddler from the States, and I spent a wonderful mid-March week with him in New York, writing music together courtesy of a residency at the Irish Arts Center. There’s such a wonderful openness to his approach, a great combination of the carefree and the curated, and he’s very much a kindred spirit of mine. I feel at every moment that anything is possible, that there’s no agenda, just this feeling of co-exploration and endless possibility. The highlight of that week was an impromptu hour-long improvisation we embarked on to ourselves out in Redhook – unplanned, unrecorded, purely in the moment, sending out sound into the vast main hall of Pioneer Works.

This hardanger d’amore fiddle is a stunning instrument, and it is a joy and a revelation to play. Equally beautiful are the bows I play with, made by Frenchman Michel Jamonneau. While touring Brittany with uilleann piper Mick O’Brien in June, I visited Michel in his workshop, and fell head over heels with a bow of his, one he had recently made. Though I already had three extraordinary bows by Michel, playing with this bow was fundamentally different. Those other bows allowed me to do anything I wanted, but this seemed to float in the air, generate ideas of its own, made new things possible, brought forth the unintended. It is effortless to play with, not only a feather-light paintbrush for sound, but a creative force in its own right. When we left Michel’s workshop, that bow left with me inside my mind, and I revisited the feeling of playing with it throughout the following weeks, until Michel brought it over to Dublin to me in early August. It is a joy and a privilege to hold.

It has been a year of non-stop, nigh-on relentless traveling. It’s easy to shrink into yourself, or into your electronics, and it’s a real challenge to stay present, motivated and curious – you need something to keep you sane on the road. Looking through the camera lens has helped more than anything else – photography has been such a rewarding addition to the touring life, engaging the mind and the body. It turns drudgery to delight in alchemy, keeps you always looking outwards, seeking to connect, keeps the spirit fresh, and offers an unlimited learning curve for the curious mind.

Curious minds were in evidence aplenty in the Redwoods of California, as was the sheer joy of making music and being alive, when I spent a week teaching outdoors amongst the trees at the Valley of the Moon fiddle camp. One of the most enjoyable moments, aside from all the music, connections and conversations, was an epic game of water polo/football/chaos in which I became so fanatical that the rough bottom of the pool rasped right through three of my bare-footed toes, and put me hobbling around for the remainder of the week on tender feet. An enchanted bubble of a week topped off by the most wonderful Alice-in-Wonderland-themed Fancy Dress Banquet, the entire host appareled in the most colourful and fanciful costumes. A week that I came away from feeling as though life would never be the same again.

All this is only the beginning. The moments go on. The wheels turn, twenty fourteen is well-nigh gone.

 

—Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

 

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The Gloaming’s self-titled debut album is available now on Real World Records; Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ is available via Diatribe Records HERE; ‘Laghdú’ by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Dan Trueman is available from Irishmusic.net HERE.

http://www.caoimhinoraghallaigh.com/
https://www.facebook.com/caoimhinoraghallaigh

 


 

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Cillian Murphy (Cork, Ireland/London, UK)

The ever-prolific Irish actor Cillian Murphy contributed stunning performances for numerous roles — spanning TV, film and theatre — during 2014. Murphy reprised his role as Thomas Shelby in the BBC2 epic British gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’ which returned to TV screens for its second season this Autumn. Murphy also continued his collaboration with award-winning playwright Enda Walsh (‘Disco Pigs’, Misterman’) for ‘Ballyturk’ (a play written and directed by Walsh starring Murphy alongside Mikel Murfi and Stephen Rea) which spellbound sell-out audiences at Galway International Arts Festival; Dublin’s Olympia Theatre; Cork’s Opera House and London’s National Theatre during 2014. Numerous film roles are set for release in 2015, including the hugely anticipated Ron Howard-directed film ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ which is due for release in March 2015. Cillian Murphy is also set to star in ‘Free Fire’, a Boston-set crime thriller from ‘Kill List’ writer-director Ben Wheatley.

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Twelve months slipped by at a pace this year. Thinking about it at first I was convinced that 2014 had been worryingly barren for me culturally, due to the restrictions of work and life and a new-found affection for sleeping. On reflection it seems I did manage to get out of the house on occasion, listen to the odd record and take in a show or two. Here’s what I liked, or what I can remember liking in no particular order….

‘Salad Days’ by Mac Demarco made a big impression on me. I am a sucker for melody in music and this kid (he is only a kid, twenty-three or something) can’t help but write songs with an instant hook. He also has a gorgeously dry sense of humour, plays a mean guitar and is Canadian. I like Canadian people. The album speaks very simply but with great fluency about love, the fear of losing that love, and what it means to be alive today. It is beautifully and simply produced and puts a smile on my face every time I listen to the album. I managed to catch Mac play in Manchester in may, a brilliantly ramshackle gig which climaxed with the whole venue on our knees singing along to ‘Unknown Legend’ and giving thanks to Neil Young.

I love the new Blake Mills album ‘Heigh Ho’. Another great guitar player, with a tone very reminiscent of George Harrison, it’s a definite grower but one worth waiting for.

The new Caribou album deserves all the plaudits its earning. Such a great record – designed to make you dance.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen very slowly prised the roof off the Barbican in October with genuinely affecting and moving music. An amazing show and an amazing group of musicians.

I also caught Damon Albarn live in Manchester at the 6music festival – thank God for BBC 6 music! I am very impressed by Damon Albarn as a man and musician. This is a highly personal record, filled to the brim with gorgeous melodies and revealing lyrics, my high point being ‘Heavy Seas Of Love’ a duet with Brian Eno.

Ok I did see a lot of gigs in Manchester, I was working there for a stretch, they are coming back to me now……. with maybe the highlight being Prince. I’ve wanted to see him play live for ever and the man did not disappoint. It was a three and a half hour gig, during which he jumped effortlessly between hits and space-funk jams with his all female backing band. It’s a nice feeling when a legend lives up to their legendary status. Finally, I managed to catch Tame Impala in L.A. Love this band, such confident musicians, they completely filled the auditorium with blissed out fuzz-drenched tunes. Their support act Delicate Steve I also highly recommend, a very unusual guitar player, his music is of the joyous instrumental kind you want to listen to walking around feeling warm inside while everybody else looks worried.

The Richard Ford trilogy of ‘The Sportswriter’, ‘Independence Day’ and ‘The Lay Of The Land’ rank high amongst my favorite all-time novels, and this year Ford re-introduced us to Frank Bascombe (protagonist of all three novels) in his latest novel ‘Let Me Be Frank With You’. Frank is now in his late sixties but as compelling a character as ever. It’s a brief book, written as a series of short stories but is as incisive and acerbic an investigation of the American dream as I have read.

‘The Dog’ by Joseph O’Neill is also a joy, a book that is as tragic as it is funny.

For some reason I recently decided to re-read some books that I had read in my teens to check if they were still the masterpieces I had first ostentatiously judged them to be. ‘The Book Of Evidence’ by John Banville certainly remains one. Such an extraordinary tour-de-force. If you haven’t read it recently please do. It will inhabit you. I also re-visited some Salinger. Those early short stories still must be unmatchable in terms of heartache and droll musings on American youth and life.

After the sad passing of Dermot Healy this year the only fitting tribute I could think of was to read ‘A Goats Song’ once more. I fell in love with it all over again, sad and mournful and touching – part of this Island’s history.

I’ll finish up now as I realise writing these things can cause quickening anxiety about leaving some wonderful book or poem or song out without a mention.

Before I go I must write briefly about some visual art I saw. Mark Garry’s show – at the Model in Sligo town, “A Winter’s Light” – was a thing of beauty, delicate and life-affirming. I recently saw Douglas Gordon’s show ‘Tears become Streams’ at the Armoury in NYC. It featured concert pianist Helene Grimaud play a series of pieces inspired by water while the extraordinarily vast space was slowly flooded by water creating a lake on which she seemed to hover and also turning the space upside down in reflection. Breathtaking.

So that is it……. I appear to have completely left out any mention of film and theatre. So be it. They will have to wait until next year.

 

—Cillian Murphy

 


 

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Dean Wareham (Los Angeles, USA)

The legendary Los Angeles-based Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500/Luna/Dean & Britta) released his sublime self-titled solo album this year via London-based label Sonic Cathedral (Europe) and his own label Double Feature (USA). Produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James at his home studio in Louisville, Kentucky, ‘Dean Wareham’ features Wareham alongside the formidable line-up of Britta Phillips on bass and Anthony LaMarca on drums.

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Favorite gigs:

Calvin Johnson at Ooga Booga in Los Angeles. Cate LeBon at Amoeba Los Angeles.

Favorite books read:

‘10:04’ by Ben Lerner
‘The Wet & the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey’ by Lawrence Osborne
‘The Book of My Lives’ by Alexsandar Hemon
‘Morvern Callar’ by Alan Warner
‘A Place of Greater Safety’ by Hillary Mantel

Records enjoyed:

Velvet Underground deluxe 3rd album with bonus live discs recorded 1969 at the Matrix
Brian Jonestown Massacre ‘Revelation’
Jack & Eliza ‘No Wonders’ EP
Ultimate Painting ‘Ultimate Painting’
Papercuts ‘Life Among the Savages’
Courtney Barnett’s ‘Double’ EP
War on Drugs ‘Lost in the Dream’

In 2014 I released my first solo album after 26 years making records. I also worked with the Andy Warhol Museum on a film/music project, selecting a group of performers (Tom Verlaine, Marty Rev, Eleanor Friedberger, Bradford Cox and myself) to perform live onstage to never-before-seen silent films by Andy Warhol. And Britta Phillips and I scored another excellent film for Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig — ‘Mistress America’ — which will likely hit theaters in 2015.

But I will remember 2014 for horrific images from the Gaza Strip, and for the terrible suffering in Libya and Iraq and Syria (courtesy of European and American politicians who “liberated” two of those countries without caring about what might come after). Many smart people have observed that 2014 in the Middle East can only be understood in the light of 1914: the Great War and its aftermath. We will remember also a coup and civil war in the Ukraine (where again the US is not blameless). Here at home 2014 will be remembered by the slogans “Hands Up Don’t Shoot!” and “I Can’t Breathe.”

 

—Dean Wareham, Los Angeles

 

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Dean Wareham’s self-titled debut solo album is available now on Sonic Cathedral (EU) and via Double Feature (USA).

http://deanwareham.com/
http://www.soniccathedral.co.uk/

 


 

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Terry Magson, Puzzle Muteson (Isle of Wight, UK)

Iceland-based label Bedroom Community’s much-prized Puzzle Muteson (aka Isle of Wight-based singer-songwriter Terry Magson) released his divine sophomore full-length release this year. Entitled ‘Theatrics’, the album was recorded between Iceland’s Greenhouse studio and Magson’s friends’ studio at the Isle of Wight and features contributions from Magson’s trusted collaborators (and label-mates) Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nico Muhly. Puzzle Muteson’s debut LP, ‘En Garde’, was released in 2011 (preceded by a 7″ of the same title which featured the B-side ‘Brittle Break’) which was also released by the prestigious Bedroom Community label (Ben Frost, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Sam Amidon).

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2014 has been a peculiar one for me. It really has gone too fast for me to comprehend. I spent far too much time in my own head, and maybe too much time in the company of cats. As far as listening to music went I slightly strayed from it.
I listened to mainly a bunch of separate songs when I did…

P.M Dawn – ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’
Julia Holter – ‘Hello Stranger’
London Electricity – ‘Just One Second’ 
Chantal Acda – ‘We Must Hold On’
Drake – ‘Come Thru’ (James Blake Remix)
Jon Hopkins – ‘Breath This Air’
Ben Frost – ‘Venter’
Nightcrawlers – ‘Push The Feeling On’
Robin S – ‘Show Me Love’
Tan Dun – ‘Gone With Leaves’
Black – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
Doveman – ‘The Best Thing’
The Blue Nile – ‘Headlights On the Parade’
Airhead – ‘Believe’ 
Red – ‘Sorry About Your Love’ (RUCKAZOID Remix)
Akira Kosemra – ‘Light Dance’

Three live shows that I enjoyed for three different reasons would be Zebra Katz, Boys Noize and Gideon Conn.

 

—Terry Magson

 

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‘Theatrics’ is available now on Bedroom Community.

https://www.facebook.com/Puzzle.Muteson
http://www.bedroomcommunity.net/

 


 

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Erik K Skodvin (Berlin, Germany)

One of the true cornerstones of the thriving contemporary independent music scene, Erik Skodvin is both a remarkable composer (as both a solo performer and via his numerous musical projects including: Svarte Greiner, B/B/S/ and Deaf Center), visual artist, designer and label owner (Skodvin runs the ever-impressive Berlin-based Miasmah label). 2014 was a particularly busy year for Skodvin with an extensive touring schedule as well as the release of numerous records (Skodvin’s second solo album ‘Flame’; ‘Recount’, a mini-album by Deaf Center, who celebrated their 10-year anniversary during 2014). Miasmah Recordings released a number of spellbinding albums during 2014: ‘Sprang’ by Eric Thielemans; the self-titled album by Shivers and Andrea Belfi’s ‘Natura Morta’.

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2014 started for me with finalizing my soon-to-come second Erik K Skodvin album “Flame”. A mastering date was set for late January and I pretty much worked on it nonstop up until the day of mastering. Right after this, my good friend Otto A Totland’s debut album was released, something I was helping out Sonic Pieces with.

Next up, in mid February was a small northern EU tour with my trio B/B/S/ as we had a live LP recorded in 2013 that got released this time. I really like to play with Aidan and Andrea although we rarely all have time to meet up. We played a boat in Hamburg, Copenhagen jazzhouse, a studio in Gothenburg and an atelier on the Polish border, amongst others.

It’s funny to look back at a year and see how much different things were going on at the same time. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. We did a couple of house shows at our miasmah + sonic pieces HQ in Berlin, something that’s really fun but also quite exhausting. I’m also constantly working on artwork and communication for new upcoming miasmah releases, which I’m actually using most of my time on. Personally at this time I was also not completely well and used big parts of the year to get myself back in action.

Then something I’d been looking forward too for a long time, which was the sonic pieces Japan tour together with Otto, Rauelsson and Monique. This was maybe the highlight of the year and something I’ll for sure remember. It was also my first time visiting Asia.

No more than a couple of weeks after the Japan tour, me and Monique went to London to do merch for the two first Slowdive shows since 20 years. Being a big Slowdive fan having the opportunity to see them on such small stages was incredible. I guess this is a perk of having released some of Simon’s solo records.

Some more weeks at home before I had another small tour, this time as Svarte Greiner. Together with Alexander Rishaug we played 4 Norwegian gigs in Bergen, Fredrikstad, Trondheim and Oslo. Went quite well though I was still not completely in shape, and all the traveling was taking it’s toll. We had one amazing evening in Oslo at a small Izakaya (!) where we played on a home-made sound-system for a packed crowd.

My second Erik K Skodvin album “Flame” was then released, on my birthday actually – Well planned, Monique!  It also came out as a 2LP together with my first EKS album “Flare”, which sold out quite quickly. Also the Shivers album on Miasmah was released then, though slightly delayed from the pressing plant. Around this time I also worked on a new commissioned piece of music to my now regular collaborator, Marit Følstad, for whom I also was commissioned the Black Tie material I released last year. This was later in the year exhibited in Bergen, Norway where both me and Monique attended.

The mid-summer was quite event-free when it comes to music, though once August started to approach I was invited to play a Svarte Greiner set on the Danish island of Fanø, at the Fanø free folk festival, which turned out to be really great. Set in a local commune house on the tip of the island, with mostly bands I never heard of before. Found some great new musical tips there.

Just a week later I played another Svarte Greiner set, this time on a pretty much complete opposite setting, being Berlin electronic/techno music festival Krake. I played in between techno sets and was forced to do a massive drone-noise attack, which ended pretty great, as I immediately got another booking just minutes after I finished.

Shortly after this I played at an ambient festival in Poland on the border to Belarus. This was an outdoor stage in the middle of a big park. It was only myself and Rafael Anton Irisarri who were to play, and of course it started to rain during sound check already, fucking up some of Raf’s gear. We ended up playing together, something we havent done for 5 years. It was also good to see him again. He had quite the bad year, with him and his wife losing all their possessions during a move to the east coast.

Berlin-based electronic-gear wizard Derek Holzer had contacted me earlier with the idea of custom making me a processing box for my effect pedal rig. After a good bunch of back-and-forth talking on what to do, it turned out as a “chaotic synthesizer-ringmod-guitar-processing box” as he calls it, and is something amazing I’m still trying to figure out properly.

Rest of August was set off to work on Miasmah stuff + two B/B/S/ shows in Berlin, one where we headlined and one where we opened for Thurston Moore at Lido, which was fun, but maybe not our best show so far. We also played a B/B/S/ show at the Italian festival Flussi, in Avellino outside of Naples, where the accommodation was set in an Italian olive farm in the mountains. This was pretty amazing. On top of this, our first Deaf Center material since 4-5 years was released on a new sonic pieces series I’m doing together with Monique called “Pattern”, which is pretty much based on laser cut sleeves. “Recount” as the record was called, was 2 lost long pieces made in 2007 and 2012.

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For once I didn’t have a lot of gigs set up for the Autumn, so I spent most of it in Berlin with the occasional trips to Norway. I used my time working on graphics, arranging house shows with Monique and going on sunday trips to the country side. One other thing I did during this time was to use a whole day at the Funkhouse studio here in Berlin being directed by Nils Frahm to make sounds and music for this film he’s scoring. It will be interesting to see if some of what I contributed ended up in the film which will premiere in the new year. I did a similar thing like this for Jóhann Jóhannsson last year for the film ‘Prisoners’. Both were fun but difficult as I needed to play spontaneously to the film over and over.

On a different note I also ended up going to Unsound festival for once without playing. Not often I go to a festival just to hang out, meet people and see shows, but this was a good occasion and I saw both some great and quite bad shows. The highlight of which was a band I never heard of before, named “Cyclobe”.

Seeing this was Deaf Center’s 10 year anniversary we did quite a lot more than we usually do this year. On top of the Japan tour we played 3 more shows in Germany. Mainly being Hauschka’s “Approximation festival” in Düsseldorf, then at UT Connewitz in Leipzig with Tomaga and a fairly secret house show at our own place. All went pretty good to great I’d say. Just one week after this tour, I did a small NL/BE Svarte Greiner tour, playing Antwerp and Brüssels but also visiting Amsterdam and Mechelen. Got to hang out with the Miasmah Belgian gang, which is always a great time. It was a little stressful trip all in all, but can’t complain. Also by now I was very ready to stay at home for a while.

The last big bang of the year is something that’s yet to happen as I write this. We’re going to open for Slowdive at massive venue The Forum in London this Friday the 19th. Quite scary but also very exciting. This will be the ending of our 2014 Deaf Center anniversary and although some things are set for next year, it will probably be quieter on that front.

To sum up, looking at what I just wrote it seems like a very busy year, something it kind of was. For sure an improvement from last year, which was not so good for me, so with this I write off 2014 with a big thanks to my working and living partner, Monique Recknagel, who’s been a big part of pretty much everything on this list. Next year will for sure not be any less busy as I haven’t even mentioned all the upcoming Miasmah stuff I used A LOT of time preparing and working on during this year. It’s gonna be a very exciting year I think.

 

Erik K Skodvin 2014 TOP 12 albums:

Matt Christensen – ‘Coma Gears’ (Bathetic)
HTRK – ‘Psychic 9-5 club’ (Ghostly)
Valerio Tricoli – ‘Misery Lares’ (PAN)
Josef Van Wissem / SQÜRL – ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ OST (ATP recordings)
Mica Levi – ‘Under the Skin’ OST (Milan)
Ai Aso – ‘Lone’ (Ideologic organ)
Tomaga – ‘Future Grotesk’ (Hands in the dark)
Andy Stott – ‘Faith in Strangers’ (Modern Love)
Otto A Totland – ‘Pino’ (sonic pieces)
Black To Comm – S/T (Type)
Simon James Phillips – ‘Chair’ (room40)
Driftmachine – ‘Nocturnes’ (Umor-rex)

 

Top 5 films 2014:

‘Enemy’
‘Under the Skin’
‘Only lovers left alive’
‘Snowpiercer’
‘Gone Girl’

 

Top 5 concerts 2014:

Marsen Jules (Berghain 10 year anniversary, Berlin)
Cyclobe (unsound festival)
Nils Frahm & Stargaze performs Terry Riley in C (volksbuhne, Berlin)
Tomaga (UT Connewitz, Leipzig)
Driftmachine (miasmah+sonic pieces HQ, Berlin)

 

—Erik K Skodvin

 

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‘Flame’ by Erik K Skodvin and ‘Recount’ by Deaf Center are available now on Sonic Pieces. 

http://www.miasmah.com/eks/
http://www.sonicpieces.com/

 


 

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Mary Lattimore (Philadelphia, USA)

Mary Lattimore is a Philadelphia-based harpist whose name has become synonymous in independent music circles as both a gifted solo composer as well as a versatile and accomplished collaborator. 2014 saw the release of ‘Slant Of Light’, the gorgeous collaboration between Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler; a record featuring heavenly harp and synthesizer improvisations released by Chicago-based indie label Thrill Jockey. Mary Lattimore has also contributed her highly distinguished harp playing for numerous artists, including: Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Are We There’ and Steve Gunn’s ‘Way Out Weather’ albums. Previously, Lattimore has collaborated with New York-based songwriter Ed Askew and ex Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore. 

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Okay, here goes! Hi from a cold night in Philadelphia:

Favorite Things of 2014 List

Favorite Records, in no order:

Myriam Gendron – ‘Not So Deep As A Well’
Steve Gunn – ‘Way Out Weather’
Grouper – ‘Ruins’
Watery Love – ‘Decorative Feeding’
Amen Dunes – ‘Love’
Marissa Nadler – ‘July’
Total Control – ‘Typical System’
Weyes Blood – ‘The Innocents’
War on Drugs – ‘Lost in the Dream’
Tinariwen – ‘Emmaar’
Sharon Van Etten – ‘Are We There’
Nathan Bowles – ‘Nansemond’
Purling Hiss – ‘Weirdon’
Lewis – ‘L’Amour’ (Reissue)
David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights – ‘End Times Undone’
K. Leimer – ‘A Period of Review’ (Reissue)
Mike Cooper – ‘Trout Steel/Places I Know’
William Basinski – ‘Melancholia’ (Reissue)
Jennifer Castle – ‘Pink City’
Daniel Bachman – ‘Orange Co. Serenade’
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band – ‘Intensity Ghost’
Brigitte Fontaine – ‘Est…Folle’ (Reissue)

Favorite Song I Just Learned Of In 2014 (thanks to Justin Tripp and Nathan Bowles):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osZsDIEI0UQ

Favorite New Place:

Marfa, TX

Favorite Shows of 2014:

Slowdive and Low, two favorites, same show (Philly)
War on Drugs secret shows (Philly)
Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN
Transfigurations Festival in Asheville, NC (an anniversary party for Harvest Records)
Memorial Show for Jack Rose (Glenn Jones, Daniel Bachman, Chris Forsyth, Nathan Bowles, Megajam Booze Band) (Philly)
Getting to see Steve Gunn and his incredible band every night while on tour together!!
Kensington Picnic II (Philly)

Other Favorites:

Pew Fellowship.
Sitting in with Cass McCombs and his excellent band, wow.
Getting to play harp for some elegant parties at the Philip Johnson Glass House, architectural gem in Connecticut.
Improvising with bandmate Jeff Zeigler and dancers Elle Erdman & Laura Bartczak.
Orange Polenta Cake with Honey and Rosewater Syrup, wow.
Thrill Jockey putting out the record and getting to know those guys.
Becky Suss’s paintings (beckysuss.net).
Recording session with Steve Gunn and friends at Black Dirt Studio in upstate NY.
James Turrell Skyspace in Chestnut Hill, PA.
Seeing top American actor Michael Shannon in a play.
Finally buying a rice cooker instead of burning the rice all the time!
This unreal experience of natural beauty – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCWkzQqO7Ro (you can catch me and Naomi Yang and my mom on this news show, haha).

 

—Mary Lattimore

 

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‘Slant Of Light’ by Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler is available now on Thrill Jockey Records.

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https://www.facebook.com/lattimorezeiglerduo
http://www.thrilljockey.com

 


 

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Ed Askew (New York, USA)

The New York-based painter and singer-songwriter Ed Askew was born in Stamford, Connecticut. He moved to New Haven to study painting at Yale Art School in 1963. During his mid-twenties, while working as a teacher at a private prep school in Connecticut, Ed Askew began to write songs. Significantly, he also at this time purchased his much-loved Martin Tiple (a 10 string lute-like instrument originally from Columbia). Over the preceding years and decades, Askew would continue to write songs and paint consistently. However, a lack of fortune with record labels (like many musicians of the time) led to years of uncertainty and obscurity. Debut LP ‘Ask the Unicorn’ (initially released via ESP Disk and UK’s Parlophone) would quickly disappear into folk-psych obscurity. Second LP, ‘Little Eyes’ was recorded next; however, it sat in the vaults for some 40 years until its long-overdue limited release in 2007. In the summer of 2011, Ed Askew embarked on his first US tour at the age of 71; while in 2013, Ed Askew’s masterful album ‘For The World’ was released via Tin Angel Records. 2014 found Ed Askew writing its hugely anticipated follow-up.

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My recent birthday was on Dec. 1st, and I spent a quiet day alone doing stuff at home. Later, I said to Jay (my keys player): “lets do something”. So the next Saturday we joined friends at a nice little west side restaurant to have drinks and dinner.

It’s amazing to imagine that only a year previous I was at a gallery in Paris, on Nov. 30th, and chatting with people after the show; when, at midnight, I turned around and was greeted with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.

The next morning we all went to a place where the band could have it’s picture taken with the Eiffel Tower. My idea. Then on to Brussels.

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The tour was for about two weeks and took us to Köln, Gent, Utrecht, Paris, Brussels, London, Copenhagen, Coventry, where we also played and stayed with John, on an old rebuilt farm. John is a friend of Richard Guy, who runs Tin Angel Records, and drove us around for the duration of the tour. We also played in Bristol and Glasgow. I remember the beautiful hills in Scotland, and won’t forget all the great people we met.

I also have to mention Jordan Hunt (a London boy) who was violinist for the band during the tour (and Tyler Evans who is a regular member of our band; plays tipple and guitar).

Well, once back in the states I resumed my normal life of occasional shows in Brooklyn, rehearsals with the band, working on new songs at home, occasional visits from friends, and painting.

A big event in my, life this year, was a fall I had in June that just about put me out of action for a few months. but not to dwell on THAT. I will put up this recent poem that relates:

Watching the Hudson River through a tangle of
Trees, broken limbs, and late Autumn leaves.
I walk..tap..tap..tap..
Like James Joyce’s blind man,
Walking across Dublin. 
Except that I am not in Dublin
And I am not blind.

This is the longest I have walked
Since I fell, in June;
Infuriating the nerves in my legs.
But looking at the gold and green,
And tangle of trees, before me,
I can almost not notice the discomfort
In my legs.
And as I walk home from breakfast
I pass a child, learning to ride a bike.
And I remember the pleasure in overcoming difficulties,
(Even ones that are NO fun)
Learning to play an instrument,
Or finishing a new painting.

11/14

At any rate, aside from doing some shows in Brooklyn; we played at a show in July with Plastic Crime Wave. P C W is Steve Krakow’s band. Steve is a Chicago-based music promoter, musician, and all around psychedelic freak.

Ed Askew Band got most of the songs recorded for a new LP for Tin Angel. Going to Philly and upstate NY to do it. And Jay and I went to Canada to play, and see friend Molly Sweeney and enjoy her set. From Canada went to Maine, where we played during the closing week of the Oak and the Ax. A great venue in the Portland area. Sad to see it go.

Otherwise I have been working on a new set of abstract paintings and new songs for another Bandcamp self release.

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And, oh, me, Jay and Tyler played a show at Issues Project Room with Josephine Foster (who will be on the new album) and Victor Herrero, back in January. The hall was packed, which is gratifying.

Some artists whose records and CDs I got during 2014 are:

Atlas Sound
Virginia Rodrigues
Baby Dee
Zachary Cale
Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle
Lambchop
Do Make Say Think
Smog
Conor Oberst
Bill Callahan
Big Blood
Baby Copperhead
Family Planing
the Milkman’s Union
James Blake
Deer Hunter

Because I live in Northern Manhattan and it takes 2 trains and some time to get to Brooklyn and, I’m just lazy, I don’t go to many shows that I’m not playing in. I did see my friend Jerry DeCicca (producer of ‘For The World’), at Union Pool recently, though. They have Sunday afternoon shows there, that are relaxed and make for a nice, low-key time.

So here I am, at my trusty MacBook and another year has come and gone.

Another birthday,

some more paintings,

another song….

 

—Ed 12/13/14

 

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‘For The World’ is available now on Tin Angel Records. Ed Askew also released the double 10″ ‘Rose’ (w/ Joshua Burkett & Steve Gunn) via Okraina Records (Info/Buy HERE).

http://edaskew.bandcamp.com/
http://eaband.tumblr.com/
http://www.tinangelrecords.co.uk/

 


 

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Carl Corcoran, The Blue Of The Night (Dublin, Ireland)

Dublin-based broadcaster and radio presenter Carl Corcoran presents his radio show “The Blue Of The Night” nightly on RTE Lyric FM from 10pm to 1am. The much-loved show has become widely regarded as one of the finest resources to Irish music fans for both its vast eclecticism and its unwavering dedication to showcasing the very best musical talent from both Irish and international shores. All genres of music are catered for: from jazz to blues, classical to neoclassical and from traditional to modern composers, and all points in between. 

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I consider myself to have the greatest job in Ireland. I listen to, I play, I share music with an audience that ranges in age from young teens to octogenarians with tastes in music that run the whole gambit from 13th Century polyphony through Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods — from trad to jazz and where the two meet, right up to contemporary neo-classical, baroque pop and fusions of all sorts. The Blue of the Night defies categorisation – in fact we have become a genre of our own. My desk (and that of my co-Presenter Eamonn Lenihan) is piled high with CDs and my Inbox is jammed with emails containing Mp3s and links to Soundclouds, Bandcamps and Dropbox tracks which songwriters and composers feel is Blue of the Night material. Isn’t that cool! Isn’t that the greatest testament to the programme! What a compliment! What a thrill! So when I get around to listening to all this new music I marvel at the creativity that exists. The internet has facilitated the dissemination of new music. There is a Universe of great stuff out there – and for me it is a privilege to be able to share some (and it is only a small “some”) of this creativity. As a performing musician in another period of my life (and still am from time to time) I respect the “circular reciprocity” that emanates from a great performance. In other words performers enjoying their gig connect with their audience who in turn transmit that enjoyment back to the performer thereby completing the circle. Similarly, the same happens in my current role on Blue – I play the music, the audience responds and they in turn suggest music and artists that I am genuinely enthralled to hear and enjoy.

Music that came my way this year (and not necessarily released this year) that excited me and my listeners include Portadown musician/singer songwriter Katharine Philippa – her ‘Broken to be Re-built’ EP is great. NY’s Bryce Dessner (The National) impresses with his neo-classical creations for the Kronos Quartet; Sean MacErlaine’s latest release of solo reed (Clarinets and sax) musings along with his sonic backdrops is equally impressive; Dylan Tighe produced a personal and moving collection of songs in his “Record” Cd while the Ergodos Musicians (who in the past have paid tribute to 12C composers) on their CD ‘Songs’ captured the art of the song from writers such as alt-country singer Steve Earle, UK indie trio The xx, folk-rock hero Richard Thompson, maverick Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, and Italian Baroque genius Antonio Vivaldi. Ailie Blunnnie is another young songwriter that caught my ear, as did Slow Skies, Seti the First, Chequerboard, Owensie and a recent find from the UK – composer, singer songwriter Sasha Siem.  There is so much good music out there – there are so many great music appreciators out there…….and we share. So much great music to be heard on the Blue of the Night. So much great music to send to Blue of the Night. I hope that circle continues – I hope I can reciprocate.

 

—Carl Corcoran

 

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Carl Corcoran presents The Blue Of The Night on Irish radio station RTE Lyric FM nightly from 10pm to 1am. Playlists and playback options are accessible online for each show.

http://www.rte.ie/lyricfm/the-blue-of-the-night-with-carl-corcoran/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlueoftheNight
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blueofthenight

 


 

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Eithne Hand, Galway International Arts Festival (Galway, Ireland)

Eithne Hand is a Radio Producer and Writer. In 2014 she curated the ‘First Thought Talks’ Strand of the Galway International Arts Festival. She produces Gay Byrne’s weekly Jazz Programme on RTE Lyric FM and is a past winner of the Prix Italia for Work on Music with a radio documentary called Voicejazz which mixed five voices talking about jazz in a loose quintet. All she loves about radio comes from Glen Gould. She has written and directed four Radio Dramas and is working on a site specific theatre piece for 1916 based on her own family story and Caravaggio’s masterpiece ‘The Taking of Christ’.

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Musically my 2014 contained not so many ‘new’ pieces but a lot of ‘new to me’ work. Working every week with jazz from the 30’s and 40’s constantly opens my ears to some of the best playing and improvisations from a time when the form was dangerously good. Take just one example – Mugsy Spanier’s ‘Relaxin’ At The Touro’.

Lisa Hannigan, Cillian Murphy, Fractured Air and Tony Clayton Lea all took to the stage of Druid Theatre in Galway on a sunny July Sunday and provided a real highlight for the audience of muso’s and sentimentalists all there to hear an hour-long riff on the joy of the Mixtape. Cillian had the bright idea of asking all comers in advance to bring their own Mixtape/CD along so at the end we shook a box and everyone took home someone else’s offering. A true example of local ‘sharing’.

Film musical highlights were just two – I got to see ‘Good Vibrations’ – the story of Terri Hooley and the punk movement in Belfast. Great soundtrack, smart script from Glenn Patterson and a cameo appearance by Terri himself. An eerily accurate capture of a time and place.

Best book with music in it: ‘From Out Of The City’  – A John Kelly transport aptly described on the cover as “a medicated fugue”.

Ken Loach’s film, ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ was shot about 10km from where I spend a lot of time in south Sligo. The film has good and bad bits but the musical assembly of fantastic jazz foot stompers led by Tommy Higgins were a joy.

Teho Teardo’s soundtrack for ‘Ballyturk’ by Enda Walsh was the overall musical highlight. Now just out on CD and Vinyl. Stunning music.

Björk’s ‘Bibliophilia’ came along and having been at the concert in Alexander Palace which was recorded for the movie I had to go. Surreal, stunning imaginative effort to ‘show’ the music as having an organic visual life alongside the sounds.

Elvis Costello in October in Dublin was forgettable but Julie Feeney in the Spiegeltent on the Wexford Quays on Halloween night was the opposite.

Lowlight award goes to David Byrne/Fat Boy Slim collaboration ‘Here Lies Love’ – the musical based on the Imelda Marcos story at the National London. Poor taste and disappointing all round.

Year ending with Cyrille Aimee and the wonderful Aaron Diehl as well as Christian McBride and Cecile McLorin Salvant all together on the new Mack Avenue CD release for Christmas (‘It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue’).

For 2015  I am looking forward to a much rumoured chamber opera involving both Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh. All details coming soon !

 

—Eithne Hand

 

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http://www.giaf.ie/

 


 

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Brigid Power-Ryce (Galway, Ireland)

Brigid Power-Ryce (born in London and now based in Galway) is one of Ireland’s most talented and unique songwriters. Having supported such world-renowned musicians as Lee Ranaldo, Peter Broderick, Alasdair Roberts and Richard Dawson in the past; Brigid Power-Ryce’s moving and powerful concert performances (involving accompaniment with accordion, guitar, ukele or simply a cappella performance) demonstrate the supreme power still inherent in the songwriting form. Brigid Power-Ryce released the stunning ‘I Told You The Truth’ album this year via Galway-based Abandon Reason Records, comprising recordings made at St. Nicholas’ Church in Galway.

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2014 was a crazy and hard year for me. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if it was any crazier than previous years, but it definitely was a year of “burning the candle at both ends”. There was a lot of change, which brought about a lot of chaos and loss, but then ultimately strength. It wasn’t a big year for me for soaking up new music or books. I go through phases where I will listen to a lot of music or read many books, but then I go into blank-brain mode and I need a lot of empty months, where I’m not usually listening to anything new, just listening to a lot of old favourites or sometimes nothing at all. Old stuff that I listened to a lot this year was Neil Young – ‘Zuma’, ‘Rust Never Sleeps’. Planxty. I listened to a lot of Prokofiev too and Satie.

My 4 year old son made us listen to and dance on repeat, the song ‘Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line’ by Waylon Jennings. Hearing him shouting and sort of side-stepping “EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU BEEN STEPPIN ON MY TOES AND I’M GEDDIN PWETTY TIRED OF IT” was special. We’ve recently moved very close to a beach and he always says, “I see Waylon Jennings sailing a boat over there Mum. There he is Mum making a sand castle!” He has a connection with Waylon Jennings. How strange.

I played a lot of memorable gigs. Around April 2014 I played a few gigs around the UK. I started off with opening up for Cian Nugent & The Cosmos in Cafe Oto, London. They were really raw and alive. Then I went to Manchester, Sheffield and Edinburgh. Playing those gigs really nourished me. The audiences were all so appreciative and connective and so were the acts I was supporting, Alasdair Roberts and Sir Richard Bishop, they were great and the latter so funny. I felt like I was floating the whole time of that tour. When I came home I came crashing down with a post-gigs anti-climax. It was hard to get back to day-to-day life and get my feet back on the ground. But I’ve learned how to handle the aftermath a bit better since Spring.

An artist I discovered in 2014 who made a big impact on me was Angel Olsen. It’s funny because when I first heard her in maybe 2012/13, I didn’t want to listen, I sort of shut it off. It almost hurt to listen, because I had been laying low for quite a while and not performing or writing or even singing so I wanted to avoid listening to something that I might have unconsciously known would remind me of who I am. But then I did let myself listen this year and her two albums ‘Half Way Home’ and ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ were pretty much on repeat for the whole summer in our house. Here’s the evidence. I love her music, her voice and her lyrics too. I went to see her in Whelans too which was great, although there were a few assholes at the gig.

I played a good few gigs in the autumn. I supported a great American band upstairs in The Workman’s in Dublin, called Spires That In The Sunset Rise. They were incredible musicians and people. Then I supported Lee Ranaldo in Dublin, an exciting gig that went really well. And then my last gig was with Peter Broderick in the Half Moon Theatre in Cork. That was a really special gig. The promoters (ahem!) were extremely kind, generous, and without a hint of ego. Which was really unique. The audience was great and Peter Broderick was also lovely and I really liked his violin playing and multi-tasking abilities. After the show, we talked a lot about ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘Seinfeld’, which brings me on to “what I watched in 2014”. A LOT of CYE. I know it wasn’t out this year or anything, but hey I’m always a few years behind on stuff. I also watched the first season of ‘Broad City’ which I really liked. I’m excited for that new season to come out in January. It’s about two young women in New York and they are pretty funny. I used to live in New York when I was 18 and I was in a similar mindset to them then, so it feels familiar.

I know this has probably been a boring read, with not much substance or music/film/book recommendations (oh I just remembered I re-read ‘Shakey’, and ‘East Of Eden’ which is very different to the film, very dark but brilliant), but it’s because I am tired. That sums up 2014, really: tiring. I think 2015 will be a lot more easier going. I think I will organize some more gigs and get over to America and maybe get a band together. I’m going to try and not waste so many hours on the internet also.
Bye!

 

—Brigid Power-Ryce

 

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‘I Told You The Truth’ is available now on Abandon Reason Records HERE.

http://brigidpowerryce.com/
https://www.facebook.com/brigidpowerrycemusic

 


 

With very special thanks to all the wonderful contributors for their contributions.
Wishing all our readers a very happy new year and best wishes for 2015.

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Web: http://fracturedair.com

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Central And Remote: Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

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Interview with Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh.

“Everything that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea
Hung their heads and then lay by.”

—(‘Orpheus with his lute made trees’, L. A. J. Burgersdijk)

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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As I write these words on a page, I celebrate my twenty-ninth birthday. Interestingly, to recount some memories from my childhood (as one inevitably does on a day like so) — some distant, others intimately near — a river-flow of music is interwoven between the snapshot of fleeting moments and scattered incidents. Growing up I fondly recall first coming across Irish traditional music, and the subsequent linkage between this world of sacred sound and the values of heritage and identity (perhaps becoming clear some time later). A band who immediately shifted the ground from beneath my feet were Planxty with their lineage of folk and traditional song. The adventurous instrumentation of bouzouki, mandolin, guitars, uilleann pipes, tin whistle and bodhrán opened up an entire new world of beautifully precious music. The masterful musicianship among its members — Christy Moore, Liam Ó Flynn, Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny — formed a profound impact on me that opened my young eyes to the age-old tradition of Irish music and the ceaselessly magical beauty that surrounded these four corners of our island.

Forward some years later, and a similar feeling of illumination and sense of miraculous discovery is drawn towards one particular musician, namely Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. A trusted friend of mine urged me to listen to an album entitled ‘Where The One-Eyed Man Is King’ by this “incredible fiddle-player”, little did I know what celestial sound awaited me. How could I have missed out on this album for so long, I thought then, as Ó Raghallaigh’s spellbinding layers of whistles, fiddles, Hardanger fiddle, flute and piano, not only conjured up the sound of an age-old tradition but distilled a new dappling of vivid colour into the ripples of sound. A unique approach to music-making is etched across the rich canvas of other-worldly sound, from the opening notes of ‘It’s All About The Rhythm Of Her Toes’, a delicate lament to the closing drone-based, ambient opus, ‘The Old Waltz’.

Uncovered from the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, it was recorded that Brahms was enraptured with the Irish folk airs which he had heard played, and which he called “la musique des anges”. For these words perfectly surmise the power and glory of Ó Raghallaigh’s works, from his solo output to the rich body of collaborative work. In addition to being an established solo artist, Ó Raghallaigh is a member of two groups: The Gloaming (Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Iarla Ó Lionaird, Thomas Bartlett, Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill) and This Is How We Fly (Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Petter Berndalen, Seán Mac Erlaine, Nic Gareiss); he performs duos with dynamic Kerry accordion player Brendan Begley and Dublin uilleann piper Mick Ó Brien and plays in a trio with Martin Hayes and Peadar Ó Riada.

The upcoming double-bill concert with New York-based cellist Julia Kent alongside Ó Raghallaigh in Cork’s Triskel Arts Centre (taking place on Saturday 1st March) will be Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s first return to the Triskel since last year’s special live performance with The Gloaming and will provide audiences with the chance to witness the immaculate musicianship and immense talents of Ó Raghallaigh in a special solo performance.

Ó Raghallaigh has released eight albums to date: ‘Kitty Lie Over’ and ‘Deadly Buzz’ with Mick O’Brien; ‘A Moment of Madness’ with Brendan Begley; ‘Triúr Arís’ and ‘Triúr sa Draighean’ with Martin Hayes and Peadar Ó Riada; ‘Comb Your Hair and Curl It’ with Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh and Catherine McEvoy; the eponymous debut from the band This is How We Fly; and his solo ‘Where the One-Eyed Man is King’.

This Is How We Fly is one of those adventurous and compelling artistic endeavors that truly reveals music’s endless possibilities. The self-titled debut album is a sonic marvel with one foot stepped in tradition and the other rooted in daring experimentation. This Is How We Fly is a melting pot of cultures and in turn, offers up a richly diverse kaleidoscope of sublime sounds. Ó Raghallaigh’s hardanger fiddle is blended with fellow Dubliner Sean Mac Erlaine’s distinctive clarinets and live electronics (Mac Erlaine’s solo Ergodos release ‘Long After The Music Is Gone’ is another essential listen) and Stockholm’s Petter Berndalen (drums and percussion) and Michigan’s Nic Gareiss (percussive dance). A truly captivating world of sound is unleashed by this highly accomplished quartet.

Most recently, the long-awaited arrival of The Gloaming’s self-titled debut album has been gracing the earth’s atmosphere. A common thread that connects these gifted musicians together is the masterful use of language, sentiment and expression. Ó Lionáird’s mesmerising voice blends majestically alongside the fiddle of Hayes and Ó Raghallaigh’s trusted Hardanger d’Amore. The opening ‘Song 44’ comprises of lyrics adapted from original poem no. 44 by poet Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh. An unfathomable beauty is unleashed by The Gloaming that utters, with every sacred note, to phrase a poet: “the godly-given prize” of true art and treasured music. ‘The Necklace of Wrens’ contains lyrics adapted from the original poem by Michael Hartnett. The piano line of Bartlett serves the aching pulse to Ó Lionáird’s fragile vocal. Some moments later, Cahill’s guitar adds new layers of depth and elegance. The words and music of ‘Opening Set’ — the album’s longest cut — represents the crowning jewel of the group’s towering debut album. Distinct movements begin and end throughout the heavenly sixteen minutes, as the instrumentation of guitar, voice, fiddle and piano casts an everlasting spell upon you that further confirms the abundance and exceeding beauty of its native music.

I feel the beautiful poem ‘The Music or the Folk’ by Seosamh Mac Cathmhaoil translates the sheer beauty of The Gloaming’s truly transcendent work into fitting words:

“From time eterne unto these living hours
They count their heritage;
And fresh as wood-bells wet with April showers
It wears its weight of age.
The stream of nature-song runs quick the-day
As it ran in the world of years away.”

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Interview with Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh.

My first introduction to your awe-inspiring music was 2007’s ‘Where the One-Eyed Man Is King’, which I discovered through a friend of mine, sometime later. I absolutely adore your fiddle-playing. I feel your beating heart as I listen to the gorgeous compositions. Please take me back to this particular space and time, and share some of your memories of writing and recording this remarkable album?

CÓR: I first met Iarla Ó Lionáird in July 2005, and he immediately became a huge inspiration to me: although I had the desire to branch out, create something new, I had no idea where to begin. Iarla gave me a list of basic recording gear to buy: a PowerBook, Logic Pro, two Brauner mics, the MOTU Traveller. With this new kit, I hid myself away in the wonderful Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and just became a child with new toys for a few weeks, experimenting and adventuring in a new world of possibilities. There were two other inspirations at the time: my artist friend, Fiona Hallinan, with whom I was making ‘Audio DeTours’, and an album called ‘Miniatures’, featuring 60 composers, each of whom were asked to make a one-minute track, and which I had discovered through Peadar Ó Riada, who was one of the sixty.

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I would love to gain an insight into your technique and the development of your drone-based fiddle style over the past few years?

CÓR: Initially, it was just a question of letting the music that was inside get out. Throughout my teenage years I gorged myself on traditional music that was drone-based, you could say: Patrick Kelly, Pádraig O’Keeffe, the Star Above the Garter, Mrs Galvin, as well as listening to endless hours of the uilleann pipes, basking particularly in the sound of Willie Clancy’s music. When I finished my physics degree at university, I spent three years making uilleann pipes myself, and found a much deeper understanding of drones and intervals through studying with the wonderful pipemaker, Geoff Wooff. I had also come across the Hardanger fiddle in 1999, and had begun to let that music seep into my subconscious. The main teacher, though, was experimentation. I had begun to cross-tune fiddles, so that instead of fifths between the strings I had fourths and sixths, sevenths and seconds and thirds both major and minor. Every interval requires a different micro positioning of the fingers on each string, and trying to internalize that information until it became second nature was probably the best teacher you could ask for. Also, writing new music in those new tunings meant that you could really revel in the possibilities contained in each one, really listen deeply to the sound and react to it in a very different way than you would in trying to adapt existing material to those tunings, I think. Another large factor in developing this style has been the tools I choose to use: the Hardanger fiddle, with its flatter bridge and gut strings, and using a baroque bow, all of which conspire to make a non-drone based style unthinkable.

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There is a loving sense of joy and fulfillment born out of your music. Please discuss for me when you first started playing music and what were the surrounding influences that helped you on the path you now find yourself firmly on?

CÓR: I had a false start at the age of 6. After pestering my parents for a fiddle, we couldn’t find a fiddle teacher, and I ended up being sent for classical violin lessons: a disaster, which ended in the teacher summoning my mother to tell her “You’re wasting your money and my time. He’ll NEVER be a musician”. At the age of 10 I was reluctantly sent to traditional fiddle classes, still having the bitter taste of my previous experience informing my view of music. Yet after six months, I met some wonderful kids of my own age, who remain some of my closest friends to this day, and it was this friendship which really made the difference, always swapping tunes with each other and spending summers together at festivals, playing music all the while.

At one stage in my teens, I was going to two fiddle classes a week, plus a whistle class, a flute class, two uilleann pipes classes, along with various group and band practices. I was getting upwards of 20 new tunes a week, every week. I had some wonderful teachers, and also some wonderful playing companions. There can be something magic that happens when two people disappear into the music together, and I had one or two friends with whom I would really disappear with for hours, exploring music in something like a trance. There is something very profound about the act of playing music together, a communication with something abstract, a nearly meditative experience. That approach is something I grew to value as a teenager, and which still informs my approach to making music. One of my teachers was Michael Tubridy, and through him I got some part-time work in the Irish Traditional Music Archives, which continued for many years, throughout my time in college. The music I heard in the Archives had a big effect on me, and old world of sound and texture that seemed in some way to have been abandoned by intervening generations, and it seemed to me to be a world of riches that could be mined for gems of approach and thinking. Another big influence was meeting Tony Mac Mahon, and learning how he approached listening to and making music. I had always been profoundly moved by his playing, and he was a very interesting person to be around and to be influenced by.

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Your music has been described as being heavily influenced by the uilleann pipes and the music of Sliabh Luachra. What is it about both these worlds of music that inspires you?

CÓR: The sound and feel of that music is the primary thing, I think. It’s also primarily the flat pipes which enchanted me, which are a very different beast to the concert pipes. The flat pipes have this beautiful gentle warmth, a roundness, richness and depth to the sound they are capable of producing that totally captures me. Flat refers to being lower than concert pitch, be it C#, C, B or Bb, and I always tuned the fiddle down low myself: there’s something about being down there that forces you to be more laid-back, to play slower, with more ease. Both the flat pipes and the music of Sliabh Luachra have that laid-back ease, and an inherent depth of complexity embedded in the microscopic detail of every note, rather than an explicit showiness and virtuosity. It’s that depth of complexity that I love, as though every note they play is biting into a fresh and juicy peach, reveling in letting the juice run down your chin. Every time they play a note, it’s new. There’s a wooing of the unknown in the way they play, a relinquishing of control, a desire for allowing the music itself to be in unpredictable control, not the musician.

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‘A Moment of Madness’ is a recent collaboration between you and Brendan Begley. The duets of accordion and fiddle are things of sheer beauty. I love the energy inherent in the music. Please discuss this particular collaboration and the choice of songs you chose to record together?

CÓR: Spontaneity, unpredictability, dynamics and energy are all aspects of Brendan’s playing I have admired for a long time. We tend to choose tunes that enable you to disappear into them. Some tunes, often quite simple melodies, seems to let you disappear more readily than others: it seems as though you’re not involved in the act of playing the tune, only involved in the act of disappearing into the music. We also seem to choose tunes that tend to haunt us, that thing where you’ll have a tune on your brain 24/7, last thing you think of at night, first thing in morning, singing it to yourself all day long.

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What are the albums you have been listening to most these days?

CÓR: Susanna Wallumrod & Giovanna Pessi’s ‘If Grief Could Wait’ on ECM. Other than that, my new old car only has a tape player, so it’s mainly odd old cassettes from jumble sales and charity shops.

Always listening to some favourites, like Brittany Haas & Dan Trueman’s ‘CrissCross’; Nils Okland’s ‘Monograph’; ‘Officium’ by Jan Garbarek & the Hilliard Ensemble; ‘I gCnoc Na Graí’ by Noel Hill & Tony Mac Mahon etc. etc.

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You are an integral part to the amazing collective that is The Gloaming. Your live performances across the country were truly spectacular special moments in Irish music, and beyond. As an artist and composer, performing alongside like-minded talents such as this, must be highly enriching. I would love for you to discuss The Gloaming and how the band came into being?

CÓR: Martin and Iarla had been talking about “doing something together” for years, and asked the rest of us to come on board. Both are great friends to me, have been hugely helpful and inspiring down the years, and a huge privilege for me to make music with them. Before our first gig, we got together for a few short days and got the material together, under pressure. That’s it, really. We just meet up, do the gigs, and scatter. The recording process was lovely, really rewarding, and we’re all just thrilled with the result.

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You are currently living in Dingle, Co. Kerry. A beautiful part of the world. I can only imagine how inspiring it must be to live there. How does this place shape your music?

CÓR: I’m right out on the very furthest tip of the peninsula, in Dún Chaoin. That place has been shaping my music since I was 17 or 18. I walked over the mountains from Tralee to Dún Chaoin on my Easter holidays back then, with a tent and a fiddle, and the place went right into the marrow of my bones, in a way. Every time I’d play music after that, I’d close my eyes, and that’s where I’d be. It’s a beautiful place, with incredible people, language, landscape, lore. I find particular inspiration in the work of my neighbour, the artist Maria Simonds-Gooding. I have been finding my head haunted by the aluminium pieces she has been working on the last few years, matched, in my mind, to some of Beckett’s words.

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Tell me more about the solo project ‘Film and Fiddle’ that is in development for touring in 2014?

CÓR: I made a one-off test of a show for the Project Arts Centre a few years ago to see if there was anything in the idea of a one-man show of fiddle and film. I had walked the mountains of New Zealand with a camera, taking time-lapse footage of that incredible landscape. Along with some stop-motion video and some “virtual guest” musicians, I made an hour-long show of all that, with me standing in front playing the fiddle. Basic enough, but it worked, in a way, and it felt like a really rich way of giving people a window into your mind.

Sometimes, being from the world of traditional music, I wonder how to give people a window into that world, to share what I love about it. The same with other things in life I love, like being in the mountains. I want to start from scratch and make a really compelling, rich, wonderful thing of it, and a very Irish thing, but somehow hopeful and exciting and beautiful. I’m hoping to tour it in October 2014 with the help of Music Network, if we can drum up interest from Arts Centers around the country.

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Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh will support Julia Kent as part of a special solo performance at the T.D.C. Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, on Saturday 1st March 2014. Tickets are €12, available HERE.

‘The Gloaming’ is available now on Real World Records.

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http://www.caoimhinoraghallaigh.com
http://www.thisishowwefly.net
http://thegloaming.net

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