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Central and Remote: Slow Moving Clouds

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Interview with Slow Moving Clouds.

“It was tricky to bridge the gap between the Irish and Finnish music traditions, which have a lot more differences than similarities. To effectively combine the two we had to come up with an approach and way of playing which was independent of both traditions…”

—Danny Diamond, Slow Moving Clouds

Words: Mark & Craig Carry

Slow Moving Clouds

Slow Moving Clouds are an Irish-based three-piece who have recently released their debut full-length, ‘Os’ which beautifully draws inspiration from both Irish and Nordic music traditions. Slow Moving Clouds’ comprise the vastly experienced and critically acclaimed trio of Danny Diamond (fiddle), Aki (nyckelharpa, vocals) and Kevin Murphy (cello). Interestingly, the trio have worked extensively together in the past and have known each other for many years. Both Aki and Diamond have recored and performed as a duo (nyckelharpa and fiddle) under the moniker Danny & Aki while Murphy and Aki have performed together in the special cello-based outfit Seti The First (their debut LP ‘Melting Calvary’ is one of the finest albums to be made form Irish shores in recent years). Much like the Irish/U.S. ensemble of The Gloaming, both the personal and musical bond that exists between members is of paramount importance in both the genesis and results in forming such a collective, it is the basis for all the magic at work which shines forth clearly from each recording where each one seems to innately know and appreciate what each other can create.

Much like Murphy’s Seti The First project, Slow Moving Clouds in truth draws as much from the traditional as it does from modern classical aspects of music, in turn a vast spectrum of soundscapes are created which are at times expressively lush and orchestral while elsewhere drone and ambient-influenced works come into sharper focus. All the while, a breathtaking sense of emotion is held (and builds gradually layer by gorgeous layer) for the duration of the album’s eleven tracks. Like The Gloaming’s Iarla Ó Lionáird, a tangible sense of both history and time can be discerned from both the vocal delivery and use of very specific, time-honored traditional texts (the Finnish-inspired pieces here such as ‘Hiljainen Suru’ and ‘Os’ break all limitations and borders posed by both language and place, creating in turn moments of pure, blissful reverie). The beautiful strokes and tones created by the cello/fiddle/nyckelharpa axis is a joy to savor (the simple joy of witnessing such music where feeling overrides everything else recalls such special musical souls as Iceland’s Amiina or Sweden’s Tape).

This is an album – and band – who deserve the recognition for their extraordinary achievements.

‘Os’ is available now on Bandcamp HERE.

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

Interview with Slow Moving Clouds [Aki, Danny Diamond & Kevin Murphy].

Congratulations on the stunningly beautiful debut record, ‘Os’. It’s really quite incredible & contains such a world of sounds and traditions that crafts such a timeless, beautiful sound. Please discuss the inception of this trio (I know Kevin and Aki from Seti The First and certain fingerprints from this wonderful ensemble seep into the music here) and how the sound developed and blossomed over time? Also, both the title of the debut record as well as the band name are both intriguing before ever hearing a single note…

Aki: Thank you. Danny and I have been playing traditional music as a duo for awhile, and we released a duo album in 2012. I played with the live incarnation of Kevin’s band Seti the First, and had a duo project in development with Kevin. Instead of having two separate duo projects, we decided to try something with three of us. Most of our early dance music stuff (polskas) are complete rearrangements of material we had with Danny & Aki.

In terms of the aesthetics and flow of the record, the combination of instrumental and vocal tracks works so wonderfully. The diverse range of styles, from more polska/dance rhythms to achingly beautiful ballads and soaring modern-classical pieces creates a very enriching experience. Can you take me back to these particular recording sessions and indeed the challenges you may have faced during this stage? There is a real sense of this joy of making music together as a group of musicians that really radiates and shines brightly throughout ‘Os’. It feels that the recordings themselves were quite effortless? Also, I can imagine the arrangement aspect of the music-making process would have been the most intensive period?

Aki: We did a fair amount of rehearsing before going in to record. The arrangements were developed organically over time. Some of the arrangements changed during the recording process, even at the mixing phase. The songs were the newest material on the album. In fact, we had only played one of the songs (Hiljainen Suru) live before recording them.

Danny Diamond: We dealt with a lot of the aesthetic questions and challenges in the months before recording so that, as Aki said, most of the basic arrangements were solid before going into studio. It was tricky to bridge the gap between the Irish and Finnish music traditions, which have a lot more differences than similarities. To effectively combine the two we had to come up with an approach and way of playing which was independent of both traditions and then treat all the material material in that ‘third way’.

Irish music tends to often focus on the performer’s interpretation of traditional material, what the individual does with a tune. In the Finnish tradition the melodies, phrasing and ornamentation are much more defined, and are taught through a formal classical-based music education system. We didn’t buy into either of these very different mindsets, instead we took an approach that focused on arrangement, structure and atmosphere. Our way of working is (despite the difference in material and instrumentation) closer to a pop/rock band than anything else, writing intros, bridges, outros and defined parts for each instrument to play.

We thought a lot, talked it out, and tried different approaches to the material before settling on this approach. We were very conscious that the results would have to make musical sense and not end up an awkward or superficial exercise in cultural fusion. We’re quite happy with the results of the recording, which has achieved the result of not sounding directly like either Irish or Finnish music but like something completely new, albeit with both traditions still audible as important influences.

Kevin Murphy: While echoing what the lads have said I think that a key difference between what we did and what the traditions tend to dictate is that we simply chose to mix and arrange in a way which gave us the most pleasure. Frequently we were presented with dilemmas such as: do we need to find another tune to run in from the previous one or can we simply drop in an abstract instrumental part which tend to musically work better? Or should the instrument playing the lead melody always be the loudest in the mix? Etc. The answer to all these questions was what ever feels the best stays. Therefore hedonism often trumped tradition. Therefore odd musical bits appear where straight ahead tunes might be expected while in the mix the instruments tend to blend together in a layered and interconnected way rather than always having a loud lead part. In this we probably unashamedly borrow from My Bloody Valentine in trying to create a melodic mush from which barely discernable patterns occasionally emerge. It is however, unlikely that you will be left with any major hearing loss after going to one of our gigs.

Please talk me through some of the traditional material contained on ‘Os’ and discuss why you chose these particular songs and indeed your memories of first discovering the songs? I would love to gain an insight into the approach (and process) you used when deconstructing and reworking these traditional melodies?

Aki: ‘Hiljainen Suru’ (Quiet Sorrow) is a haunting traditional song that I have known for a quite awhile. I learned it from the singing of a friend of mine – Maija Karhinen. ‘Os’ (full title: ‘Os Fera Liluli’) is an unusual traditional song from Finnish tradition. It combines two ancient Nordic languages and Latin. I learned it from a recent recording by Arto and Antti Järvelä. ‘Suru Suuri’ (Great Sorrow) borrows the melody from an old Carelian call-and-response chant. The simple meditative quality of the tune caught my attention in the first place. The polkas on the album are from the Finnish fiddle tradition, mainly from the West coast of Finland.

Danny Diamond: As for the traditional Irish material, we stayed clear of dance music (reels, jigs, etc), as that repertoire didn’t seem to fit so well with the sound and atmosphere we were trying to create. Since the backbone of the contemporary Irish traditional repertoire is dance music, we had to look a little deeper to find material for Slow Moving Clouds. In fact, all four of the traditional Irish tracks on ‘Os’ are based on (obscure and very old) song melodies. For example, ‘The Conquering Hero’ is derived from Handel’s chorus ‘See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes’ from the oratorio Judas Maccabaeus. Aki found a version of it as a march in an old Irish tune collection from the 1800s, so it must have slipped into the Irish tradition at some stage. We took the march as a starting point, simplified and partly re-wrote the melody to fit our sound. So it’s a three-times-removed 18th century classical piece.

We arranged it in a verse-chorus fashion and set it in a simple but effective drone-based arrangement, hoping that the track would evoke a unique atmosphere. This approach, although straightforward, is very different to the typical Irish traditional approach of my background, where the individual voice of the performer(s) playing melody tends to takes precedence over almost all other factors in an arrangement. I personally found it very interesting to have to recalibrate my approach – gaining a greater appreciation for tone and texture, contributing to the overall arrangement and mood, rather than ‘playing the tune’ in the traditional fashion.

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‘Suru Suuri’ is a heavenly Nordic folk lament. The arrangements are impeccable and the voice is beautifully melded with the string instruments. Can you talk me through this song? The strings evoke the magical spell of a Sigur Ros creation such is its brilliance.

Aki: This song really came together in the studio, although we had a basic arrangement in mind when going in. We wanted to keep the chant-like quality of the song, but also add a new layer of texture to add variety and a build up.

Please discuss your chosen instrument – nyckelharpa, fiddle and cello) and how your playing has developed over the years, inspired perhaps by the various collaborations and projects each of you have been immersed in these past few years? Certainly, SMC sees a perfect meeting point for these three unique voices in contemporary music.

Aki: Nyckelharpa is an interesting unusual instrument. I have developed my own style of playing that uses a lot of chords rather than single notes. The combination of the three instruments covers a wide pitch and tonal range. On one side we have a folk fiddle sound and on the other side we have a very organic experimental string trio.

Danny Diamond: My fundamental grounding is very deep in the Irish tradition, coming from a family of traditional musicians, working for nearly a decade in the Irish Traditional Music Archive, studying and performing  traditional music since my early teens. Listening to solo fiddle players on archival recordings has hugely informed my style and approach to Irish music, a habit which has grown so extreme that the traditional material which excites me most these days are wax cylinder recordings from the very early 20th century.

In my solo playing and in the melodies I write I’m trying to connect to the roots of the Irish tradition, to the very free, expressive music you can hear in iconoclastic fiddle players such as Bobby Casey, Tommy Potts, The Rainey brothers, Johnny Henry and Máirtín Byrnes. I’m fascinated by a particular approach to intonation which is common to the players mentioned above, and heard a lot in the sean-nós singing and piping traditions as well. Non-standard and very expressive, it allows the musician to imbue their music with a huge range of emotion by bending notes, playing intentionally slightly sharp or flat at just the right moment. This expressiveness stands in refreshing contrast to the more codified/structured modes of playing that have grown in the traditional scene over the intervening generations.

In parallel to looking back into the Irish tradition I’ve been working on integrating influences from Nordic & American folk music into my playing- this mostly takes the form of alternate open tunings and rhythmic / phrasing patterns, I haven’t delved really deeply into the other traditions, just enough to pick up a couple of exotic techniques & accents here and there. This exploration was really kick-started back when Aki and I started working together as a duo in 2009 or 2010.

Another influence is the broad genre of music spanning avant-garde pop and minimalist music, running from John Cale to Eno to Gavin Bryars and Philip Glass. Music I’d been listening to since my teens without ever considering that there could be a way to combine it with the traditional fiddle music I was playing. Now with SMC there’s a perfect place to explore that combination.

Slow Moving Clouds is an exciting project to work on, for me it continually pushes and tests my musical boundaries. I’m looking forward to exploring further with Aki and Kevin as the project progresses, and I’m also conscious that the experience of working with them will come through on any future projects from here on. It has broadened my perspective and my capabilities hugely.

Kevin Murphy: Although the cello is certainly not associated with traditional music (Finnish or Irish) I have been involved with different trad bands for years. However, the expectation generally tended to be that the cello would hold down the root notes which were already pre-dictated by the guitar or bouzouki. I found this pretty limiting. Also the cello tends to be low in the mix on such recordings. I always felt this was an extremely limiting use of an instrument which could have a much more intense impact on Irish traditional music. With SMC there is scope for the cello to provide much more chordal colouring while we tend to have it much higher in the mix than would be normal giving the music a lot of aggressive intensity.

The title-track (reflected also by its placing in the record) feels like the glorious centrepiece: how it slowly builds, like leaves swaying slowly by the autumn wind. Did this song perhaps form the gateway into the rest of the record?

Danny Diamond: Actually the opposite was the case! ‘Os’ (the song) was very much constructed in the studio. We had only started working on it a few weeks beforehand, and didn’t have time to refine the arrangement before recording commenced. We tackled it relatively late in the recording sessions and it ended up coming together very naturally.

What do you feel is the essence of Irish and Nordic music traditions for you? What aspect of these musical worlds resonates most powerfully with you that in turn, gravitates you towards these spheres of sound?

Aki: Interestingly enough, the traditional music I like is the solo playing where you can really hear all the nuances and stylistic variations. What we are doing is clearly not traditional music. I’m interested in soundscapes and textures that can augment simple beautiful melodies. Danny comes from a traditional music background and I have a long history in traditional music as well, so those influences are naturally present in the music we make. Kevin and I have been playing both experimental and popular music for years. Slow Moving Clouds’ sound seems to combine all those elements seamlessly. Although the Nordic and Irish traditional music has been a strong starting point for our sound, I have a feeling that as our sound develops we will start introducing a lot more of original material.

 


 

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‘Os’ by Slow Moving Clouds is available now on Bandcamp HERE.

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

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November 23, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Central And Remote: Adrian Crowley

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Interview with Adrian Crowley.

“There are always words to be written.”

—Adrian Crowley

Words: Mark Carry, Photographs: Steve Gullick

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Some blue morning soon,
We will rise and step into the glowing.
Where once were tears there shall be gladness,
Where once were splinters hope shall rise.”

‘Some Blue Morning’

Some Blue Morning’ is the highly anticipated seventh studio album from Irish singer-songwriter, Adrian Crowley, which reveals (yet again) a song-writing master-class whose poetic prose and interwoven rich sonic canvas captivates the heart. Recorded in Dublin with long-term collaborator Steve Shannon, ‘Some Blue Morning’ features members of the London string ensemble Geese, Ireland’s Seti The First and Waterford singer-songwriter Katie Kim duets on several songs.

The album’s glorious title-track –and sublime opener – unfolds a blissful sense of euphoria as the guiding light of Crowley’s achingly beautiful vocal casts a glowing light over the horizon. ‘Some Blue Morning’ is a song of hope: where rapture replaces tears. The immaculate instrumentation of drums and strings awakens the timeless sound of Jean-Claude Vannier and Serge Gainsbourg as fleeting moments of rare beauty flickers like the embers of a glowing summer sun.

Hungry Grass’ follows next; its warmth, immediacy and delicacy astounds each and every heart pore. The transformative work contains soaring strings that shares the illuminating spark of U.S. group Rachel’s such is its mesmerizing brilliance. A skyline at dusk. The impending arrival of darkness. The comfort in solace. Dancing flames of “cyan, silver, crimson and gold”. ‘Hungry Grass’ is a distillation of a seamless array of transient moments; snapshots or artefacts of life. As Crowley sings “the embers wink before they die”, I feel the hurt of loss but also, the treasure trove of entrusted memories we share and hold onto.

Lay me down on the hungry grass
Among the seedlings and the winter bark.”

‘Hungry Grass’

Some weeks before the eagerly awaited arrival of ‘Some Blue Morning’, I was fortunate to witness Adrian’s enthralling live performance. The special setting was Cork’s L’Attitude 51 wine-bar/sometime-live venue – formerly the near-mythical Lobby bar, a venue the Irish troubadour visited many times in the past. A small space, steeped in history, and so fitting that the prized songwriter would return last October. As part of the East Cork Early Music festival, Crowley was joined by the gifted talents of cellist Ilse DeZiah and violinist Justin Grounds. As the trio weaved their spell-binding magic, the audience was invited to soak in the splendour of the artist’s world of song. The power of words: its alluring charm, infinite radiance and raw emotional depth. The night offered a vivid snapshot into the intricate arrangements of Crowley’s sonic creations; from ‘The Beekeeper’s Wife’ to ‘Juliet I’m In Flames’ (the latter which featured the sole use of the Irish singer’s guitar – the reverb hanging beautifully in the air) and all points in between (not least the majority of ‘Some Blue Morning’s illuminating batch of songs).

One song that immediately comes to mind is the hypnotic ‘The Angel’ with its cinematic, eerie strings and Crowley’s lingering baritone floating beneath. The utterly transcendent tour-de-force contains such shape-shifting sounds, mood and rhythm that (larger) groups such as Balanescu Quartet or Kronos Quartet could only summon to create. Elsewhere, the achingly beautiful ‘Trouble’ – one of the many gorgeous duets with divine Irish songstress Katie Kim – centres on starting anew with the dream of a quieter life.

The Hatchet Song’ comprises ethereal strings and the similarly dream-like baritone voice that melts effortlessly into the sonic palette like pockets of ice on a woodland path. The deeply affecting ballad is reminiscent of Robert Wyatt and Lambchop whose poetic prose details an engraver with “a blade so eager”. The folk opus ‘Magpie Song’ flickers between the surreal and the visceral, where Crowley sings of “the ways of chance” that results in the magpie taking flight (after several encounters with the revered bird).

The Leonard Cohen-esque ballad ‘Follow If You Must’ is yet another remarkable achievement. The stunningly beautiful ballad (again featuring Katie Kim’s awakening voice) feels as though it’s forged from a “forgotten dream”: the melded voices of Adrian and Katie gracefully rises like the “morning dew”. The sheer beauty and utter transcendence unleashed by their momentous duets is nothing short of staggering. In fact, I’d like to think of this rare thing of beauty being kindred to the fireflies that light up the dark (sung by the pair on a later verse).

The cinematic spoken-word opus, ‘The Wild Boar’ – conjuring up the sound of a Cormac McCarthy travelogue – serves one of the album’s defining moments as “miles of pines” become entrenched in your memory. The striking narrative centres on a driver’s encounter with a mystical creature amidst a drive through a forest at dusk. A meditative and deeply contemplative experience is masterfully created in the opening verse: “He thought about his life and as his mind drifted/He was almost finding some kind of peace/All his frustrations of his troubled days seemed to fall away”. Crowley’s baritone evokes the richest of colours and detail, from the “distant hum of an engine”, the “clicking of a blinking indicator” along with the “scent of pine” and the “recent rain that infused the air.” The enraptured listener becomes hypnotized by the rhythm of Crowley’s poetic prose wherein a spellbinding magic takes hold of the mind’s imagination. Similarly, a sprawling canvas of mesmerizing sounds – beguiling soundscapes of meandering guitar tones, warm percussion and gentle ripples of acoustic guitar notes – floats majestically beneath Crowley’s soothing baritone. The words and music somehow evokes the vast expanses of the forest of trees; the sheer beauty of the wilderness and the further reaches of one’s mind where what once was unreachable has become attainable.

Some Blue Morning’ sees Adrian Crowley’s cherished songbook continuing to push the sonic envelope with enlightening tower of songs. I feel the opening verse of ‘Follow If You Must’ serves the perfect embodiment of Crowley’s superlative, sprawling canvas: “And the bonfire’s still burning bright/Throwing sparks up into the night/To linger there with the stars.”

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‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adrian-Crowley/
http://www.chemikal.co.uk/

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Interview with Adrian Crowley.

Congratulations Adrian on the incredible new album, ‘Some Blue Morning’. It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about this truly beautiful work. Firstly, I’d love to gain an insight into the world that surrounds ‘Some Blue Morning’ and in what way you approached this record differently to its predecessor, ‘I See Three Birds Flying’.

Adrian Crowley: The pleasure is mine. Thank you, you are very kind! I will try to offer an answer! Well, I wrote the songs for ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ all in the same room and I wrote the songs for ‘Some Blue Morning’ in a different room… but both rooms are in the same house. I think that is an accurate description of my approach in more ways than one.

I also love the ode to Lee Hazelwood in the album-title. Furthermore, I feel the gorgeous duets between you and Katie Kim share that similarly magical spell cast by the timeless recordings of Nancy & Lee. Can you talk me through these particular duets, Adrian. Did you envision Katie would be part of these songs during the time of writing them? 

AC: The similarity in the title isn’t necessarily a coincidence but neither is it an ode in that way at all. The title, the phrases, the words I use resonate and have purpose in the songs I write, so I don’t try to mirror a song by someone else. But I often say, subconscious plays a part in how I work and I am always surprised when I wake up and see what I’ve written.

Gosh, I adore the duets of Nancy & Lee. They are gold to me. One of the decisions I’m proudest of in the making of this record was asking Katie to be involved. When I wrote the songs that she ended up singing on, I wasn’t necessarily thinking of duets. At first I heard wordless distant notes sung by a woman. It was very clear to me. For instance in the ‘The Magpie Song’ I heard a kind of haunting and dispossessed voice in the wilderness. And in ‘Follow If You Must’, I had already started recording the song and soon I imagined another voice there as part of the narrative and in a way to bring a different meaning to some of the passages.

It was uncharted territory for me, though, to invite someone in and give them my songs to sing. Sometimes the answer is with us all the time. I had spoken to Katie about the idea of making a record together. But it was a case of “when my record is done and when your record is done…and when we’re finished all the things that go with making a record…” Then I thought, that could take years… So I thought, why not get cracking now? And we can always do more later.

So I gave Katie a couple of songs and she came back with magnificent parts. So I gave her a couple of more songs and then I said, “here have more songs”. And then I said, “stop me if it’s all too much”. And she said, “keep them coming, Adrian, sure it’s grand”. And that was that. It was clear it had been a good idea.

In terms of contributions, the wonderful London-based string ensemble of Geese and Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy further heighten the rich sonic canvas of immense beauty. I would love to gain an insight into the arrangements of these new songs and the collaborative process that exists between you and these cast of musicians. 

AC: Well it’s more the case that Emma from Geese played on two songs: ‘The Magpie Song’ and ‘The Hatchet Song’ . Vince from Geese played viola on the latter. Emma, Vince and I had played ‘The Hatchet Song’ live before a few times, like in St Pancras Old Church in London and on a short tour in The Netherlands. We had developed that cascading, overlapping motif that grew and grew. Then in a bar in London I told Emma about a song I’d written about being incessantly assailed by a bird. I told her it had loads of verses and that I imagined her helping the narrative with her violin. She seemed intrigued. Then she played like a woman possessed.

Yes, Kevin Murphy plays cello on several of the songs. We have been working on live shows together too for quite a few years now and I like to think we have a special rapport. Mary Barnecutt who is also a member of Seti The First plays some cello on the record too. Both Kevin and Mary are part of my live show now. We just work intensely and quickly and then we arrive at the treatment that feels right. Many of the parts we developed further with Steve (Shannon) in the studio. Steve is very gifted, I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again. It really is an exciting thing to have the string parts grow and grow. The song kind of tells you what it wants sometimes. It could be either sparse and skeletal or lush and resplendent.

There are an infinite array of moments distilled in each and every song on ‘Some Blue Morning’, like movements contained in a concerto. I wonder were there any happy accidents, so to speak that happened by chance during the making of the record? I can only imagine there must be quite a few stories behind each of these special songs.

AC: One thing I must say is that the vocal takes were far from laboured. I would say 80 or 90% of the vocals on the record are the first take. I am always aware that even if you are planning to put a vocal down as just a guide, it’s worth keeping in mind that it may be a keeper. I remember on one of the first days of the recording sessions Steve asked me to sit down in the live room and run through some  guide vocals to just get a handle on how it all wad sounding . Then a short few moments later we had what turned out to be the final vocal takes of about seven songs of the album. I think there is probably some kind of character in each song and what Steve calls artefacts in each song that have their own idiosyncrasies that probably would be impossible to replicate or repeat.

And speaking of happy accidents…I accidentally discovered I could play clarinet during the making of the album. I’m happy about that! I was browsing in my local charity shop one day and saw a black box on a glass shelf. I looked inside and there was a clarinet. I got the feeling that it should be mine. I bought it there and then and later that afternoon I started getting a sound out if it. Then I showed up in Steve’s studio with the black box tucked under my arm. Steve said “what have you got there?” Then we set about laying down clarinet parts. All as a result of walking into that charity shop by chance that day.

One of the album’s (many) defining moments arrives in part B with the cinematic spoken-word opus, ‘The Wild Boar’, conjuring up the sound of a Cormac McCarthy travelogue and the likes of ‘My Sister’ or ‘Chocolate’ by Tindersticks. I particularly love the lyric “He felt like a hunter for the first time in his life”. I would love to gain an insight into the narrative of ‘The Wild Boar’ and your memories of writing this poetic work? In some ways (in reference to the “miles of pines”), the song feels a distant companion to ‘Alice Among The Pines’. 

AC: It was exciting and revealing to me how ‘The Wild Boar’ came about. (And I love those two pieces by Tindersticks, especially ‘My Sister’). I spend a bit if time in France and once I had heard about something happening to a guy driving down a lonely road along the pine forests. The story became embellished in my mind and I told it a few times to different people. Then on tour I was telling a friend of a friend this story… we were in a venue in Berlin just sitting at a table before the show started. Then during my set the same person shouted out to me to tell the story about The Wild Boar. So I did and it went on and on.

Then a couple of weeks later I told it again during a show in Brighton. Eventually I wrote it all down in the form of a short story. It just seemed right to me to record it and in some strange way it fits on the album, I think. It’s interesting what you say about ‘Alice Among The Pines’. I like the idea of some things coming from the same landscape… a bit like aspects of a story that is told over time.

I fondly recall the central lyric to ‘Trouble’ originated from your European travels in which a local told you, “the only trouble you get around here is when the leaves stick to the rail-road tracks.” Please recount for me your memories of this particular song and indeed, the influence the act of travelling must have on your song-writing?

AC: Yes, I fondly recall the event that sparked off this song. I was on tour in Europe and this particular day I was playing in a small town in The Netherlands. When I arrived in town for the show, I looked at my map and saw the venue was in walking distance from the station, so I set off on foot carrying my two guitars and dragging along this big suitcase. I crossed the road and there was a guy on a bike facing me, waiting at the traffic lights. He was watching me as I trudged and shuffled along. Then he smiled and nodded to me, and said something in Dutch. I said “Pardon?” and this time he spoke in English… “Are you okay?” He was looking at all these things I was carrying. “Yes, I’m fine, thanks”. I answered. The lights turned green and he cycled off.

Then I continued down the road and a woman with a child and a dog were coming towards me. They were all looking at me curiously. Then as I approached them, the woman asked me something. “Are you okay?” I nodded and continued along my way. Then a couple of minutes later, I heard a car slowing down behind me. I looked over my shoulder and there was a police car. I stopped and the window rolled down. Two cops were looking at me. One cop leaned out the window and nodded at me. He said something in a low voice. I looked quizzical. He repeated “Are you okay?” I said “Yes, I’m just on my way to play a show”. And I pointed at the venue at the end of the street. The cop nodded and looked a bit disappointed, then rolled the window up again and they drove off.

Then after the show, I told the story to three chaps who had come over to talk to me. They nodded knowingly as I was telling the story. When I finished, one of them said… “Yeah, we don’t get much trouble around here”. Then he said, “The only trouble you get around here is when wet leaves stick to the railway tracks”. I thought it was sweet and funny and sadly beautiful. A song emerged over the next few weeks about someone moving to another town, a small town to lead a simple life and not get into any more trouble.

In terms of writing, would you find yourself writing words on a page before the music is ever thought of or considered? The lyrics to your songs are sheer poetry and the poetic prose contained on ‘Some Blue Morning’ offers everlasting inspiration. Are there certain writers/literature/song-writers that hold a particular resonance for you, Adrian?

AC: Thank you, that’s a very nice thing to say. I don’t know if I really settle on any one songwriter. I just love words. I love it when you hear a song somewhere for the first time and it has a kind of spark that gives it a kind of transcendence. In terms of literature, I love the writing of Richard Brautigan, Raymond Carver, John Mc Gahern… There are others of course but I find these deeply inspiring. Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller were/are longtime favourites of mine too. In terms of contemporary Irish writers. Kevin Barry, I think is brilliant. Songwriters…there are so many great ones.

I was really interested to hear how you spent time over the past year devoted entirely to writing. How has this technique of yours developed or changed during the course of this time period? Can you discuss the mind-set and transformative process that must occur during writing? How has this affected the song-writing process of yours, Adrian?

AC: I did decide at one point, when I could see that I had no trips planned for a while, that I was going to set a few hours a day writing words and stories. I had finished recording the new album and I felt I needed to get something more out. It’s still coming out. I am very happy with the discovery. It’s funny, sometimes I touch on something that clearly needs my further attention, then I think… “okay, I’ve just set myself a goal, I better do justice to the idea and see it through”. So in that way I’ve been building something just on paper…words on paper. I see sometimes songs growing out of those pieces, sort of like a parallel counterpart. And that has influenced how I write songs, I think. Almost approaching from a new direction. There are always words to be written.

 


 

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‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adrian-Crowley/
http://www.chemikal.co.uk/

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Don’t Look Back: 2014 (Part 2)

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Final part of our “Don’t Look Back” series; which 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 2 of a 2-part series.

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William Tyler (Nashville, USA)

William Tyler is a Nashville guitarist and composer who has played an integral part in world-renowned U.S. bands such as Lambchop, Silver Jews and Hiss Golden Messenger. In recent years, Tyler has carved out a deeply enriching solo path, beginning with 2010’s universally-acclaimed ‘Behold The Spirit’ (Tompkins Square) and its exquisite follow-up, ‘Impossible Truth’ (Merge Records), released in 2013. Last April marked the release of ‘Lost Colony’ – a limited-edition 12-inch – featuring the new song ‘Whole New Dude’, a full-band re-working of ‘We Can’t Go Home Again’ (from ‘Impossible Truth’) and ‘Karussell’; a cover of a Michael Rother (Neu!) song.

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My year in review:

Hanging with my buddy Michael Slaboch talking records and life in early January. Michael came down to Nashville from Chicago and got stuck in a rare snow storm the precluded his return to the Windy City, which I believe was suffering from some of the coldest temperatures on record. We ate bbq and watched Auburn lose to Florida State in the national championship game while Nashville buckled from the cold outside.

Touring with Califone in the dead of an intense midwestern winter.  We did “Big Ten” country: Minneapolis, Madison, Columbus, Omaha, Detroit, Chicago. I should have brought a snowplow instead of a Volvo station wagon. Beautiful people and music. Frigid temperatures. Haunting drives through cracked Michigan highways covered with snow. Listening to Bruce Hornsby in a Tim Horton’s outside of Benton Harbor.

Taking a series of trains across central and southern Europe on tour in February. Played a rock club that doubled as an indoor shooting range in Belgrade. Played a theater in Zagreb. Played a wine bar in Switzerland. Played a cinema in Lausanne, another cinema in Dresden. Watched “Dallas Buyer’s Club” with German subtitles. Read “Blues People” by Amiri Baraka and “Where the Heart Beats”, an incredible book about John Cage and Zen Buddhism. Train hopped across Italy. Wrote fragments of songs in hotel rooms like you are supposed to. Ate everything that was offered to me. Bought Fernet at an Italian gas station.

I drove across America with my buddy Garland two days after returning from Europe. One day we drove from Nashville to Omaha, the next day across South Dakota to Wyoming. Next day all the way to Coeur D’Alene Idaho. The fourth day we made it to Seattle. I did a three-week tour opening for Daniel Rossen. My other best bud Brad Cook accompanied me for most of the trip. Stoned day off driving through the redwoods for a weird evening of awesome beer and sketchy Mexican food in Eureka, California. Playing a winery in Napa valley. Playing the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Driving across the west by myself in a rental car. San Diego to Phoenix, Phoenix to Santa Fe, Santa Fe to Roswell, Roswell to Marfa, Marfa to Austin, Austin to Jackson, Mississippi. Putting about 8000 miles on that poor rental car. Up and down the east coast. Driving back through the North Carolina mountains to home finally and the ‘welcome to Tennessee’ signs greeting me.

I moved temporarily to Oxford, Mississippi for a month. Spent a lot of time writing and reflecting, walking every afternoon down to the town square and sharing a few drinks with new friends. This was the place my parents went to college and I settled into the lazy, deliberate pace of the environs. I feel like as I grow older, the pull further South is stronger. It felt like home.

Green Man festival in Wales. Epic hang with my man David Morris. Playing to a field of friendly folks as the sun set. Being cold in the middle of August and drinking lots of cider.

Some things I enjoyed:

Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather
“Citizen Four”
Harold Grosskopf – Ocean Heart
Swans – To Be Kind
Bob Dylan – Basement Tapes reissue
Bitchin Bajas
Tashi Dorji
Blake Mills
“The Soul of Designer Records” – Big Legal Mess box set
“Jodorowsky’s Dune”

My favorite modern country singles of 2014:

Blake Shelton – Neon Light
Keith Urban – Somewhere in My Car
Dierks Bentley – Drunk on a Plane
Anything by Taylor Swift

 

—William Tyler

 

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‘Lost Colony’ E.P. is available now on Merge Records.

http://www.williamtyler.net/
http://www.mergerecords.com/

 


 

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Félicia Atkinson (The French Alps, France)

Félicia Atkinson is a French visual and sound artist based between the French Alps. She also co-curates Shelter Press, an independent music label and contemporary art publishing house. Félicia Atkinson also releases music via her Je suis le petit chevalier guise and exhibits regularly across both Europe and the US. Atkinson lives presently in the French Alps and has released over 20 records and tapes with labels such as Shelter Press, NNA, Umor Rex, Aguirre, Spekk, La station Radar, Home Normal. Atkinson has performed extensively all over Europe/USA-CANADA with such artists as: Sun Araw, Grouper, Gabriel Saloman, Theo Angel and Hamish Gilmour, Mind Over Mirrors, Lee Noble. She is also involved in the duo Naked Island on the L.A based label Peak Oil (alongside Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle). Her new album, ‘A Readymade Ceremony’, will be out on Shelter Press during 2015. 

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2014: A YEAR OF RENDEZ-VOUS

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Caption: Félicia Atkinson painting yogo balls during the preparation of her latest art show at Saprophyt, Vienna, last November.

 

January:

New Year’s Eve, dancing with candles and flutes outside in the snowy mountains with my friends, the musicians and artists Mc Cloud Zicmuse, Anne Brugni, High Wolf, Marsh Cavern, Chicaloyoh and Bartolomé, my partner in life and in Shelter Press.
Anne Brugnu makes incredible colorful ceramics and drawings. She just published a children books with Mc Cloud called “bonjour”, published by L’artichaud, here is an image of it:

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It’s a very sensitive book about natural phenomena and the marvels of earth. And here is an example of her vivid collages:

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You can also hear Mc Cloud Zicmuse’ poetic words and music HERE.

February:

Driving from California to New Mexico with Bartolomé. We also met a series of unforgettable artists. In Joshua Tree we walked among the prickly pears with Alexander Stewart and Lilli Carre. They are from Chicago and make very interesting minimalist animated films. Lilli is also an illustrator and ceramic artist. She exhibited recently at the MCA of Chicago. Here are two images of her sculptures:

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Alexander made collaborative films with musicians from Chicago, such as Jeremy Lemos, who plays now in Acteurs and also with Disappears, two Chicago bands that I strongly recommend. I particularly like the specially designed EP Disappears published with the Belgian Sleeperhold publications with a silkscreen on the B-side by this young and talented Belgian photographer, Stine Stampers. You can see the design here:

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Here are video stills of Alexander’s films ‘Peacock’ and ‘Power’:

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March:

In March Bartolomé and I did an exhibition, ‘The Last Frontier’, at this artist-run space in Basel called OSLO 10. They are also a music venue and there was a wonderful list of music shows during the exhibition, some with shelter press artists and some with people, even if we don’t publish them, we feel related to. One of them played at Oslo 10 in March 2014, it’s the French-Japanese musician Tomoko Sauvage who plays with water and bowls: a mesmerizing and meditative music.

April:

April was a beautiful month in the Alps, with butterflies and flowers everywhere. On the 1st of April I invited Jennifer Tee, an artist from the Netherlands, to make a lecture at the art university I am teaching in: Annecy, L’ESAAA. I am a huge fan of her works that include: performance, sculpture and installation. Some examples of her works here, including her latest exhibition at Signal in Malmo:

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May:

In May I played a music show for Videoex Festival in Zürich with the experimental film-maker from San Francisco, Paul Clipson. I don’t know if you are familiar with his works, but he showed his films with a lot of interesting musicians from the Bay Area such as Grouper, Jefre Cantu and Barn Owl, who are all musicians that inspire me everyday. Here are some images of Paul’s films:

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June:

June was a month spent listening to Suzanne Ciani’s amazing re-issues by Finders Keepers.

July:

In July I toured in Canada with the amazing Sun Araw and D/P/I. I feel like I learned a lot while seeing them playing and each of their shows was a source of joy. I recommend you to see them live and to listen to their latest album. I also played in Seattle with RM Francis that month, which was the occasion to discover his beautiful and smart music.

August:

August was a month spent in Oregon. I always love Portland. It was great to hang out there with my friends and see very good shows and have such great vegetarian food. Then we spent some time camping at CAPE LOOK OUT before I recorded with my friend Peter Broderick. Stay tuned… the project will be called La Nuit and will be out next summer on Beacon Sound.
In Portland I bought a lot of records at Little Axe Records, Mississippi Records and Beacon Sound Records. One of my favorites is ‘Put No Blame On The Master’, a record of Jamaican gospel, published by Mississippi.

September:

In September 2014 I did a mini tour in Switzerland with the amazing Gabriel Saloman, with whom we just published a record on Shelter Press. I recommend also his records on Miasmah and Infinite Greyscale. When he played in Geneva​, it was so powerful that the sound engineer actually cried. We are all blown away. I also listened very much to the re-issues of K. Leimer on RVNG.

October:

In October I saw Lieven Moana / Dolphins into the future and Spencer Clark / monopoly childstars playing also in Geneva, with wonderful visuals. It was like being in another time. Lieven is a kind of Caspar David Friedrich of modern times.

November:

In November I played at Soy Festival where I had a chance to see playing some people I admire: Lee Noble, Noveller, Steve Hauschildt and Robedoor.
Do you know Lee Noble’s cassette labels NO KINGS? They do amazing artworked tapes that you should take an ear/eye at!

December:

My highlight of December was feeding and meeting the neighbor’s little cat that love to visit us and watching VANISHING POINT by Richard Sarafian and CARRIE by De Palma. I also listened a lot to Valerio Tricoli album on PAN, Miseri Lares. And Bartolomé bought me this wonderful book by and about Robert Ashley, ‘YES, BUT IS IT EDIBLE’ published by New Documents.

THE END/THANK YOU!

 

—Félicia Atkinson

 

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Naked Island’s self-titled debut, the collaboration between Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle and Félicia Atkinson, is available now on Peak Oil. ‘A Readymade Ceremony’ is a forthcoming release on Shelter Press.

http://feliciaatkinson.be/
http://shelter-press.com/

 


 

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Cian Ó Cíobháin, An Taobh Tuathail (Galway, Ireland)

Cian Ó Cíobháin is the presenter of An Taobh Tuathail, a music show dedicated to promoting the very best in independent music. Cian’s show is broadcasted on RTÉ Raidió Na Gaeltachta on weeknights from 22.00 to midnight, Monday to Friday. Cian also compiles a series of compilations which are made available for free download. Presently, the An Taobh Tuathail compilation series is at volume 6 (they have this year been uploaded to Ó Cíobháin’s Mixcloud page HERE). Additionally, Cian DJ’s at 110th Street, Galway, with Cyril Briscoe. As of this year Cian Ó Cíobháin has also carved a name for himself as a specialist wedding DJ.

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In January and February, I dipped my toes into English language broadcasting for the first time in eons, with a six-part series on Pulse about my ‘An Taobh Tuathail’ compilations. My thick-tongued mumbling were well received, in some instances it was the first time listeners were able to follow what I was saying on the radio. ATT was shortlisted for two awards this year. In April I visited the picturesque St. Ives in Cornwall for the Celtic Media Awards, then had a night to remember in Kilkenny in October at the PPI Radio Awards. The Lyric FM contingent were seated at our table and helped us to party with panache. The winners of both categories were utterly deserving. JJ O’Shea’s superlative ‘The Global Village’ took the gong in St. Ives and Ray Wingnut’s excellent documentary on the Community Skratch games topped the PPI list.

Two of the best DJ sets I heard this year happened at Ireland’s best off-the-radar summer festival (so secret that I’m afraid to even refer to it by name). A fine summer’s evening somewhere in deepest Longford, the intimate & enthusiastic gathering in convivial spirits, were treated to the DJ début of Roscommon-native Peter Casey who simply blew the roof off the place with a perfect festival set: a combination of bangers, anthems and sing-a-longs. Later on, underground Liverpool legend John Heckle showed what an outstanding DJ he is, reading the crowd perfectly, working some amazing disco basslines into his high-octane techno set…. Speaking of Scousers, following Liverpool last season was a riot. Sure they fell short, sure they may never win the Premiership, but what a gallant effort it was, playing some of the most scintillating football in Europe, which even Pep Guardiola tipped his hat to. Of course, we’re back to a level we’re sadly more accustomed to now, in the wake of Luis Suaréz migrating to warmer climes. In a peculiar way, like when the winter evenings begin to draw in, there’s almost something strangely comforting about being simply mediocre again. Almost.

In other sports, my native Kerry thrilled in their two game battle against Mayo in August before grinding out an unexpected All-Ireland victory in September (unexpected to everyone bar the team and management), ending a five-year Celtic Cross-less drought in the Kingdom. All this without The Gooch. Great to see Star poach an opportunist’s goal in the final. I was DJing in West Kerry a few years ago and he was right up the front urging the crowd to sing along to the words of Warren G’s ‘Regulate’.

Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under The Skin’ was a haunting cinematic experience, made all the more powerful by Mica Levi’s superlative soundtrack. One of her featured compositions ‘Love’ is my tune of the year: somehow evoking ‘Loveless’-era MBV, Badalamenti and Bernard Herrmann. I only recently realised that the movie is based on a book by Michel Faber. I picked up his latest novel ‘The Book Of Strange New Things’, as endorsed by the wonderful West Cork-based author David Mitchell and have been in a trance reading it the past few days… Other movies I enjoyed this year were ‘12 Years A Slave’, ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ and I finally watched ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’. How had I ignored it up to now? Simply one of the finest movies I’ve ever laid eyes on. If only I could roll a cigar around in my mouth like Clint Eastwood. The original ‘Blondie.’

Summer 2014 was one of the most consistently summer-like summers in recollection, the rain seemed to bypass our island. How good was the vibe at ‘Body & Soul’ during the shortest nights of the year? It was my first time in attendance and I was bowled over by the genuinely magical, fairy-tale atmosphere. Galway legend Mike Smalle played a beautiful set under the trees, that weaved everything from Max Romeo to Nolan Porter to Hot Natured into its fabric. Mike was busy recording again this year, his first work since B-Movie Lightning, under the Augustus & John moniker collaborating with Matteo Grassi. Check out their excellent ‘Crosslines’ EP.

In late August, with the help of Galway’s Electric venue, 110th Street hosted a boat party on the river Corrib, where Cyril Briscoe & I were joined by Jon Averill and Sol O’ Carroll. Between the genial atmosphere on the boat, where everyone was best friends by the end of the voyage, followed by a hothouse atmosphere in the club, created by a combination of our guest DJs being on top form and the visiting influx of revellers, it was a day and night that will live long in my memory.

I read shed-loads of books this year but the two that stood out were ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by JK Rowling, a brilliant take on that peculiar and specific genre of ‘English village’ literature and ‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes, one of the most breathtaking thrillers I’ve ever read. Re-reading Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Portrait Of Dorian Gray’ was a great pleasure. Two evocations of hedonistic life in our capital city in different eras also provided food for thought. Anthony Cronin’s ‘Dead As Doornails’ recounts the lives of Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan & Myles na gCopaleen in the pubs of post-war Dublin. The drinking and the poverty they endured to keep on drinking is utterly startling. Rob Doyle’s ‘Here Are The Young Men’ recounts a different Dublin, that of the early to mid-‘noughties’. If the pre-mentioned literary giants had access to the drugs that the characters in Doyle’s début novel binge on, well … the mind boggles at the consequences. Both books shine a torch into our nation’s gluttonous, booze-centric culture and reveal long, dark shadows extending well into the background.

The best TV show I saw this year was ‘Fargo’ but I was also impressed by ‘Boardwalk Empire’ (seasons 3 & 4), ‘Ray Donovan’, ‘Vikings’ (second season), ‘Love/Hate’ (which found its groove again – though I’d love to sort out their often incongruous soundtrack choices for them) and ‘The Fall’. Caught the first season of ‘Sherlock’ too, the opening episode was particularly good. I waded my way through most of the first season of ‘Game Of Thrones’ but was left cold by its clunky pace and prolixity.

My best nights DJing all happened at weddings. I was lucky to be invited by some remarkable people to play at their nuptials, more often than not in memorable, bucolic settings to intimate gatherings of sound heads. The atmosphere at these evenings were off-the-hook and has encouraged me to launch myself in the specialist DJ wedding market in the year ahead. So (here comes a plug) if you’re getting married and want to avoid the usually stodge, I’m available through cianociobhain.com or the One Fab Day site.

And what about the night the Sleaford Mods came to Galway? Like Gang Of Four, The Fall, Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins & Bez rolled into one Tour(ettic)-de-force. Middle-aged rock stars showing everybody else how it’s done. Proper.

Oh! One of my music moments of the year was when my truelove bowled me over by playing the soundtrack to ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’ out of the blue at a party last summer. I hadn’t heard it in decades and it completely transported me another place. Somewhere special, beyond mere nostalgia.

 

—Cian Ó Cíobháin

 

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There will be two An Taobh Tuathail Christmas specials on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, 22.00 – 00.00. Cian Ó Cíobháin is also now taking bookings as a specialist wedding DJ at cianociobhain.com

Web: http://www.rte.ie/rnag/an-taobh-tuathail

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnTaobhTuathail
DJ bookings: http://cianociobhain.com/

 


 

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Seán Mac Erlaine (Dublin, Ireland)

The Dublin-based woodwind composer (saxophonist and clarinetist) and music producer Seán Mac Erlaine is one of Ireland’s best-loved musicians and composers. Mac Erlaine is also a member of the Irish/Swedish four-piece This Is How We Fly and has collaborated with numerous musicians in the past in both live and studio settings (The Gloaming, Bill Frisell, Lisa Hannigan, The Smith Quartet, Iarla O’Lionaird). This Is How We Fly had an extensive European and Irish tour this year promoting their remarkable debut self-titeld album (having been released at the end of 2013 via Playing With Music) while Mac Erlaine also released his latest solo album ‘A slender song’ via Dublin-based label Ergodos. Earlier in the year, Mac Erlaine contributed to the Ergodos-released ‘Songs’ album which featured numerous re-interpretations of songs by members of the Ergodos roster of musicians. In September, Mac Erlaine performed at Dublin’s annual Bottlenote Festival (which Mac Erlaine co-runs) for a site-specific “The Walls Have Ears” series of live improvisations. 

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Two thousand and fourteen began in an urban idyll: Prenzlauer Berg. Waiting on fingers to defrost to record a range of songs from John Dowland to Richard Thompson. That record, released a few months later, turned out to be a beautiful thing – listen to Michelle O’Rourke sing! Germany has a lot of saxophone players and a lot of dead saxophone players – I bought a sleeping beauty from a dusty shop – a Martin alto saxophone from 1968.

Nobody saw it coming but in February I made my dancing debut in Willfredd Theatre’s CARE, this was a great eye-opening process working with super people looking into the work of hospice workers.

I was very lucky to find myself lost in Pauline Oliveros’ near infinite reverb chambers in the company of fine musicians broadcasting live to the nation on my favourite medium, radio. More radio followed later in the year working with director Dylan Tighe on a new sound piece celebrating one of our favourite poets, the late Michael Hartnett. We poured many hours into this work and in every moment (almost) there was a richness that can only come when your two singers are the incomparable Nell Ní Chróinín and Iarla O’Lionaird.

Spending time with the three other members of This is How we Fly has been such a rewarding and important aspect over the last few years. In 2014 we got to play in France, Sweden and all over Ireland (Baltimore Fiddle Fair does seem in fact to be the best festival here!).

Other high points included: sharing the stage and shaking the soft, soft hand of maestro Bill Frisell… The honour of playing solo to many rooms of silent listeners over the year… Playing Bowie’s back catalogue in NCH with such a killer band… Walking around Cork City in the very early morning… Walking around the Lower East Side in the almost late night… Swimming through a lake in Northern Sweden at midnight watching the paling sky… Cycling thousands of kilometers through the mountains of Wicklow, the flatlands of Kildare and the streets of Dublin… Cycling a 180km round-trip to play a gig in a sauna…

I loved seeing Ger Wolfe sing in Dublin – gotta be one of the most honest songwriters out there these days. Steve McQueen’s ‘12 Years A Slave’ didn’t hit me quite in the same way his first two features did but this was a fine piece of work. Irish film-maker Pat Collins produced another beautiful work with ‘Living in a Coded Land’ and Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘Frank’ was superb. Contemporary fiction isn’t a strong point for me but I was astounded by the beauty of Tarjei Vesaas’ ‘The Ice Palace’, a Norwegian novel from 1963. Gabriel Rosenstock’s monumental collected poems ‘The Flea Market in Valparaíso’ seems to have slipped under the radar but that can happen easily. Richard Mosse’s work ‘The Enclave’ got a lot of lookers, it blew many of us away. Israeli choreographer Danielle Agami had me up out of my seat whooping after her dance piece as did Irish actor Shane O’Reilly’s piece ‘Follow’ in The Abbey Theatre. A great time for Irish music: The Gloaming album made many revolutions on my CD player (I hope they press it on vinyl!), seems to have classic album written all over it. Deaf Joe’s ‘From The Heights Of A Dream’ is refreshingly really going for something and presented so beautifully – strongly recommended. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dan Trueman’s fiddle duo record ‘Laghdú’ (also presented as a highly covetable good) is a tender thing of beauty.

 

Seán Mac Erlaine

 

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‘A Slender Song’ is available now on Ergodos.

http://www.seanmacerlaine.com/
https://ergodos.ie/

 


 

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Kat Epple, Emerald Web (Los Angeles, USA)

Kat Epple has released 30 music albums internationally, composes music for film scores and television soundtracks, and performs live original music featuring synthesizers and flutes with her various ensembles, including the legendary “Space Music” band Emerald Web (comprising Epple and her late husband Bob Stohl), whose hugely influential music continues to impact music audiences worldwide through many recent re-issues. ‘The Stargate Tapes’ album was re-issued in November 2013 via Finders Keepers, and consists of music originally recorded from 1978-1989; earlier this year, Emerald Web’s ‘Whispered Visions’ has also been re-issued by Finders Keepers, while ‘Catspaw’, Emerald Web’s seminal recording (first issued by Larry Fast’s Audion label) will be re-issued by Anodize in January 2015.

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Highlights of my year 2014 include: a concert for dolphins, ancient dead Indians, growling dinosaurs, and ‘Whispered Visions’. These events transpired as I concert toured, recorded new albums, did session work, archived old reel-to-reel masters, and enjoyed some amazing adventures!

“Legends of the Giant Dinosaurs” is a film for which I composed music, sound effects and Foley, for The Hong Kong Science Museum. The high-tech digital animation was projected onto a sixty-foot-wide HD screen with my music and sound effects in surround sound. I enjoyed creating the music, but especially making the sounds of the dinosaurs as they tromp, fight, and perish as a meteor strikes the earth. CRUNCH…….GROWL……..RUMBLE…….SCREAM………EPIC CRASH!

Playing native flute at sunset, on the top of a burial mound built by the extinct Calusa Indian tribe, may have been one of my concert highlights of the year. I felt as though their spirits were surrounding me, and softly singing. Now THAT is surround sound!

My favorite jam session happened one night as I was playing flute for a star-gazer cruise on a beautiful ship on the Gulf of Mexico. A pod of dolphins arrived, then surrounded the ship as they lifted their ears above the waterline, apparently to listen. They all joined in as they clicked, splashed, and squeaked along with the sound of my flute.

There has been a resurgence of interest in the music of my vintage synthesizer and woodwind band, Emerald Web. In fact, this year, our second album, “Whispered Visions” was released on vinyl LP, thirty-four years after its original issue. The master tapes had to be baked and archived after sitting on the shelf for decades. It was very moving to hear the music again after all those years, as it transported me back to the moment it was created so long ago. Music has the power to do that, especially when it is your own music!

I recorded acoustic tracks for a new album with World Percussionist, Nathan Dyke. I played World Flutes in the session, and am now in the process of overdubbing synthesizer tracks to the album. Yep……Thirty four years later, I am still pissing off the purists who don’t like it when I mix ancient primitive instruments and technology. Yay!

My session work on flute, EWI, and synthesizers for albums by a variety of musicians include: New Age pioneer Steven Halpern, enchanting folk musician Mariee Sioux, electronic guitarist Barry Cleveland, and legendary heavy metal guitarist Devin Townsend.

I did manage to get out of the studio once in a while to go camping, running on the beach, and to attend concerts, including King Crimson, the “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” festival in San Francisco, and a variety of amazing house concerts.

I am grateful for the wonderful experiences that 2014 brought, and look forward to 2015 being even better!

 

—Kat Epple

 

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‘The Stargate Tapes’ and ‘Whispered Visions’ by Emerald Web are available now via Finders Keepers Records. ‘Catspaw’ by Emerald Web is to be re-issued on 20 January 2015 via Anodize (pre-order HERE).

http://www.katepple.com
https://www.facebook.com/KatEppleMusic

 


 

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Roll The Dice (Stockholm, Sweden)

Roll The Dice comprise the Stockholm duo of Malcolm Pardon and Peder Mannerfelt, who released their hugely anticipated third LP this year, ‘Until Silence’, via the renowned UK-based independent The Leaf Label. ‘Until Silence’ sees a brave and intriguing shift in the duo’s sound (most noticeably with the addition of a 26-piece string section ensemble during the recording sessions with an even greater focus this time around on an intensity of emotion across an ever-expanding sound palette) while the conceptual framework of the album draws inspiration from World War One (the album’s title is inspired by a book on the period). To date, Roll The Dice have released a trilogy of monumental albums, beginning with their self-titled debut LP (Digitalis, 2010);‘In Dust’ (Leaf, 2011); ‘Until Silence’ (Leaf, 2014), confirming the Swedish electronic group as one of independent music’s most intriguing and compelling contemporary artists.

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Tracks of 2014 by Roll The Dice:

Malcolm:
Future – ‘Look Ahead’
The groove and the sample and the 123 /15 hi hat pattern. Lovely.

Aphex Twin – ‘Produk 29’
Surprisingly likable. As I haven’t been a big fan in the past, I had no “issues” with him putting out a new album whatsoever.

Vessel – ‘Red Sex’
Simple and to the point monotony as it should be.

Nils Frahm – ‘Says’
A bit cheesy in the best possible way. Reminds me about us…

Katy Perry – ‘Roar’
I have been force-fed this track every morning all spring by my 10 year-old daughter. A bit like a musical stockholm syndrome…I have fallen in love with my tormentor.

Peder:
Gazelle Twin – ‘Anti Body’
Just found out about this record, totally feeling the attitude and impact of it. Really got a sound of it’s own which is pretty rare these days.

Klara Lewis – ‘Msuic II’
Klara is probably the artist that has had the biggest impact on me this year. It’s a real privilege to be able to work with such a unique and gifted talent.

DB 1 – ‘Nautil 1/3 B1’
The whole Nautil series on Hidden Hawaii is so amazing but if I have to pick a favorite from the 3 records this has to be it. Perfectly balanced and executed.

Surgeon – ‘Fixed Action Pattern’
The best techno 12″ this year from the best label, Token.

QT – ‘Hey Qt’
The PC music camp is the most punk of 2014. The fact that both my girlfriend and my 3 year-old daughter told me that it was the worst thing they ever heard me play at home makes me like it even more.

2014 Highlights Roll The Dice:

Putting out ‘Until Silence’ of course but also the fact that it turned out exactly the way we wanted.

Semibreve festival in Braga, Portugal: it was a delight to get to play in this beautiful old theatre where they have hosted the festival off the beaten track for several years. The organisers and everything surrounding this small and heartfelt festival was a delight.

 

Highs 2014: 

Malcolm:
My 10 week old Staffordshire puppy, Billie.

Peder:
Being able to do what I do for another year, to be able to make music and do whatever I want is something I am truly grateful for.

Lows 2014:

Malcolm:
The Swedish parliamentary situation which is going from bad to worse rapidly.
We all hope that the re-election in march will clear things up a bit, but as is now its just a farce, with very sinister undertones.

Peder:
See Mal’s answer. One love, fuck fascism.

 

—Roll The Dice

 

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‘Until Silence’ is available now on The Leaf Label. 

https://www.facebook.com/rollthedicesthlm
http://www.theleaflabel.com/

 


 

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Klara Lewis (Stockholm, Sweden)

Earlier this year marked the eagerly awaited debut full-length release from Swedish electronic artist, Klara Lewis, on the prestigious Editions Mego label. ‘Ett’ was recorded, sampled, edited, manipulated, mixed, produced and arranged by Lewis. A collection of four new works — contained on the sublime ‘Msuic’ EP — would later see the light of day on the Swedish imprint, Peder Mannerfelt Produktion (released on 12″ vinyl last November). ‘Msuic’ sees Lewis further expand the sonic envelope with her signature explorations of field recordings, electronics, rhythm, sound and atmosphere; confirming the Swedish artist as one of electronic music (and independent music at large)’s most exciting new talents.

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My top albums:

1. ‘Under The Skin’ OST, Mica Levi
2. ‘Because I’m Worth It’, Copeland
3. ‘All Over + All Under’, Edvard Graham Lewis
4. ‘The Epic Of Everest’, Simon Fisher Turner
5. ‘The Aquaplano Sessions’ (re-release), Donato Dozzy & Nuel

 

—Klara Lewis

 

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‘Ett’ is available now on Editions Mego. ‘Msuic’ (12″ & Digital) is available now on Peder Mannerfelt produktion. 

http://klaralewis.bandcamp.com
http://editionsmego.com

 


 

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Seti The First (Dublin, Ireland)

Seti The First is the Ireland-based cello-led group comprising the songwriting duo of Kevin Murphy (cello) and Thomas Haugh (drums, marxophone, percussion). ‘Melting Cavalry’ was the band’s debut album, released in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim. The band’s distinctive sound draws inspiration from a wide number of diverse sources (Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, Henryk Gorecki, The Haxan Cloak). 2015 will see the highly anticipated follow-up to their mesmerizing debut, ‘Melting Cavalry’, entitled ‘The Wolves of Summerland’.

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Kevin: It’s probably a question of tunnel vision but for me 2014 was all about finishing our second album which is called ‘The Wolves of Summerland’. We toiled relentlessly and finally put it to bed in December. It marks a bit of a departure from our first album ‘Melting Cavalry’ and therefore was a bit of a nerve-wracking adventure, however, we’re thrilled with the results. Cellos still provide the bedrock but there is much more frantic Marxophone and Zither leading the way; overall there is a more aggressive intend this time out. We had strong themes of unrest and revolution in mind––the dynamics of denial & delusion and the blindness to rising tides of societal upheaval among those in power; and of course, the recurrence of these things time and time again. So we focused on some extraordinary historical events, the rise and demise of entire empires and the regimes that followed, huge moments of passion, bloodshed, tragedy and melancholia. This became the canvas unto which we offered our wandering brush. In November we collaborated with visual artist Brian Kelly at the Cork Film Festival which took these ideas into the live arena, something we’ll hopefully further explore going forward.

Other than that, highlights of the year include playing on Adrian Crowley’s brilliant album ‘Some Blue Morning’. Myself and Seti’s live cellist Mary Barnecutt also played at Adrian’s launch in The Workman’s Club in Dublin which was a special night.

Thomas: Working on the second Seti album likewise dominated my year, rhythm made an unexpected return to my musical outpouring. As we got into the spirit of the music–with all of these big themes and ideas, it just became necessary to have that kind of foundation. It’s been a long time since I got behind the drums to really drive the bus, I just let it happen and it more or less flowed. Some new discoveries for me here too–the Persian Daf (drum), an incredibly versatile instrument. It’s a powerful and sacred centre piece in lots of Sufi music of which I’m very fond. Some Hurdy Gurdy made it on there too and I’ve loved that instrument since my teenage years when I first heard a Nigel Eaton album.

As for the music of others in 2014, Perfume Genius and Wildbirds & Peacedrums come to mind, both of which also took rhythm to new levels on their latest releases. Mica Levi’s incredible soundtrack for ‘Under The Skin’ thrilled me, also Grouper’s ‘Ruins’ and Arca’s ‘Xen’. Hildur Gudnadóttir’s ‘Saman’ took some time to settle with me but it was worth the effort. I also took some time to listen to the works of Ligeti–the music of whom most of us are probably familiar with through it’s prolific usage in films, music that is both terrifying and thrilling in equal measure. Not a bad aul year.

 

—Seti The First

 

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‘Melting Cavalry’ is available now; its much-anticipated follow-up, ‘The Wolves of Summerland’, is due for release in 2015.

http://setithefirst.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/SetiTheFirst

 


 

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Adrian Crowley (Dublin, Ireland)

2014 marked the special return of Irish songwriter Adrian Crowley with his hugely anticipated (and career-high) seventh studio album, ‘Some Blue Morning’, via Glasgow-based independent label Chemikal Underground. ‘Some Blue Morning’ is the follow-up to Crowley’s masterful 2012 Choice Music Prize nominated ‘I See Three Birds Flying’, and features contributions from Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy on cello; Dublin-based songwriter Katie Kim on vocals and members of London string ensemble Geese, amongst many more.

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When I cast my mind back to the beginning of 2014 I am brought back to the familiar recording den with my old friend Stephen. I remember a few crisp mornings where the sun was shining in its wintry way. I’d walk from the north of the city all the way to the south reaches, along the grand canal, the path on the bank with the weeping willows near Portobello and on and on towards Dolphin’s Barn… thinking all the while about the day’s recording that lay before me and wondering how it would all sound by the evening when I’d walk back along the same way along the canal banks to Portobello…and turning then towards Kelly’s corner, up Camden Street and onto Wexford Street, South Great George’s Street… continuing through the city and finally on to the home stretch of North Strand. Those walks were times I would relish every day with a spring in my step for the record that was beginning to take shape. That daily ten-mile leg-stretch became a part of the process of making the record. Yes, I’m pretty sure there is no joy quite like the joy of recording new songs and building an album from the those first glimmers of ideas. And then I finished the record that, later in the year, I would call ‘Some Blue Morning’. 
I suppose much of early 2014 was taken up with making ‘Some Blue Morning’. It is all-consuming and, really, I found little time for anything else. I remember thinking that until I had something complete I would hide myself away. Even after the recording there was that matter of coming up with suitable artwork for the album. Which brings me to Steve Gullick.
2014 was the year I first met the fine gent that is Steve. We had ‘spoken’ over the years and talked about maybe making some pictures and indeed had planned to meet once or twice, usually when I was in London for a gig. But things happened and we never seemed to manage to get to the same spot at the same time. Not until Easter, ‘14, that is.I remember waiting in a café down the street from Highbury and Islington tube station across from Union Chapel. I sat in the window seat with a huge coffee staring out at the brick portico of the chapel. Then the door of the café swung open and Steve was greeting me in person for the first time. He was carrying three cameras. We sat there chatting for some time. About the world, about making records, about people, about life and mutual friends. About Jason Molina who had tragically passed away the year before. Something that has deeply effected me and so many others. Then Steve said, “okay, let’s get started” and we left the café and walked across the busy street and approached the heavy locked doors of Union Chapel. A quick phone call to Les who was working in the chapel that day (installing a new lighting rig) and we were inside wandering about corridors and back stairwells. Steve must have taken more than 800 photos and by the end of the afternoon we were sure that he had captured something that would be the cover art for ‘Some Blue Morning’.
Oh, 2014 was the year I discovered I could play clarinet. There is a charity shop near where I live. One day I ducked in for a quick look round. And there at the back of the shop in a glass cabinet was an opened black box with a dissembled clarinet inside. I knew it had to be mine and a few minutes later I was at home checking on YouTube how to put a clarinet together. A few minutes after that I was getting some sounds. I suppose all those years of playing saxophone in my bedroom had some bearing. I told Thomas and Kevin of Seti The First about this “haunted clarinet” I had found. Thomas called me a few weeks later and asked me to have a go at recording some parts for the new Seti record.
So the next thing you know I’m on a 123 bus to Thomas’ house with the charity store black box under my arm. I’ve been listening to the finished record and I have to say that I am proud to have played a small part in it. I’m so happy that my clarinet notes didn’t end up on the cutting room floor.
I’m trying to remember what films I went to see in the cinema. I spent a week in London by myself in the summer in a little house in Golders Green by Hampstead Heath. A friend of mine kindly let me stay there and I thought it would be a nice way to work on some writing. I did get some writing done but I also did a lot of walking around. One day I went down to Soho and headed for the Curzon Cinema. That’s where I saw ‘Boyhood’ by Richard Linklater. What an incredible film. I didn’t feel the three hours pass. I loved ‘The Double’ by Richard Ayoade which I saw at the IFI in Dublin, the Nick Cave documentary ‘20,000 Days on Earth’ at The Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin. ‘Under The Skin’ was creepy and great.

Oh, and speaking of London, I’m brought back to a late night taxi ride with my sister. It was late September. We had hopped in a cab in Hammersmith and didn’t speak once all the way to Woolwich Arsenal where our younger sister lives. Why didn’t we speak? Well, we both suffer from car sickness and we had just been on a pilgrimage, you see, and were still trying to process the three hours or so that had just passed. I’m talking about Kate Bush. Kate Bush at Eventim Apollo. The opening bars of ‘Running Up That Hill’. Now there was a moment.

But that was the night there was a power outage on stage before the show was due to start. We, the audience, sat waiting for around 50 minutes. At one point when the house lights went up, we all thought the show had been cancelled but a few minutes later Kate is onstage telling us matter-of-factly and down-to-earthedly that “it had been sorted”.

I managed to see a lot of great concerts. Bill Callahan at the Olympia, Dublin in February. Cat Power in July, also at the Olympia. Eels at Muziekgebouw, Eindhoven for Naked Song festival. I was playing at the festival and I managed to duck in behind the sound desk an watched the whole concert (at the end of the concert Mark jumped off the stage and went around the entire auditorium giving hugs to everyone in his path before ending up back on the stage to play an encore).

My Brightest Diamond at The Workmans Club. Shara Worden’s voice is incredible and it was so great to finally see her live. Violinist Cora Venus Lunny played an astonishing improvised set at her album launch in The Grand Social in Dublin. The National at The Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. Speaking of the Iveagh Gardens, I got to see some great comedy there… namely Eddie Pepitone.

Albums released in 2014… I really loved ‘Brothers and Sisters of The Eternal Sun’ by Damien Jurado and wonderful albums by Cora Venus Lunny, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Kate Ellis, Tindersticks, Einsturzende Neubaten, Marissa Nadler… I’m sure I’m missing others and I’ll probably kick myself later.

Well, my own album came out towards the end of the year…early November. I had a kind of belated album launch at The Workmans Club on December 12th. I am pretty confident that was the favourite gig of mine in 2014. I had been rehearsing with the twin cellos of Kevin Murphy and Mary Barnecutt, and also with Katie Kim who sang on more than half of ‘Some Blue Morning’. It felt so good having Katie, Mary and Kevin on stage with me not to mention my good friend Matthew Nolan who plays guitar on ‘The Wild Boar’ when we perform it live (just saying “plays guitar” feels like a gross understatement, though, considering the vast soundscapes he conjures).

Other favorite live moments from the point of view of the stage were the Daylight Music event at Union Chapel with Katie Kim (it just so happens it fell on the Summer solstice. I remember waking up that morning at 4am to the near deafening sound of birdsong from Hampstead Heath. It was quite something). Explore The North Festival in Leeuwarden, Netherlands was special too. That was in a church also, a Lutheran church with a lot of history. Oh, singing some David Bowie songs in The National Concert Hall in July was much fun.

And there was a special show that I was invited to be a part of during the East Cork Early Music festival. Justin Grounds and Ilsa de Ziah who play baroque violin and baroque cello respectively rearranged an hour-long set of my songs which we performed together at L’Atitude for a late night show. It was the first time I sang my songs on stage without playing an instrument. It felt like a new discovery. What incredible musicians. Also sharing the stage with David Thomas Broughton, Roddy Doyle, Mark Andrew Hamilton of Woodpigeon at the Golden Factories event for Young Hearts Run Free at St. Michians Church was quite special.

In theatre… I saw the final show of a seven-day run of ‘A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing’ performed by Aoife Duffin. She was incredible. It was intense and staggeringly impressive. I wondered how long it must have taken her to unwind after giving so much.

This Is The Kit played in the engineering library of The National concert Hall as a part of the Brassland weekend there in December. Well, that was a beautiful show but equally sweet was having them sing happy birthday to my five-year old daughter in the hallway of my house at 7:30am before they rushed out the door to catch the ferry to Holyhead. I hope they didn’t miss it.

 

—Adrian Crowley

 

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‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.

https://www.facebook.com/adrian.crowley
http://www.chemikal.co.uk/

 


 

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David Westlake (London, UK)

The Servants formed in 1985 in Hayes, Middlesex, England, by singer and songwriter David Westlake (Luke Haines would later join The Servants in ‘87). Their unique blend of poignant lyrics, intricate arrangements, and utterly compelling indie-pop sounds was a world away from the mundane and noisy lo-fi scene heralded by the NME’s C-86 compilation the band would later appear on. ‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ re-issued double album is available now on 2CD via Cherry Red and on double LP via Captured Tracks. David Westlake’s ‘Play Dusty With Me’ will be re-issued next year by U.S. independent label Captured Tracks.

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2014? Deficit, devolution, free movement, Remembrance, Crimea, Ebola, ISIS, One Direction, Rolf Harris. But you know all this already. My 2014 – I got married, I played the NME C86 show, and first time since 1991 I played music with Luke Haines.

I am 49, so the best 2014 music release is unsurprisingly a reissue. It’s the Kevin Ayers Original Album Series five-disc set. The award for best latter-day recording (that I’ve heard) goes to Morrissey, from whom the very existence of new work is always an event. Cherry Red Records reissued C86 in 2014. I am on the compilation, but I always hated that song. Captured Tracks Records will issue my album ‘Play Dusty For Me’ in April 2015. Highly recommended.

Best book of 2014 has to be ‘Coming Up Trumps’ by Jean Trumpington. Multitudes of dull and deluded people trot out self-satisfied memoirs nowadays. Many can claim worth only as purgative toilet-seat reads. ‘Coming Up Trumps’ earns its right to exist – a remarkable life winningly told. Aurum’s paperback selection of John Betjeman newspaper pieces, ‘Lovely Bits of Old England’, is a treat.

Best film – ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’. Impeccable in every respect. Ralph Fiennes delivers a tour-de-force performance. Tenacious and good as Leslie Howard’s Scarlet Pimpernel. Or Anthony Valentine as Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman. There’s one for the teenagers. Someone would have to have a pretentious heart of stone not to love ‘Paddington’, too.

Memorably best new TV – Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC documentaries on Paul Nash and William Sickert, with the centennial focus on World War One. Most momentous TV – a repeat in March 2014 of a 1979 episode of ‘Top of the Pops’. Momentous because my wife was on-screen in the audience, then aged 14. Who could have known that thirty-five years later we would be thanking our lucky stars that the presenter she found herself standing next to that week was blameless Mike Read?

 

—David Westlake

 

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‘Play Dusty For Me’ by David Westlake will be re-issued by Captured Tracks (LP & CD) on 18 April 2015. ‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ by The Servants is available now on Cherry Red Records (2CD) and on Captured Tracks (2LP).

http://www.lostsheep.com/davidwestlake
http://www.cherryred.co.uk/
http://www.capturedtracks.com/

 


 

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K. Leimer (Seattle, USA)

For the third installment in Brooklyn-based RVNG Intl.’s archival series, the tape is wound back to 1970s Seattle, home place of ambient music pioneer K. Leimer. ‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 – 1983)’ unearths unreleased portions of Leimer’s vast archives and highlights the work of a self-taught visionary whose use of generative compositions ferried his music to infinite resonance. Kerry Leimer was born in Winnipeg, Canada. He was raised in Chicago before his family permanently settled in Seattle in 1967. This year’s ‘A Period of Review’ heralded one of 2014’s most prized re-issues. K. Leimer’s forthcoming full-length player, ‘The Grey Catalog’ will be released on Palace Of Lights in January 2015. 

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It’s odd that highly obscure music, written and recorded more than 34 years ago, would matter in any way at all today. So despite performing again and completing and releasing a few albums on our little label, much of the past year was spent talking and writing about the germinal work that was assembled as ‘A Period of Review’. Which made 2014 seem more like 1979 to me. But between bouts of studio time and grappling with miles of tape there was some remarkable listening: Gudnadóttir’s ‘Saman’; the Jakob Ullmann ‘Fremde Zeit’ / ‘Addendum’ box; Taylor Deupree’s ‘Faint’; David Sylvian’s ‘There’s a light that enters…’; Nils Frahm’s ‘Screws’; and A Wing Victory for the Sullen’s ‘Atomos’. impossibly rich diversity and innovation. And now wrapping up the year with ‘Different Every Time’, a book that’s unevenly written but compelling all the same. And the recording — especially important to me because it includes Wyatt performing one of the ‘Experiences’ by John Cage from a record, also thirty+ years old, originally issued on the Obscure label. Now if i could just find the piano pieces from that same document! The free hours that remained were given over to compiling another reissue, based on ‘The Neo-Realist’ (at Risk). A compilation for my fake rock band Savant which will be released in the first half of 2015. Titled ‘Artificial Dance’, it seems set to guarantee that my experience of 2015 will seem more like 1982. But beyond the solace and joy of such sustained musical innovation and accomplishment, the overriding experience of 2014 remains the naked violence and injustice that my country visits upon so many people. Our own citizens routinely and unjustifiably killed by police; The published and redacted details of the Bush administration’s torture program; pornographic levels of wealth set beside unprecedented income inequality; blanket denials of our shared environmental crisis. Just who is meant to be left solvent and able to purchase the refrigerator magnets and iCrap that drives most of the culture?

 

—K. Leimer

 

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‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’  is available now on RVNG Intl.

http://www.palaceoflights.com/
http://igetrvng.com/

 


 

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Matthew Collings (Edinburgh, UK)

Matthew Collings is a Scotland-based composer. In addition to his solo recording and live output, he collaborates regularly with artists from disparate backgrounds, including musicians Dag Rosenqvist from Jasper TX and Denovali label-mate Talvihorros, dancers and filmmakers. 2014 marked the release of Collings’ new sophomore full-length, ‘Silence Is A Rhythm Too’ on the prestigious German-based independent label, Denovali Records.

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So, 2014.

Has been another year of slow growth. I spent much of the year wrestling with the idea of Edward Snowden. Realising that my work is much better off with other people, and made with other people…and so am I.

It saw various births and deaths of beautiful people who I will miss and look forward to getting to know. I wonder what role I will play in people’s lives.

This year saw a furry of releases – a beautiful vinyl/photobook with Elin Svennberg, the dark yet uplifting pop of Graveyard Tapes, and a new record in ‘Silence is a Rhythm Too’ and a re-release of ‘Splintered Instruments’ on Denovali. 2015 will expect the Snowden monster to rear it’s head, as well as a record with Dag Rosenqvist which I’m finishing right now.

I’ve been incredibly lucky this year to meet so many amazing, inspiring people. The thought of them keeps me positive when I start to complain about my place and position in the world, which I really have no ground to do.

I’m a very very lucky person.

Some music to listen to this year: These New Puritans, Ben Frost, Talvihorros, Numbers are Futile.

Here’s to 2015 ; chasing sound, not chasing my tail.

 

—Matthew Collings

 

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‘Silence Is A Rhythm Too’ is available now on Denovali.

http://mcollingsmusic.com/
http://www.denovali.com/

 


 

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Sophie Hutchings (Sydney, Australia)

‘White Light’ is the latest collection of mesmerising piano music from Sydney-based composer and pianist Sophie Hutchings. Beginning with 2010’s debut ‘Becalmed’, the gifted composer has crafted her unique blend of neo-classical, piano-based compositions, which would later be followed-up with the spellbinding ‘Night Sky’ LP in 2012. Both records are available now on the Australian independent label, Preservation. Hutchings is currently working on her third studio album – and follow-up to ‘Night Sky’ – which will be released in 2015.

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Does anyone get nostalgic as midnight creeps towards the closing of a year, the beginning of another…… Reminiscent. Looking back over years, contemplating life…….

As a child I often created a sacred moment as the year wound down. Preparing for the approaching strike of midnight, setting up the record player with one of mum or dad’s records. I took life very seriously! Always allowing a moment over midnight to ponder over life… And so we should…… Casting our minds back and then casting it ahead in view of a new beginning.

I often start the year with the goal of uncomplicating my life. Uncluttering my brain… Simplfying and yet as weeks and months go by, slowly or quickly enough, the complicated starts to work its way back in. Whether it be the things in your life or the things you fill your mind with…

There was a lot of creative purging this year associated with writing the new album.. The highs and lows that come with that and life in general. So as I venture down the beautiful south coast of Australia this week, and make my way through the diverse landscapes of Myanmar in January, I want to remind myself of a basic fact. The simple things in life can offer so much contentment…

A boundless vast ocean, lying under a star lit sky, or gazing into an open fire……..Things like these..
I’m going to press the reset button and see how it goes for me this year ….

 

Inspiring Highlights of 2014:

Reads and Watch:
First read of 2014 – Donna Tarts ‘The Goldfinch’ one of the best contemporary authors to date. Her compelling narratives lead to not being able to put the book down!..

‘Tracks – The documented Solo Journey of Robyn Davidson’ (also known as ‘The Camel Lady’) through the Australian West Desert. The cinematography and soundtrack by Garth Stevenson created for the actual film was also a highlight.

Reading Solzhenitsyn’s contemplative and symbolic story ‘The First Circle’ depicting the lives of a secret research development made up of Gulag inmates set in Moscow. His sayings and philosophy on life pack some punch… Indeed an author to respect.

I watch so many movies so this is a hard one, but first one that comes to mind is Lao film ‘The Rocket’. It wasn’t released this year but was a standout for me. After living in Laos for sometime, Kim Mordaunt (director) was inspired to write the film whilst working on the documentary ‘Bomb Harvest’, and discovering Laos was the most bombed country on the planet, per capita. Two young children play the main characters in the movie, both whom had never actually acted before. It was a really inspiring film and gives insight to a country that has suffered at the hands of war.

I wanted to watch Béla Tarr’s 8 hour epic film ‘Satantango’ this year and it’s on my film hit list for 2015! There’s some beautiful shots HERE from it set to one of my all favourite composers Arvo Pärt.

Music:
I’ve been embracing a few new musical eras and genres. 60’s Vietnamese rock, Gamelan and also Turkish singer songwriter Fikret Kızılok!…
Also, ‘Open’ by The Necks was on high rotation.
Cleaning the house to this year’s Liars release ‘Mess’.
Touring with Ólafur Arnalds…
Creatively purging and mapping out the journey for the new album which will continue into the new year…….

All the best to everyone’s start to 2015.

 

—Sophie Hutchings

 

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‘White Light’ is available now as a free download via Bandcamp HERE. ‘Becalmed’ and ‘Night Sky’ are out now on the Preservation label.

http://www.sophiehutchings.com/
http://www.preservation.com.au/

 


 

To read Part 1 of Don’t Look Back, click HERE.

To read our Albums & Re-issues of 2014, click HERE.

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FracturedAir
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Fractured_Air
Mixcloud: http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/

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Fractured Air 16: Excavation (A Mixtape by Seti The First)

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Seti The First is the Ireland-based cello-led group comprising the songwriting duo of Kevin Murphy (cello) and Thomas Haugh (drums, marxophone, percussion). ‘Melting Cavalry’ was the band’s debut album, released in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim. The band’s distinctive sound draws inspiration from a wide number of diverse sources (Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, Henryk Gorecki, The Haxan Cloak) as demonstrated by this enthralling mix, compiled by Thomas Haugh.

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Hulk is Thomas Haugh’s solo project. He has released material with UK labels Static Caravan, Expanding and Melodic; releasing the two albums ‘Silver Thread Of Ghosts’ (2005) and ‘Rise Of A Mystery Tide’ (2008), both can be found via the Irish independent label Osaka. Meanwhile, Kevin Murphy had previously recorded music as Igloo in the late nineties — a creative collaboration between Murphy and Cian Roche with Barnes Goulding on drums. Both Murphy and Haugh have collaborated with a vast array of artists over the years also: Adrian Crowley, Gavin Friday, Andrew Phillpott (formerly of Depeche Mode), Stephen Shannon (via Shannon’s Strands project), John Spillane and Ger Wolfe. Last year, Seti The First provided the original score to the soundtrack for Paul Duane’s film ‘Natan’, a documentary on the Franco-Romanian film director Bernard Natan. Currently, the band are putting their finishing touches to their as yet untitled follow-up to their majestic debut ‘Melting Cavalry’.

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Fractured Air 16: Excavation (A Mixtape by Seti The First)

To listen on Mixcloud:
http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-16-excavation-a-mixtape-by-seti-the-first/

Tracklisting:

01. Ars Nova ‘Hejnał Średniowieczny’ [DUX]
02. Kaboom Karavan ‘Wälzer’ [Miasmah]
03. Mica Levi ‘Meat to Maths’ [Milan/Rough Trade]
04. Svarte Greiner ‘Raggsokk’ [Type]
05. Simon Fisher Turner ‘All Paths Lead To Rome’ [Demon/Él]
06. Mihály Vig ‘The Turin Horse’ [The Turin Horse OST]
07. The Haxan Cloak ‘Miste’ [Tri Angle]
08. Benedicte Maurseth / Knut Hamre ‘Rameslått I’ [Heilo]

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Notes on selection:

01. Taken from album ‘Muzyka dawna na Wawelu’ (Music on Wawel Castle) released on Polish label DUX Recording Producers (founded in 1992 by Malgorzata Polanska and Lech Tolwinski, graduates of the sound engineering department of the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw).

02. Kaboom Karavan is the alias of Belgian soundwizard and musician Bram Bosteels. Kaboom Karavan released 3 albums through the Berlin-based Miasmah label.

03. Taken from the soundtrack to ‘Under The Skin’, directed by Jonathan Glazer, adapted from the debut novel by Michel Faber.

04. Taken from the limited 7″ (300 copies) on Type Records.

05. Taken from the original soundtrack to the film ‘Caravaggio’, directed by Derek Jarman (1986).

06. Taken from Mihály Vig’s score for Béla Tarr’s 2011 film ‘The Turin Horse’ (A torinói ló).

07. Taken from The Haxan Cloak (Bobby Krlic)’s 2013 album ‘Excavation’.

08. Taken from ‘Amina’, an album recorded in Sofienberg Church, Oslo, March 2011, available on Norwegian label Helio (a sub-label to the Grappa record label).

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The follow-up to ‘Melting Cavalry’ is a forthcoming release by Seti The First.

http://setithefirst.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/SetiTheFirst

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To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, & Twitter HERE.

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Written by admin

June 3, 2014 at 11:08 am

Colleen with Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer

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The following is our account of Colleen’s first visit to Cork, Ireland, for her performance at Triskel Christchurch, on Saturday 2nd November 2013. Colleen was supported by the immense talents of Seti The First and Áine O’Dwyer.

Words: Mark & Craig Carry, Photographs: Izabela Szczutkowska

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“Raven, why stare at me with those eyes?
Don’t you know I love you
Just as you are?”

(“Raven”, taken from Colleen’s “The Weighing Of The Heart”)

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Saturday 2nd November 2013. Today is the day we have the joy and pleasure of bringing Colleen (aka French musician Cécile Schott) over to County Cork, Ireland, for her first performance here. The concert is to be held at Triskel Christchurch, Tobin Street, Cork. It’s been ten years since we both first picked up Colleen’s debut album “Everyone Alive Wants Answers”, a record which seemed to open up a whole new world of sound when we first heard it (we would have been eighteen years old, anxious to discover what music beyond the “norm” sounded like). We purchased the CD from our beloved local record store, Plugd Records, at its then location on Washington Street in Cork City. A decade later – and a string of much cherished Colleen albums later – the special soul of Cécile Schott would conclude her “The Weighing Of The Heart” tour (comprising her first live shows in almost five years) in the environs of our own hometown.

A new departure in Colleen’s ever-expanding sound could be witnessed by Schott’s new material on the night (“Lighthouse”, “Captain Of None” and “I’m Kin”) where the influence from the rich musical landscape of Jamaica (through a new dub-like treatment to her compositions) can be heard. “Lighthouse”, already premiered earlier in the year on Colleen’s European tour, contains a repeated mantra-like vocal, where Schott’s voice is at it’s most sumptuous and enchanting to date. Both the lullaby-like vocal delivery of the central lyric “Lights on the ocean” and a short passage on the viola da gamba are looped repeatedly while Schott layers the tapestry-like composition to it’s richly nuanced and beautifully intricate climax. Elsewhere, the new focus on rhythm and percussion are richly evident – augmented by the use of a floor tom drum and an octabass octaver pedal – the latter adding a dynamic, bass-heavy sound to the rhythm – revealing both the boundless possibilities and the forever-expanding inventiveness of Colleen’s most sacred and precious sounds.

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“Be still, don’t do that
I wanted to be here alone
Who are you, I only know
You’re not the person I wanted to
look like What’s up with you
look like you’ve seen a ghost”

(“Hyperbolia”, taken from Áine O’Dwyer’s “Anything bright or startling?”)

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“I’ve always experimented with and enjoyed using extended techniques more so than using additional technology. It’s really lovely to bow the lower base steel strings of a harp. A lengthy piece of rubber cable also creates a nice drone. Playing on dampened strings comes in handy. (excuse the pun) Drum brushes work beautifully. I like to lay the harp down flat and play it as a hammer dulcimer too, given the chance. Metal or glass slides work very well along the strings. If I want a guitar or lute sound, I pluck the string closer to the sound board rather than in the center. Playing it backwards is fun! After that, there’s plectrums, harmonics, tremors, string bending……So, plenty of possibilities there before I ever think of plugging it in.”

(Áine O’Dwyer, on discussing the harp’s possibilities)

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“Musically, it represents a bit of a departure from our first record Melting Cavalry so we are both nervous and excited at the same time. It will be still cello driven but Thomas’s Marxophone is set to take a very prominent position also.”

(Kevin Murphy, Seti The First, on the forthcoming second album by Seti The First)

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“O you my heart be feather-light!”

(Taken from Colleen’s “The Weighing Of The Heart”)

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“Once Upon a Time There Was a Pretty Fly (Lullaby)”

Once upon a time
There was a pretty fly
He had a pretty wife
This pretty fly
But one day
She flew away
Flew away

She had two pretty children
But one night these two pretty children
Flew away
Flew away
Into the sky
Into the moon

(Taken from the 1955 film “The Night Of The Hunter”)

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“At the time of making the album, I just wanted my music to reflect a sense of joy and movement in a way. So I think getting into percussion and into rhythm, it really helped me approach my instruments differently and to step out of my usual patterns.

So, definitely when I started to learn percussion, it mostly started with learning the frame drum. Then all of a sudden, I finally understood how the basic rhythms are put together, and then when I took my other instruments, it just felt immediately natural to play in a more accented rhythmic way.

So I think it’s definitely a big step forward and I’m really looking forward to keeping on working in that direction. It’s what I really want to explore further is the rhythm and the use of the voice, that’s definitely the step forward for me I think.”

(Cécile Schott, in conversation about adding percussion to her music, May 2013)

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“Actually, it’s the most common combination, you know, in popular music in the wide sense: It’s someone singing and they’re playing some kind of instrument at the same time. And obviously that’s been going on for the longest time in history and I thought, well, if I am going to use my voice now, I have to make sure it’s really, really special and I have to keep the thing I did have which was special in my instrumental music. So I did work very hard in trying to achieve that.”

(Cécile Schott, in conversation about adding vocals to her music, May 2013)

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“I rise like the sun above olive trees, like the moon above date palms. Where there is light, I shall be. Where there is darkness, there is none of me. I rise like the moon above date palms. I am counted as one among stars.”

(Excerpt taken from The Egyptian Book of the Dead)

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“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”

―Carl Sagan, “Cosmos”

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“Moon be bright and shine”

(Taken from Colleen’s “The Moon Like A Bell”)

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All photographs by Izabela Szczutkowska (http://www.izyandthesunshines.blogspot.ie).

(The complete series of photographs can be see HERE.)

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Very special thanks to: Cécile, Áine, Seti The First, Lawrence, Triskel Arts Centre, Izabela and everybody in the audience. 

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Written by admin

November 25, 2013 at 10:03 am

Something’s Going On: Colleen plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer

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We are delighted to present Colleen (plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer) at Triskel Christchurch Cork on Saturday 2 November 2013. The concert will be Colleen’s debut Cork performance and will feature support from acclaimed cello-led group Seti The First and Áine O’Dwyer. Early bird tickets are priced at €13 and are on sale now. Full details below.

Posters: Craig Carry

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Fractured Air & Triskel presents:
Colleen plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer
Saturday 2 November 2013 / 7:30pm / €15/€13

Colleen is the alias of French musician Cécile Schott who, from 2003 to 2007, released three critically acclaimed albums on The Leaf Label. After a long break from music-making and live performance, she is now back with a new album, The Weighing of the Heart, out now on Second Language.

While her first album Everyone Alive Wants Answers was made up entirely of acoustic samples taken from her eclectic record collection, second album The Golden Morning Breaks saw her exploring a wide range of instruments which she all played herself – cello, classical guitar, ukulele, music boxes, windchimes, and a rare 19th century glass harmonicon. After the music box interlude of the Colleen et les Boîtes à Musique EP, she made an old dream come true with 2007’s Les Ondes Silencieuses – a modern album using almost exclusively baroque instruments (viola da gamba, spinet, clarinet, classical guitar and crystal glasses), focusing on their resonance and the silence between the notes.

The Weighing of the Heart, however, sees a significant shift in Colleen’s approach: she is now focusing her attention on the possibilities of the voice and on a more colourful and rhythmic approach, using a treble viola da gamba tuned like a guitar and various percussion instruments. The combined influences of Arthur Russell, Moondog, Brigitte Fontaine and the music of the African continent loom large in her new work, and the live show will be a direct reflection of this new direction.

Colleen has played live all over Europe, the US, Brazil, Singapore and Japan, giving more than 150 shows in prestigious or original venues such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and Union Chapel in London, the Britannia Panopticon music Hall in Glasgow, Dublin’s Spiegeltent, Brussels planetarium, the Sé cathedral of Lisbon, San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre and New York’s Society for Ethical Culture, as well as some world-renowned festivals such as The Wire’s Adventures in Music Festival in Chicago, Transmediale in Berlin, Mutek in Canada, Présences Electronique in Paris, and many more.

Colleen’s performance at Triskel Christchurch will mark Cécile Schott’s debut performance in Cork.

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Press:

“Maybe it’s the hummed choral lines with their medieval inflections, maybe it’s the Zorba-the-Greek style echoing classical guitar, maybe it’s the simple thudding drumming, earthy and minimal. Schott’s work here takes you to all sorts of places while all the while keeping your focus firmly hooked on the music, this beautiful music, at hand.”
(The Quietus)

“There is a distinct sense that this is an album that’s been stowed away in the back of her mind for years, and that what has changed in the last decade is that she has finally developed the ability and the peace of mind to finish what she started. A creative leap forward doesn’t always have to mean changing your entire identity, and few albums show that as lucidly as The Weighing of the Heart.”
(Fact Magazine)

“The Weighing of the Heart has arrived with sudden, gentle surprise, like a migrating bird that has appeared too early. It is a gleaming treasure.”
(Folk Radio UK)

“Precious folk experiments…her muse has been willingly unshackled by nature.”
(UNCUT)

“‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ doesn’t disappoint, despite a considerable burden of expectation. The oneiric shimmer of her music has its contemporary analogs in the likes of Grouper and Julianna Barwick, but on this record in particular Colleen communicates with an elegance and clarity few could hope to match.”
(Boomkat)

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Discography:

Babies, active suspension, 7’’ (2002)
Everyone Alive Wants Answers, LP, The Leaf Label (2003)
The Golden Morning Breaks, LP, The Leaf Label (2005)
Mort aux Vaches, LP (live session from VPRO), Staalplaat (2006)
Colleen et les Boîtes à Musique, EP, The Leaf Label (2006)
Les Ondes Silencieuses, The Leaf Label (2007)
The Weighing of the Heart, Second Language (May 2013)

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Links:

www.colleenplays.org
https://soundcloud.com/colleenplays
www.secondlanguagemusic.com

For our interview with Cécile, please click here.

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Fractured Air & Triskel presents:
Colleen plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer
Saturday 2 November 2013 / 7:30pm / €15/€13

Early bird tickets are priced at €13 and are on sale now. Tickets are available from Triskel Arts Centre, Tobin St, Cork. Order tickets by Telephone: 021 4272 022 and online: https://triskelarts.ticketsolve.com/shows/873496800/events

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Seti The First is the much-celebrated cello-led group comprising the duo of Kevin Murphy and Thomas Haugh. ‘Melting Cavalry’ was the band’s debut album, released last year to wide critical acclaim and championed by everyone from RTE Lyric FM’s John Kelly to Copenhagen’s finest Efterklang. The band’s influences encompass a diverse array of artists, including The Haxan Cloak, Toumani Diabaté, Matthias Loibner and Hauschka to name but a few.

Since the release of ‘Melting Cavalry’, Seti The First have provided the original score to the soundtrack for Paul Duane’s film ‘Natan’, a documentary on the Franco-Romanian film director Bernard Natan. The follow-up to ‘Melting Cavalry’ is due out later this year. This concert sees the band’s eagerly-awaited return to Triskel Christchurch where they will showcase new material after last November’s memorable performance.

“We were delighted to be asked to play a triple header with Colleen and Áine O’Dwyer. It should be a really magical night. We are currently recording our second album which is obviously a big buzz for us. Musically it represents a bit of a departure from our first record Melting Cavalry so we are both nervous and excited at the same time. It will be still cello driven but Thomas’s Marxophone is set to take a very prominent position also. We have also recently finished our first soundtrack for Paul Duane’s remarkable documentary ‘Natan’. It was a real privilege for us to be involved and the experience has whetted our appetite for more. We will be showcasing material from our new record in the Triskel in November.”

Kevin Murphy, Seti The First

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Press:

“thrilling soundscapes” The Irish Times

“a thing of great beauty” John Kelly, RTE Lyric FM

“Not quite classical, not quite jazz, not quite pop, they somehow manage to weave elements of a multitude of genres (including Flamenco and folk) into pieces like, ‘La Bassinette Noir’ which, to these ears, recalls the Morricone-inspired textures utilized by Calexico and Giant Sand.” Hot Press

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Links:

http://setithefirst.bandcamp.com/

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Opening the evening will be gifted musician Áine O’Dwyer, hailing from Limerick and currently based in London. Best known as a harpist, O’ Dwyer has collaborated with a wide array of musical artists; Mark Fry & The A Lords, The Cloisters, Piano Magic, and United Bible Studies amongst many others.

The beginning of June marked the much-anticipated release of “Anything Bright Or Startling?”, the first full length album of O’ Dwyer’s released on London-based independent label Second Language. The album comprises a song cycle of fragile beauty and ambitious scope recalling the likes of Joanna Newsom, Nico and Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks.’ The album features stunning arrangements composed of harp, piano and pipeorgan, while the album also marks the first time O’ Dwyer enters into the world of song. In 2011, Áine released “Music For Church Cleaners” on the Fort Evil Fruit independent label, a collection of improvisations made on church organ recorded at St. Mark’s Church in Islington over a seven-month period.

Áine O’Dwyer has performed extensively in a wide range of live settings. This July Áine performs at the Museum Of Modern Art, New York, while in August Áine performs at the Fano free folk festival, on the island of Fano, Denmark. Áine has recently performed as part of the Museums At Night series in London to celebrate the 170th Anniversary of the Thames Tunnel and has toured extensively across both the U.K. and Ireland.

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Press:

“Ireland’s Áine O’Dwyer has treated us all to a beautiful voyage. It’s a voyage that sails through the golden harps of sunshine and through the thick sludges of pitch black terror. Arching over all, like an intricate, entangled vine, is an excited beauty…” (Fluid Radio)

“…[O’ Dwyer] proffers a potent combination of plangent, arpeggiated folk beauty and soaring vocal melodies alloyed to an almost feral Gaelic earthiness.” (Second Language)

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Links:

https://soundcloud.com/aine-o-dwyer
www.secondlanguagemusic.com
For our interview with Áine, please click here.

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Fractured Air & Triskel presents:
Colleen plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer
Saturday 2 November 2013 / 7:30pm / €15/€13

Early bird tickets are priced at €13 and are onsale now. Tickets are available from Triskel Arts Centre, Tobin St, Cork. Order tickets by Telephone: 021 4272 022 and online at: https://triskelarts.ticketsolve.com/shows/873496800/events

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Something’s Going On: Seti The First

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Interview with Kevin Murphy, one half of Seti The First who perform the Triskel Christchurch, Cork on Thursday 8th November. Tickets: 10 euro. During our interview, Kevin discusses the music of Seti The First, the creative process invloved, musical inspirations, origins of ‘Melting Cavalry’, their cello-based instrumentals, Efterklang and plans for 2013.

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

Seti the First’s debut album entitled ‘Melting Cavalry’ has been championed by everyone from RTE’s John Kelly to Denmark’s Efterklang. The reason why is simple. The Irish musicians of Kevin Murphy and Thomas Hough who make up Seti The First, create utterly transcendent instrumental music of sheer beauty. ‘Melting Cavalry’ is a rare treasure. Album opener ‘La Bassinette Noir’ starts with an urgency of warm percussion and acoustic instrumentation. Pastoral folk spendour is etched across a cinematic landscape of gorgeous cello, viola and double bass. The music of Seti The First sounds familiar yet unknown, steeped in magical notes and melodies. ‘Sugar To Sea Lion’ contains eerie strings played over brooding trumpets echoing Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ score work for ‘The Proposition’. ‘Victory Motel’ is sublime. The instrumental begins with a plucked double bass beaneath delicate cello and viola conjuring up a sound similar to French composer Colleen. Rhythmic pulses of strings begin ‘New Brass Bird’ that could be Reich or Glass. For fans of Hauschka, Dirty Three, Rachel’s, Marsen Jules et al, you will certainly not be disappointed. Please go seek out ‘Melting Cavalry’ and witness their live performance in the Triskel Christchurch on Thursday, 8th November.

Thank you very much Kevin and Thomas for taking your time to talk about your music and Seti The First.  Congratulations on your debut album ‘Melting Cavalry’, a record of sheer beauty and cinematic delight. Truly transcendent moments abound. The album fits perfectly next to Dirty Three, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis scores, Rachel’s and Kronos Quartet.  

Firstly, I would love to gain an insight into the creative process of Seti The First? The compositions on ‘Melting Cavalry’ are written by Kevin (cello, double bass & tenor viola) and Thomas (lap zithers, ukelin and percussion). How and when are the compositions born? Does one member have an idea and work from there, or is it purely created when you are both present and collaborating together?

In short yes to both. In some cases one of us has an idea, which is presented to the other for interpretation. For example, I presented Thomas with certain cello based ideas which he developed and served back to me. In some cases, tunes like Sugar to Sea-Lion or Victory Motel did not stray too far from the original sketching while tunes such as Melting Cavalry or A Ship  A Ghost are almost unrecognizable when compared with their original forms. In other cases the tunes were written by the two of us at the same time, e.g. Bassinette Noir and Citric Dirt. In the case of Citric Dirt it was written and recorded in its basic form in about a half an hour – we got very lucky.

Where does the wonderful title of ‘Melting Cavalry’ originate from?

The title comes from an odd but persisting childhood memory I have. Myself and my brother were playing with plastic soldiers when we were kids and for some reason (sheer boredom I think) decided to burn them for entertainment. We put them into a truck and torched them. You know as a kid your toys tend to have their own real personalities so I had this feeling for days that I had participated in a mini-holocaust.

I have only recently seen the beautiful music video for ‘La Bassinette Noir’, directed by your friend and colleague, Adrian Crowley. The footage compliments the music so beautifully. What is the inspiration behind ‘La Bassinette Noir’? As the album opener, its divine sound of pastoral folk etched across a cinematic landscape of gorgeous cello, tenor viola and double bass, pours such raw emotion. 

Bassinette Noir is inspired by Patrick Suskind’s book Perfume and its hero Grenouille, who is devoid both of scent and conscience. The more frantic parts of the tune refer to Grenouille’s dark manic fixations while the more blissed-out musical sections are intended to reflect the ecstatic feelings he experiences when killing. It is therefore designed to be a musical echo of a pretty dark tale celebrating the seductiveness of an inert conscience.

Tell me about your working relationship with Adrian Crowley. You have worked closely with him right up to his latest album, ‘I See Three Birds Flying?’

Both of us are friends of Adrian and big fans of his beautiful music. I have played live with Adrian on and off for the past 4-5 years. My approach to the cello seems to compliment what he does live so it’s a good match. I also played on his records ‘Long Distance Swimmer’ and ‘I See Three Birds Flying’. Thomas has a longer history with Adrian and has played live and produced some of Adrian’s recordings.

You have both worked with a diverse array of artists. For you both, which of those collaborations were the most rewarding and fulfilling?

Collaborations tend to be brief and therefore limited in scope. The collaborations I have enjoyed the most are those that have taken more time, as it is more possible to get to know the music properly and make a genuine creative contribution. I have played with Valerie Francis for a number of years and have enjoyed the freedom to get inside her songs and the same would be the case with Adrian Crowley’s stuff. A few years back I played with Gavin Friday for about a year. This was a big challenge for me and I loved it for that reason. I have also done an amount of work with Andrew Phillpott from the Broad Bean Band and formerly of Depeche Mode. Unfortunately we have never released anything we recorded which is a shame because I thought it was all great stuff. I have also worked with Stephen Shannon (aka Strands) a lot on his own Strands stuff, some stuff he did with half-set and other projects he has produced. We have always worked well together and have established an excellent artistic rapport. I have also spent time working with Folk singer songwriters John Spillane and Ger Wolfe which I have enjoyed immensely, again because I had the time to develop ideas with them.

Before Seti The First, there was music aplenty. Kevin, you were in Dublin based band Igloo, and Thomas, you were making music under the guise of Hulk. I’d love to know more about these musical ventures please. (Forgive me, I’m not familiar with these previous incarnations but I will seek them out, are there releases still available?)

Igloo existed in the mid to late nineties and was a creative collaboration between myself and Cian Roche with Barnes Goulding on drums. It was like a cross between Doves, See Feel and The Chemical Brothers – a sort of aggressive/bliss cocktail, best enjoyed with a few cocktails. We only released one EP ‘Great Motivator’ and to be honest I have no idea how one would get ones hands on it.

Hulk is Thomas’s solo project. He has released material with UK labels Static Caravan, Epanding and Melodic. It is a combination of organic and electronic sound with live instrumentation which produces atmospheric and expansive music. Hulk’s records include ‘Silver Thread of Ghosts’ and ‘Rise of a Mystery Tide’ both of which are on the Osaka label.

My favourite piece on ‘Melting Cavalry’ is ‘Victory Motel’. The moment when the piano enters mid-way through is one of the finest moments on the album for me. What is the inspiraion behind ‘Victory Motel’? 

Victory Motel is intended as a moral antidote to Bassinette Noir. It is inspired by the film LA Confidential from James Elroy’s novel. Ed Exley and Bud White take on the endemic corruption in the LAPD and the climactic shootout scene goes down at the Victory Motel. The dramatic brass canon at the end of the tune is supposed to symbolize personal sacrifice for the collective triumphing over self-interest.

There is such an intricate arrangement of strings, brass, piano that evokes such meaning and emotion. How long did ‘Victory Motel’ take to arrive at completion?

Not really. Funnily enough Victory Motel proved to be probably the least problematic in terms of arrangement. Everything we threw at it just sort of stuck pretty much straight away. It kind of arranged itself.

This very piece, ‘Victory Motel’ was recently picked by Denmark’s Efterklang for an exclusive mixtape compiled for Under The Radar. You must have been delighted with this. Tell me about your thoughts and feelings on Efterklang. 

We are huge fans of Efterklang and so were absolutely thrilled to be included in the mix-tape. For people writing the kind of music we do,  Efterklang are giants. They weave experiment with natural expression in an unpretentious way and provide at very high bar to aim at in this respect. Praise from them has probably been the highlight of releasing the record so far.

‘Sugar To Sea Lion’ contains an utterly evocative soundscape fronted by soaring strings and brooding trumpets. The piece was featured in the highly acclaimed film ‘Hidden Garden’ by Garvan Gallagher. Was the piece written specifically for the film in mind? If so, what is your approach to making music for a film? Similarly, ‘Citric Dirt’ was a score to Dearbhla Glyn’s portrayal of the Gaza Tunnel in ‘Ag Filleadh Ar Gaza’? I would love to know the creative process involved here where you’re composing music for the portrayal of the Gaza Tunnel.

In both cases the directors in question got their hands of early demos of Melting Cavalry and used pieces they thought suited their visual purposes. So in both cases we had no input into linking the music to the images. In the case of the Gaza tunnels, our piece Citric Dirt works really well I think and was a brilliant moment for me to see our music being associated with a piece of film highlighting the daily life and death struggle faced by Palestinians.

Of course music and film have gone hand in hand on many occasions, for example Lambchop’s score for F.W. Murnau’s ‘Sunrise’and Johannn Johannsson’s collaboration with Bill Morrison on ‘The Miners’ Hymns’. Which are the films or filmmakers that you would love to collaborate on?

Regarding our own music, we expressly set out not to write music to be primarily used for film. That said our music is cinematic and we are interested in collaborating with film makers whose work suggests a congruence with our own approach. For example, at the moment we are working with Paul Duane, a film maker from Dublin who is making a documentary on the tragic and triumphant life of French film maker Bernard Natan. Paul also made a well known documentary on the life of John Healy who penned the classic The Grass Arena. Healy’s life is also a tale of triumph and tragedy, twin themes which STF also try to capture.

 The band Dirty Three took twelve or more years before they decided to have a guest vocalist on one of their songs; which was Cat Power, on ‘Great Waves’. With Seti The First, if you ever decided to add vocals to a track, what singer would you have in mind?

Not too sure about this. In theory I would have no objection to any vocalist trying their hand at developing our tunes. If Madonna is interested for example, we wont get in her way!! Actively pursing the idea of adding vocals creatively on STF is something we will deal with very carefully. Both of us are keen to experiment with vocals on the next record though I’m not sure they will be regular vocals with lyrics but will rather be more likely employed to sit like any other instrument in a supporting way. We have started experimenting already in this respect. Both of us are fans of Liz Fraser, although our own approach is more likely to be from the Jónsi school of singing.

Listening to your music brings to mind an array of composers such as Kronos Quartet and Steve Reich. Which composers influence you the most?

Yeah, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, Henryk Gorecki – the usual suspects. For me Arvo Pärt stands out the most.

Which albums have had for you the most significant impact on your lives and music?

For Thomas, the most influential albums include, Treasure – Cocteau Twins; Hatful of Hollow – The Smiths; and Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Penguin Cafe Orchestra. For me, Loveless – My Bloody Valentine; Banana Album – Velvet Underground; and Back in Black – ACDC and more recently The Haxan Cloak – The Haxan Cloak.

As regards influential musicians, Thomas includes: Matthias Loibner; Phonophani (Espen Sommer Eide); Toumani Diabaté; Soliman Gamil and Simon Jeffes. I would also include Matthias Loibner as a major influence. We both saw him play in Dublin recently and while I wouldn’t be easily given to hyperbole I would say that he must be one of the greatest living musicians. I am also a fan of Hildur Guðnadóttir, Hauschka and Efterklang.

What is next for Seti The First?

Our most immediate concern is the music for Paul Duane’s documentary on Bernard Natan. That should keep us occupied for a lot of November. We have also started our second album and will continue with that. Hopefully this will be out around March/April of next year. On the live front we are hoping to test the waters in Berlin in the new year to see how STF is received in Germany – must brush up on my German.

The band play Triskel Christchurch, Cork on November 8th and The Sugar Club, Dublin on November 10th. What will the live set up consist of?

There will be two cellos – myself and Mary Barnecutt; Thomas will play the marxphone, zithers and some percussion; Aki plays nikelharpa and Patrick Lyons plays Spanish guitar.

Seti The First play Triskel Christchurch on Thursday, 8th November and the Sugar Club, Dublin on Saturday November 10th.

‘Melting Cavalry’ is out now.  http://setithefirst.bandcamp.com

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win a pair of tickets to Seti The First’s much-anticipated Cork gig (at Triskel Christchurch) on Thursday November 8th.

Written by admin

November 1, 2012 at 9:57 pm