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Central And Remote: SlowPlaceLikeHome

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Interview with Keith Mannion.

“It’s sort of second nature. As the instigator, you already know what angle you are going for but as a whole it’s capable of moulding in any way I wish.”

—Keith Mannion

Words: Mark Carry


In an interview published during 2012, I may have mentioned how SlowPlaceLikeHome’s star is surely soon to rise (forgive the unintended cliché). A great deal of the independent music scene clearly felt the same as the lone musician carved out a string of indispensable releases (including ‘There Go The Lights Again’, and the ‘Post-Hoc…’ EP) that immediately took a special hold on the listener, as music so utterly contemporary, ground-breaking yet beautifully familiar ascended into the surrounding atmosphere. I feel Mannion’s sonic experiments ceaselessly stops you in your tracks that makes you realize just how special music can be (and a record such as Mannion’s latest opus, ‘Romola’ can quickly become).

There’s no country for old music in SlowPlaceLand. South Donegal’s Keith Mannion AKA SlowPlaceLikeHome is undoubtedly making some of the most exciting and compelling electronica music, from the Knather Wood wilderness in the great North West. In the short space of one year – rewind two years to 2012 – SlowPlaceLikeHome was nothing short of prolific with two E.P.’s and one full length album under his belt. Most remarkably, with each release, Mannion continues to push the sonic envelope and conjure up new, awe-inspiring electronic soundscapes. It’s difficult to define the sound of SlowPlaceLikeHome. Electronica, psychedelica (psychedelectronica?), ambient, dance and avant pop are just floating on the surface of the sonic ocean of sound Mannion creates.

2014 has seen the eagerly-awaited full-length release of ‘Romola’, showcasing the Donegal sound sculptor’s masterful song-craft and utterly beguiling soundscapes. The intricate layers of field recordings, looped vocals, translucent beats, irresistible grooves and shimmering guitar lines are just some of the alluring trademarks of this incredible and forward-thinking artist. ‘Romola’ represents SlowPlaceLikeHome’s most singular and accomplished work to date. What is immediately apparent is not only the beautifully eclectic sounds captured on ‘Romola’ but the live aesthetic of the record’s vivid canvas of energized sound. Album opener ‘Our Rules’ begins with hazy beats and Mannion’s vocoder that slowly coalesce together with luminescent beats (think Tri Angle’s Forest Swords). Moments later, an infectious groove takes full-flight as a psychedelic whirlwind of soaring bass, sunshine-drenched harmonies and percussion conjures up the sound of Caribou’s ‘Swim’ mutated with ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ by The Flaming Lips.

The dazzling lead-single ‘She Comes In Colour Stereo’ is the distillation of a cherished record collection, such are the endless moments of ecstatic tones that pour from the speakers. Distorted guitars and shoe-gaze bliss echo and reverberate throughout as an urgency and immediacy remains intact, recalling the indie treasures of Yo La Tengo and early 90’s shoegaze era of Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine et al. A brooding darkness builds gradually throughout the title-track ‘Romola (Parts 1 & 2)‘ – later to be revisited on a re-configured ‘Romola (Part 3)‘ on part B – brilliantly brings to mind the likes of Nicolas Jaar and more particularly the guitar-based collaborative project of Darkside. A deep groove and sumptuous, reverb-drenched tones serve the gorgeous ebb and flow to this melancholic, soul-searching gem.

Set Fire To The Stars’ gives ‘Romola’ its gorgeously-constructed textures and digital warmth as the electronic elements are effortlessly fused with the organic, resulting in an immaculate, cohesive whole. The gripping heart of ‘Romola’ fades onto the distant horizon with the enlightening instrumental cut of ‘Autumn’s Children’. Clean electric guitars waltz majestically around a pattern of late night beats and Mannion’s electronic wizardry . This piece of music brings to mind my first discoveries of Ulrich Schnauss, B. Fleischmann, Clue To Kalo and the other indietronica delights of the early 00’s. A vivid sense of nostalgia is etched across the sublime sonic canvas before a beautiful string section brings the piece to a glorious close.

A cinematic dimension is attained on ‘Luna’, an electric guitar-based indie-rock opus, reminiscent of Yann Tiersen’s more recent records as an anthem from deep beneath the underground makes its way to the surface, and “headlights” above. An uplifting and joyous mood erupts on ‘Dear Diary’, as a roaring brass-line and infectious pop hooks (recalling the likes of The Sea And Cake at their compelling best) come to the forefront of the mix. As ever, Mannion’s SlowPlaceLikeHome shifts with each vita pulse and glittering beat whilst venturing down new expanses of enchanting sound. This sense of rapture is masterfully captured on the album’s penultimate track – fittingly, the (returning) title-track of ‘Romola (Part 3)’ – on the song’s shape-shifting rise, as celestial harmonies, synths, and colourful guitar licks creates a shimmering synth-pop odyssey to get beautifully lost in.


‘Romola’ is available from all good independent music stores now.



Interview with Keith Mannion.

Firstly I must congratulate you on the debut full-length record, ‘Romola’. Having released three compelling E.P’s in 2012 alone, the SlowPlaceLikeHome guise has continually explored new sonic terrain and evolving as a masterful producer and song-writer, culminating beautifully on this year’s ‘Romola’. Please take me back to the past year or so where you have been heavily immersed in the making of this record. What were your aims from the outset, Keith? The space and time you have given this particular project I imagine has shaped the overall sound and feel of ‘Romola’?

Keith Mannion: Thank you for the ego stroking mechanism there! The past year has flown by but this record has taken what seems an age to squeeze out. It’s just great to release new music.

It felt so totally juxtaposed to everything else I had done. Indeed the tracks themselves were so out of place sitting beside each other. Then, a computer meltdown and all files were lost. Well, nearly. I went about aimlessly trying to re-construct them from memory, as they were relatively fresh but to no avail.

This sparked a new departure of sorts. I felt it had to be completed. Thus, new material began flying out of me. It was almost a call-to-arms of Dr. Doom proportions.

A new beast, splatter-gunned on my desktop and it bore no resemblance to its former guise. It was meaner and leaner, for a start. The sheer frustrations of a project gone awry, showing their head.

So, being a different creation to its predecessor, it shed its skin and is whatever the listener wants it to be really.

Feels like that accidental breathing space has worked and the SPLH project has a new identity.


One of the striking aspects of the new record is the range of disparate sounds, textures and styles found throughout the album’s ten sonic creations. A kaleidoscope of sound (shoegaze, electronica, ambient, synth-pop, psychedelic bliss) unfolds as you listen to the album’s sprawling canvas of enchanting sound that reveals more upon every re-visit. Can you please talk me through the live instrumentation used on this record?

KM: I basically play everything you hear on this record. I had thought of asking some folk to guest on it but felt like I’d cheat myself of this particular batch of songs. I knew what I wanted and couldn’t ask someone else to merely recite the stuff, just for the sake of name-checkery.

Besides, that would’ve taken up more time and money than I already had. So there are countless instruments on this record. All played and tweaked to my wants and needs.


In terms of samples and found sounds, what sources did these originate from? As ever, there is a wonderful balance between the organic and synthetic, creating a beguiling and cohesive whole.

KM: I would take walks around my local forest and even trips to local beaches and strands and cliffs and record passages. From birds, to people, to the wind, water and plant/tree life. Even some chats I’d have along the way. Then I’d bring them back home and find things that rang true to me, on re-listen.

If need be, I would play a little guitar or keys over something, to see if I could take it another direction. Trial and error at times, I guess.

But I already had the ideas in my head and they were the foundations for the complete structure of the record. It was the addition of the recorded sound-scapes, which gave it crucial new dimensions.


I love the fluidity of the music where the endless layers of tracks ceaselessly generate new meaning and possibilities. The album opener ‘Our Rules’, for example must contain a multitude of layers. How much of a challenge is the process of layering of tracks on a particular song when you need to ensure the spontaneous spark of the song is captured?

KM: You’re quite correct and the whole process can be lost on myself even. But to me it isn’t a challenge. It’s sort of second nature. As the instigator, you already know what angle you are going for but as a whole it’s capable of moulding in any way I wish. If it became a chore, then time to cease working on it.

Fortunately (or unfortunately. Whichever way you look at it), there is an overwhelming amount of very commercial carbon-copied music out there at present. So many “oh-oh ohhh-ohh”s and “Hey-ho” meaninglessness, it gives some space to work with. I lack those wonderfully erudite gimmicks. Less radio play for me, I guess!


What recording equipment did you have at your disposal, and how has it changed from the recording of the previous releases?

KM: I have used much the same as past recordings but for this, I used my voice a good deal more. I made beats from cat meows, such was the significance (or not) of my new methods of experiment.


‘Our Rules’ conjures up the sound of Caribou’s ‘Swim’ record such is its brilliance. As a whole, ‘Romola’ feels like a live band record more than anything. How much of an influence has the recent SlowPlaceLikeHome live incarnation been on the making (and overall sound) of ‘Romola’, Keith? 

KM: I very much wanted to create a record that could hold up to live touring. It’s a very expensive business, to recruit a team of players to re-create the sound of the recordings. Besides, maybe you can replicate some but you can’t get THAT complete .

So in order to loosen it up a little and allow it be more stage-worthy, I concentrated on less self-absorbed songwriting. Not suffocating the songs with one-dimensional chord structures. Giving players freedom to tweak the lines somewhat.


The pristine vocals and layers of celestial harmonies dotted all over ‘Romola’ is one of the album’s great hallmarks. Can you please discuss this aspect of the music? Would the lyrics of the songs come after the tracks are laid down, or before?

KM: Well that’s a first! Never thought my vocals would be complimented. All the songs were written in a different pattern, or process. No two the same.

Everything has it’s place.


The title-track is one of the album’s highlights and serves the album’s vital pulse, especially as ‘Romola’ is present in three distinct parts. Can you talk me through how this particular track evolved into its various incarnations? I think this track alone reflects the highly imaginative quality of ‘Romola’ where new dimensions are ceaselessly added.

KM: There are two stories. The before (Romola pts. 1 & 2) and the aftermath (Part 3). I don’t really like explaining the content of the stories in detail, as I think it takes away from what may appeal to the listener. The mood swings can be easily heard through the fluxuating styles of music. This album is, itself, volatile and all 3 parts of Romola serve to almost confound on approach.

I’ve been told they are very easy listening melodies but if you listen to the lyric content, you may think again.


‘Autumn’s Children’ is an utterly beautiful ambient cut, particularly the strings on the closing section. Can you recount for me writing this particular piece of music? 

KM: I can. It was one of the first songs I ever wrote. Yes, Autumn’s Children was one of the tracks that nearly went into the great big power surge abyss. Never to return. I re-wrote it and decided to leave out the original vocal sample, which was narrated by my 5-year-old (at the time) nephew. It was written during a period where I was slightly cut off from the social aspects in my life.

Surrounded by animals and yet immersed in this very personal journey, to try and understand the human template, as my father became very ill. More juxtaposition but this time as a personal experience.


Having already played various shows this summer, what tours are planned for you next, Keith? In terms of the live set-up, I recall you mentioned the difficulties of replicating your sound to the live setting in the past. What does the live set-up comprise of for the ‘Romola’ tour?

KM: At the moment, I am working with some great people, in order to build on the live shows. As I have begun to get back into the world of gigging and attending gigs, I have met such like-minded and wonderfully honest folk, with a refreshing candor. It’s good to know where you stand in this game. ‘The business’ is a sprint at times. Timing is very important and especially when you are working with several projects and people.

Playing at a lot of the summer festivals this year (Electric Picnic, Stendhal, Castlepalooza, to name but a few) really opened my eyes to how things are rapidly changing for touring musicians. It’s a lot more difficult for original music to ‘travel’! There are some great people to deal with but I still get the invites to play somewhere for no fee and no expenses whatsoever. That is pretty impossible to do, as anybody will tell you. It’s even more daunting when you wish to ask fellow musicians to play for peanuts.

Trying to balance life outside of the music world with playing live can be a little tricky, especially as I have a full live band playing with me.

I am lining up possible tours with some very good acts and I will be gigging as much as it’s feasible.

But hey, as I said, if it became like a ‘nine to fiver’ slog, I’d hang up my dialling wand!


SlowPlaceLikeHome plays St. Anne’s Church in his hometown Ballyshannon, on November 7th, along with support from Ryan Vail and guests. BBC’s Stephen McCauley will compere the event.

‘Romola’ is available from all good independent music stores now.




Written by markcarry

September 30, 2014 at 11:55 am

Central And Remote: SlowPlaceLikeHome

with 9 comments

Interview with SlowPlaceLikeHome.

SlowPlaceLikeHome is the pseudonym for one Keith Mannion, who is responsible for some of the most compelling electronica music from these shores. Across several releases during 2012 (including ‘There Go The Lights Again’, and the most recent ‘Post-Hoc…’ EP) SlowPlaceLikeHome’s star is surely soon to rise. It’s only a matter of time.

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

There’s no country for old music in SlowPlaceLand. South Donegal’s Keith Mannion AKA SlowPlaceLikeHome is making some of the most exciting and compelling electronica music, from the Knather Wood wilderness in the great North West. In the short space of one year, SlowPlaceLikeHome has been nothing short of prolific with two E.P.’s and one full length album under his belt. Most remarkably, with each release, Mannion continues to push the sonic envelope and conjure up new, awe-inspiring electronic soundscapes. It’s difficult to define the sound of SlowPlaceLikeHome. Electronica, psychedelica (psychedelectronica??), ambient, dance and avant pop are just floating on the surface of the sonic ocean of sound Mannion creates. The most recently released, ‘Post-Hoc’ E.P. is dotted with sublime electronica infused ambient creations. The production is immaculate. Multiple layers of fresh sounds are effortlessly fused together by Mannion. ‘Age Of Onset (Parts 1 & 2)’ is a shoegaze dance exploration with an infectious groove, reminiscent of ‘The Virgin Suicides’ score. The opener ‘Blondie Chaplin Is Our Captain’ has a multitude of layered sounds where something new is heard on each re-visit. Think ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ for the dance world. Dreamy synths and psychedelic flourishes, complete with vocoder echoing Air’s voyage to Venus and Mars. ‘The Station Agent’ closes the E.P. and what a fitting close it is. Lush soundscapes with sparkling guitar tones, piano, percussion, electronics creates a space-age ballad for the 21st century. Sublime chill-out music. Previous releases, ‘Coastal Hubs For Chivalry E.P.’ (Jan 2012) and full-length player ‘There Go The Lights Again’ (Jun 2012) are more evidence of Mannion’s extreme talent and electronic wizardry. ‘You’re So Square, You’ve Got Corners’ is one of the best dance tracks of 2012. A glorious refrain and anthemic beats creates a comsic dance odyssey immersed in an eerie darkness. SlowPlaceLikeHome can simply do no wrong. One listen to Keith Mannion’s music and you will soon discover a new cutting-edge sound; for music to truly capture your mind’s imagination.


What is the creative process in making these recordings?

The Creative process… To be honest, the area here in South-Donegal and the Knather wood (where i dwell) is inspiring enough for any creative process to hatch from. Usually it only takes a notion. I mean, the ‘Coastal Hubs…EP’ was inspired by de Cervantes book, ‘The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha’.

But sometimes it’s as simple as a sound implanted in my head from just about anywhere and then it’s all go.
I’d find an instrument to try and replicate that sound. From then on, it’s fidgeting about with it and seeing what works. Proverbially, see how much mud sticks to the wall. I don’t have a studio, as such, so it’s quite a basic task in getting things done. The aim is to get that noise in my head down, before it goes A.W.O.L.


Does it change in any way for each release?

Absolutely and finding ‘your sound’ can become secondary, once you know that the limitations are near non-existant. With SPLH, I try subtlety but as each release grows into itself, I realize there are new dimensions to the game. Whether it’s simply because I just get a handle on a new instrument, or my personal situation changes, so does the track. Also, using field recordings brings a new aspect to the equation! But always, the initial theme of the record remains intact.


What were the circumstances that led to the formation of SlowPlaceLikeHome?

Basically I moved back to my home-place near Ballyshannon around 2009, when there was a family illness and I realized I needed my past-time back. After spending years away from playing music, i amalgamated a few bits and pieces and began messing around with some software. Hadn’t a clue what I was at at first but I stuck with it.

I never thought of letting the public hear it but two local guys in particular, Aido and Chris, convinced me to push the boat out and I then gave it all a title and sent it to a few more friends. One of those happened to be Albert (of Plugd records fame), whom I met through friends in Galway, over the years. He asked me to send more and it all sprung from there really. Oh, all that and I also drank from a bottle of cop-on and ceased circuit bending toys for waste-of-time noise projects.


Your album ‘There Go The Lights Again’ was my first introduction to your music. Tell me about the opener ‘You’re So Square, You’ve Got Corners’ please. I love the title and it has this utterly infectious refrain and a deep dance groove.

It was the first track I had used my own voice minus any effects. I wanted a to try and create something that would besiege earlobes and initially the track was very dark, with more muscle in the beat arena. Cue the addition of vocals and it resulted in a re-examination of it. Eventually, it was toned down until it became the steady pattern you hear. I also tried a lyric which can be deciphered differently by the listener and it seems to work. Somebody has yet to get it right!

The album is dotted with standout tracks. ‘Selkie’is gorgeous ambient/elecrtronica of dreamy synths for the moonlight hours. ‘No Country For Old Music’ is a dance anthem with shades of John Talabot and The XX. ‘Shady Jane’ is an electronic pop gem with a beautiful guitar lick, synths and vocoder. The title-track is an Air-esque sonic journey leading you to Venus or Mars. ‘Who Is…’J’? is a lullaby of swirling piano notes and lush synths reminiscent of Boards Of Canada. What is the central theme to ‘There Go The Lights Again’?

Well firstly, thank you for the kind words. Contextualizing it slightly, I guess it was supposed to be a gathering of some of the poppiest tracks I made, over a few months. I had a lot of tracks which didn’t make it. There simply wasn’t enough room. It was in danger of becoming an album and I really wanted to keep it to EP length (grey area!). Bloody long EP it became but I felt I couldn’t leave out any of the eight tracks.

They just fit together snugly. The whole idea sprung from a flippant comment made by a girl to her boyfriend one evening. I thought it hilarious at the time and the title track was done. Around it, I built a little story of childish reminiscences and anti-love tales. Both moods were prominent in the very gesture that girl made to her unwitting companion.


My current favourite is ‘Who Is ‘J’?’ The track is led by a beautiful piano melody. Was this where the song originated from?

Yup. That was a ‘late o’clock’ track. Very tired but had an opuscule in my head that wouldn’t leave all day long. My first chance to do something about it came in the wee small hours and how it flowed! I actually heard it on the radio last week and the DJ described it as it almost originated. Funny that.


How did you manage to capture that ‘sea-change’/floating sound on the album closer ‘Rearrange The Sea-Change’? It is incredible stuff.

A lot of experimenting with pedals, a clean guitar lick and a hell of a lot of trumpet-level issues. A simple plink-plonk on a synth just topped it off. It was actually recorded using a crappy computer mic! (maybe it shows!)


 Your latest E.P ‘Post-Hoc’ was just released, earlier in October. It’s the latest chapter in SlowPlaceLikeHome’s sonic venture. My favourite song of yours is the opening track on the E.P, ‘Blondie Chaplin Is Our Captain’. I’d love to know what each layer of sound is and how you put it together.

I could tell you but then I would have to kill myself! There are an obscene amount of tracks that go into the make-up of that song. Initially, it was the equivalent to a pile of stuff relegated to the scrapheap. But one accidental re-listening and out popped an idea. A few days later and and the whole thing was something completely different. In short, a fluke! It’s sequel is in the next release.


I love the cover artwork. A photograph of kites flying in a clear blue sky. It suits the music very well. Who did the artwork?

A mate of mine was at a big old garden fete, down in Austin, Texas and one of her partners in crime took a few snaps. Apparently the kite festival was the highlight of the day. That image for the cover of ‘Post-Hoc… has a filter which gives it that ever-so-spooky feel.

‘The Station Agent’ closes the E.P. Is the title inspired by the film ‘The Station Agent’? If not, where does the inspiration lie?

Ha! That is a good question. In a way, it is a nod to the Thomas McCarthy film but it was given the title merely because it reminded me of a situation at Sligo Train station. Involved an old caboose, a bag of chips and a cat. Nothing to write home about really!


What are you listening to currently?

I used to have my finger on the pulse but that slowed down. I still keep my peepers open for new things. The Irish scene is more fruitful than ever at the moment. So many good artists and some great records.Internet radio is great to have but if I want to track down new local talent, I tune into a few reliable shows here, like An Taobh Tuathail and Sweet Oblivion on RTE and Stephen McCauley on BBC. There’s actually a show on UCC with Conor O’Toole, which contains great set-lists. He should be on national radio.

If I wanted to freshen up my day, I’d go straight for my good-time jazz collection. I REALLY have a graw for that New Orleans sound. I’m eagerly anticipating the next Takagi Masakatsu record. He is an amazing artist. His music makes me want to jump for joy in a dreamscape.


What are your essential tracks to include on a DJ set?

In an all-time? Well i do know if the new Louis Walsh protege doesn’t work for the floor, you’re free to play all the Sly and The Family, you need!


You are based in Ballyshannon, Donegal. What is the music scene like in the north-west?

It’s a unique spot. An acquired taste. Donegal is a pretty expansive county, so every corner of it has a different tale to tell. Sligo is geographically closer to me than any other similarly sized town. For years the gig circuit tended to stop in Galway and now and again, Sligo would fetch a couple of outlaws of the scene. Now it’s a little different. Letterkenny has come on a good deal since the 90s and I’m only finding out about the scene in Derry. That looks extremely healthy.

Acts like Shammen Delly and the Culture Glitch label are putting perspective on the electronic/experimental.
Great voices are something that Donegal prides itself on (no more than any other musical county) and Tanya McCole is one of those. Formerly of Black Magic Big band, if the Ardara girl is gigging around, she’s a must see. Good venues are of a shortage though. Here in Ballyshannon, Dicey Reillys are opening their doors to new acts and the roster changes regularly. In fact, I used to practice in their upstairs venue on quiet nights, to sneakily tease out tracks. Behind closed doors, of course.


You have told me about the music scene you have enjoyed in Cork. I’d love to hear your reminisces, your favourite spots and acts?

I was there more than a handful of times. I use to go on, what Mr. Heff would say, ‘the annual Boa Morte trip’, down to watch them play the Lobby for a few winters in a row. I only first witnessed Cork’s charms from the early 2000s. I heard a lot changed around the turn of the century?! I was a diabhal for the quiet pint in the Hi-B, on the Sunday. Also, the PingPong gigs I was at were legendary. Punters and music fans, meeting up for the same reasons. The lads are spot-on with their acts and gave the Cork music scene a real jilt.


What’s next for SlowPlaceLikeHome? Any gigs planned?

Well for the foreseeable, it’s continue to build my empire. Then contact a certain Mr. Hewson, for advice on investing in several off-shore institutions. Move my assets to the Netherlands…oh, I’ve said too much!

Before that and in the real world, SPLH will continue to be a project releasing records in 2013. A new EP entitled ‘Romola’ is being finished off and I hope to have that ready in January of next year. It has been delayed a few times but I am quite excited about it and really want to hear the finished article. I have a date with BBC Radio before Christmas, which should be real fun.

2013 will be interesting though. Depending on the offers, I am hoping to get some form of live entity together, even for a few gigs. Fingers crossed, as in the past it hasn’t worked out. I was not pleased with the live sound, so I pulled the plug on it again and again. There may be some collaborations. It’s tough to find an efficient trianglist though.