Discover Ireland – Irish Music Under The Microscope

Talos – Photo : Olga Kuzmenko

At a time when worldwide music sales continue to decline notwithstanding the ‘great’ vinyl revival and continuous rise of more online music platforms than behoves the industry, the resounding success of the current wave of artists making up the Irish scene is quite the quirk in the global musical landscape.  It’s almost as if many of our current crop of artists are creating music both in and for a parallel universe, such is the remarkable quality, unorthodox nature, and uncharted ingenuity of their idiosyncratic outputs.

But just who makes up this ever-growing Celtic tribe whose unquenchable creativity knows no populist constraints? Who are the Irish artists currently gifting us with a wealth of musical treasure; unpolished, untarnished, glistening in its rawness?

In the first of a new ‘Discover Ireland’ series we look at some of the Irish artists who are not just sealing their credentials on the local landscape, but whose sound is in such stark contrast to that of the current flock of vanilla chart-toppers that they are making international industry veterans sit up and take notice.

Photo of Catherine Mc Grath Uncredited

In part one of the Discover Ireland series, we put ten artists with varying degrees of success under the microscope, finishing off the piece with a tailored Spotify playlist which you can follow or from which you can select a pick n mix to add to your own homespun choices.

Who? HUDSON TAYLOR, Unsigned folk duo from Dublin made up of brothers Harry and Alfie HT. Already have a huge online following as well as a couple of releases under their belt.  Around since 2011, they’ve been steadily building a solid fanbase for their ‘bro-brand’ of acoustic folk, although pegging them into the ‘folk’ hole makes them sound more twee than their pop sensibilities would allow.  Currently gigging whilst working on material for their sophomore album.  2017 should see them considerably up their musical game including stints at several of the big Summer festivals including Wilderness.

Who? THE ELATION, A Cork four-piece who share a love of “Music, Travelling, Writing, Recording, Performing” in any order you care to throw at them.  While they name-check both Kodaline and Hozier in addition to forerunners of the ’80s alternative zeitgeist Talking Heads, it is probably Brit Award Winners The 1975, also referenced, to whom their sound bears the most resemblance.

Debut release ‘Xo‘ is like a mashup between the Mancunians (think 2016 hit ‘The Sound’) and a combo of Haircut 100 and Aztec Camera flying the ’80s funk meets new wave flag. All funky foundations and groove bass floodlit by iridescent synths and fuelled by a healthy dose of blood pumpin’ beats.  They’re only at the start of their voyage and already the future looks XoX.

Who? TALOS, Experimental music project of another Cork native, Eoin French. Like the trademark slow builds in his songs, French has been gathering followers along the winding, visionary roads of his continuous musical travels since Talos’ inception back in 2013. And, like the fantastical zeniths of some of his more audacious compositions, 2017 looks set to bring its own dramatic highs when the multi-instrumentalist releases his debut album, ‘Wild Alee’, through Feel Good Lost on 21st April, the same day as his upcoming Irish tour kicks off in Dublin’s Button Factory. Full details on his FB page. Check out the official video for his current single ‘Odyssey’ here,

Who? CATHERINE MC GRATH, Co. Down born London based 19 year old hailed as the new Taylor Swift. There’s plenty of Taytay pastoral-pop ‘fluences going on but Catherine’s sound isn’t without a touch of LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood.  Leaning towards Nashville for its stylistic direction Mc Grath’s vibe isn’t without its pop sensibilities.  Plenty of finger-picking to keep the double denimers happy yet enough soft-pop to steer her into the mainstream flow.  New single ‘Starting From Now’ was released on 10th March and judging by the Spotify count (66k+ in its first week) is gonna seal her fate as one of the Taylor-type stars of the not so distant future.

Who? BURNT OUT, punk cum rap cum ‘wherever the sound needs to be apropos the moodscape’ kinda band from North Dublin.  Two songs in and already the media big cheeses are drooling.  Their latest, ‘Joyrider‘ is full on Roddy Doyle without the laughs.  Don’t be put off by the heavy-set Dublin vocals, this is more ‘mission statement’ than song.  Tackling Dublin ‘street’ culture with its inherent notion that violence, intimidation and general ‘gittery’ define current day inner-city masculinity, the song seeks to highlight the destructive influences this lads mentality has had and continues to have on young Irish males.  Social commentary doesn’t get more unequivocal than this.

Who? TOOFOOLS, “the brainchild of multi-instrumentalists Steven McCann & Lorcán O’Dwyer”. These Dublin based BIMM alumni are the cog around which many collaborative projections are formed.  While the pair are the project’s masterminds and its only permanent members, they onboard a cohort of fellow musicians to flesh out their live performances.  There’s a lot going on here and like many of their peers, TooFools aren’t foolish enough to box themselves off by sticking to a readily labelled style or sound.

There are some similarities with Norway’s chillwave, feelgood pop scene (yes, it is a thing) where the likes of Lovespeake reign supreme and like their Norwegian counterparts, TooFools muddle gold standard ingredients – funk, retro soul and Tropical pop accessorised with an infectious falsetto – to create a year round Summer sound full of rhythm and sway.  The only single released thus far, ‘Touch’ is a bloody good example of golden sounds with an expert touch on production. TooFools have hopefully, started as they mean to go on. Top Notch.

TooFools @Button Factory Photo: Claudia Verdecchia

Who? SOULÉ, Balbriggan native whose urban with a touch of class sounds are fast gaining her industry-wide recognition. Astonishingly, this part time musician cum student had her first single, ‘Love No More’, nominated for a Choice Music Prize. Soulé is one of a growing number of artists utilising the Dublin based collaborative hub Diffusion Lab and when not studying, can be found there working on new compositions, songwriting being a way of life since her childhood days.

This upcoming talent cites a plethora of influences from Macy Grey to Nineka but one can’t help recalling greats like Aaliyah, Caron Wheeler and Paris Grey as you listen to the Dubliner’s latest single, ‘Good Life‘ (even the title is redolent of what many consider to be the Inner City frontwoman’s finest hour). Creating sounds that cross over from classic soul and R&B to beat driven electronic pop,  Soulé has nailed a fresh take on tried and tested formulae.  Possibly one of the most exciting talents on the scene, get to know her before she goes global.

Who? EDEN aka Jonathan Lei Ming or the next Hozier.  The 20 year old Dublin multi-instrumentalist and vocalist extraordinaire has repeated the impossible already achieved by the Bray man by going from zero to hero without even breaking into a sweat.  In a minute period of time, he has garnered 135k followers on Spotify alone.  How the hell? Whelans bedamned, this genius of EDM dance-pop sold out prime venues from NYC to LA to Berlin and more taking in 43-dates last year alone, and as if that wasn’t wow enough, has signed up to team SB – Scooter Braun – manager to Bieber, Usher, Ariana Grande & various other elite members of the gilded world of music US stylee.

Suffice it say, we can safely assume that Eden has ‘arrived’.  His seven track mini-album, I Think You Think Too Much Of Me’ from which ‘Sex‘ is the opening track, received nothing but five star reviews for its lo-fi perfect blend of wilful electronica and smooth R&B. Move over Andrew, the new kid on the block is moving into your star-filled stratosphere.

Who? BONZAI, another 20 something about to set the world on fire.  Originally hails from Wicklow now living in London, this newbie cut her teeth with Guernsey born electronic producer Mura Masa, something which not only stood her in good stead but got her name very much in the frame.

Another crossover artist who seems to have allowed a myriad influences seep under her musical skin without the prerequiste labels, Bonzai’s style incorporates everything from grime through Brit-soul to sophisti-pop. There are, for example, some interesting nuances of Simply Red (Fairground) on the intro to the track ‘Stepping‘ from her ‘Sleep Hungry‘ EP.  Gigs and festival slots are stacking up nicely including a stint at Dublin’s District 8 weekend 25th March as well as sets at Parklife and Blissfields.

Snatched up by Colombia records, this Irish innovator is yet another firework set to explode onto the international scene.

Bonzai Uncredited

Who? LYRA Last but by no means least, this London based Cork native (yes, another one!) recently scored perfect tens all round when she delivered a blistering, high-octane performance on the Irish version of Dancing With the Stars – watch it below. Whilst comparisons with Enya and Marina Lambrini Diamandis (of The Diamonds fame) are not unfounded, for me there is more of an affinity with the wilful instrumental theatrics and free spirit Baroque pop of Florence Welch.

Her four-track debut EP, ‘W.I.L.D’, released in 2016, includes current single, ‘Emerald‘. The song, which is about remaining true to oneself, is a compelling fusion of intangible other-worldliness and widescreen warrior style instrumentals that could have led the charge of Queen Medb into Ulster, in which Lyra’s demi-operatic vocal delivery in the mould of Kate Bush, is an octave sweeping triumph. Currently riding high in the iTunes Top 10, Lyra is currently notching up some super cool dates for her Summer calendar including the biggest UK emerging artist showcase, TGE – The Great Escape.  Doubtless great things await for this unique and exceptionally talented songstress.

From melodramatic High Queens to the stark black and white realism of on point social commentary, crossing hip hop, soul, EDM and folk, this is Irish music in Ireland 2017.  Check out the first cut of my Discover Ireland playlist here … follow if you like.  You’ll find me on Facebook and Twitter @DervSwerve.  While you’re listening to the playlist you might check out Ireland.ie, the new Creative Ireland cultural website and portal to Ireland.

The Discover Ireland series will continue showcasing Irish music fortnightly.

Come On Live Long Break Bread Along With Some Bones

Photo Rich Gilligan

“It is a truth universally acknowledged” that some of the best musical relationships are those that come about purely by chance. Personally speaking, I pride myself on the number of happy accidents (Lina Kasa remains #1) that have befallen me during the 18+months since I started, as in Tom Robinson seriously started, writing about music.

My latest accidental discovery is upcoming Irish band, Come On Live Long (there’s a story there surely … unlike Killer Kid Mozart who swear there isn’t!), a four-piece who dabble in a myriad genres from dirty electronica through soul-lite to dramatic pop with flecks of folk and urban in between.

Their FB states that their hometown is Dublin though judging by some of the accents I would imagine that denotes place of residence as opposed to ‘natives of’.  How do I know this?  Because these clever dudes have only gone and uploaded a backstory to their latest single, ‘Bones to Break‘, in the form of an ‘here’s how we did it guys’ audio, onto their Soundcloud page.

This short audio tracks the construction of the song from the programming of the initial beat to the complex building of layer upon vocal layer until the production was a perfect ten. It’s a fascinating listen, not just for self-confessed studio-dummies like myself, but also for any would be, will be musicians out there, scrambling around the ‘IoT’ for scraps of wisdom thrown down from the tables of those who have themselves cut their teeth and worn the tee-shirt.

It’s 10-minutes of well thought out, unfussy home-truths about composition and recording. Stream it here…

Now, listen to the finished product!

‘es to Break’ is the lead single from the band’s upcoming sophomore album, ‘In The Still’, due for release in May 2017.  While that excited storm is brewing, one of the gigs that the band will be busying themselves with is a new Irish music meets craft beer initiative.  ‘Future Proof‘, a new live music series showcasing the best of emerging Irish talent will kick off in Bello Bar on 22nd March – tickets are available online or at the door (if they’re not already sold out!), details here.

I’ll leave you with a track from Come On Live Long’s debut album ‘Everything Fall‘.  The song is called ‘For The Birds‘ and it was its title which caught my eye on Soundcloud.  Given my current state of mind, it resonated!

With its reverbed echoey vocal and intergalactic sound fx it leans towards dreamy electro-pop but blues-hued guitar licks and sexy lounge percussion drag it back down and anchor it to a very gritty earth.  That is, until the whole thing explodes sky-high. A gloriously unexpected firework, this dramatic flourish of guitar drone and spectacular synth flares and dazzles, bringing the track to a spectacular close fading out with one last breathy note.

Check out ‘For The Birds’ and the rest of Come On Live Long’s published music on Souncloud, MySpace and Bandcamp.  You can check in with their FB and Twitter pages to keep up to speed with album and tour-date (yes, there will be a promotional tour) developments.  Derval.

The Choice Music Prize – How The Odds Are Stacked

The 12th annual Choice Music Prize, Ireland’s premier award for album and song of the year, is once again upon us.  Now sponsored by RTE, this year’s ceremony, which is being held in Dublin’s Vicar St, will see some of the crème of Irish music line up for what should prove to be an intriguing evening!  The ceremony which will be broadcast live on 2FM from 7pm, will hsve the ever popular Louise McSharry at its helm.

The shortlist is made up of ten nominees from which the eventual winner will be decided by a panel comprising bloggers, DJs, journalists and ‘industry professionals’.  This Decameron have between them produced some of the strongest albums to hit the Irish music scene in several years and comprises an eclectic mix of artists from industry stalwarts such as The Divine Comedy and Wallis Bird and emerging talents like Katie Kim and Overhead, The Albatross.

Yes, there are some glaring omissions, notably ‘New Forest’ by Cathy Davey and Dublin based Little Green Car’s ‘Ephemera’, but this year’s list of contenders is more than strong and reflects an extremely diverse batch of talent from across the very wide Irish musical spectrum.

So who are the shortlistees and how will their opuses, or opi if you’re a stickler, fare?

ALL TVINNS – IIVV

Red hot music fan faves and darlings of the media ‘smart set’ All Tvvins are possibly the most commercial cum radio-friendly of the nominees.  Their music, feisty pop rock fused with electronic elegance, is sophisticated cool with just the right amount of gung-ho on the side.  Would be a popular result amongst the music buying public. 5/4

BANTUM – MOVE

Going under the Bantum moniker, Cork man Ruairi Lynch both dipped his toes and stuck his fingers into a gazillion pies here; eclectic is an understatement.  Electro-rap, funk, and trance are just some of the myriad genres that raise their head above the parapet on this multi-dimensional critically acclaimed debut.  Would be a more than worthy winner. 10/1

WALLIS BIRD – HOME

‘Home’ is Wallis Bird’s fifth album and her most astonishing, visceral, and wonderful.  Period. This should be right up there in the short odds category, but alas is probably still ranked as an outsider by the Paddy Powers of this world.  Heart-felt lyrics, perfectly nuanced, pristine vocals, and delightfully surging choruses bursting with symphonic drama make for a sensitively arranged yet exuberant thing of love and joy.  Recognition by the Choice panel would be sweet. 5/1

THE DIVINE COMEDY – FOREVERLAND

What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said about Neil Hannon, wunder-composer, songwriter extraordinaire and lit wit behind The Divine Comedy.  ‘Foreverland’, probably in the top three albums of 2016, sees Hannon take up the mantle of Choice nominee for the second time.  It would be an incredible coup if he pulled off a Usain Bolt like double – he won in 2006 for ‘Victory For The Comic Muse’ – but, if the god’s of whimsy are smiling … Evens

LISA HANNIGAN – AT SWIM

Another entry in the top three albums of 2016, Lisa Hannigan’s ‘At Swim’ is serenity and complex simplicity personified. An highly accomplished fusion of vintage and modern-day folk-pop fleshed out with what can only be described as abstruse poetry brought to life by the gentlest and loveliest of vocals.  The underlying emotions are so perfectly and honestly conveyed they’re almost tangible. A strong contender, it would be an hugely popular win. 3/1

KATIE KIM – SALT

Relative unknown Katie Kim is one of the rank outsiders on the list, but woah what a steal if ‘Salt’ were to bag the gong.  A bit Lana del Rey with a midnight twist and cinematic fx, the Waterford native nailed her sound on this her third album.  Enigmatic, hypnotic, urgent sounds that switch from stark to grandiose with sophisticated ease.  Could be the surprise of the night! 6/1

JAMES VINCENT MC MORROW – WE MOVE

Possibly the most talked about Irish album of 2016, ‘We Move’, the third album by Dubliner James Vincent Mc Morrow is the flame white hotter than blue fave to not just walk but run away with tonight’s prize. This well oiled machine turns over soul, synths and stylish grooves with Mc Morrow’s trademark vocal to the fore of, but not dominating, its soundscape.  Like Hannigan, JVMc does a really sleek line in seeming simplicity.  Don’t be fooled.  This is a master at work.  The critics’ choice … 6/4

OVERHEAD, THE ALBATROSS – LEARNING TO GROWL

Don’t you just love the names of both band and album?  One abstract, the other ‘feral’ in nature.  Sitting alongside Bantum as partner in rank-outsidership, this Dublin sextet are nonetheless a more than worthy inclusion on the list.  The album consists of ambitious post-rock cum prog in which they run amok through a varied landscape filled with bursts of choral deliciousness, elegant orchestral flourishes, intense tightly-woven sequences and rich elongated spaces.  Everything about this album is superlative – from the warm and expansive atmosphere to the exquisite mastery of the instruments.  The connoisseurs choice 10/1

RUSANGANO FAMILY – LET THE DEAD BURY THE DEAD

It would have been a sin had this album not been included on the list.  A testament to the prevalence of hip-hop in today’s scene, ‘Let The Dead Bury The Dead’ is a thought-provoking dynamo from a trio whose star is firmly in the musical ascendant.  Kick-ass driving foundations underpin spitfire vocals and on point lyrics.  Would probably be the Mercury Music Award type of surprise if they won and would certainly knock the corners off the Rubberbandits if they did!  I jest!  Not up there with the too hot to handles but a win here wouldn’t come as a surprise to many in the industry.  7/1

WE CUT CORNERS – THE CADENCES OF OTHERS

Oh sweet guitar playing of the Caribbean how I love you. With hints of reggae, Windies jam and low slung blues bass ‘The Cadences of Others’ is as deceptive as fruit-punch; with its colourful display and killer blow, it is quite the indomitable force.  Clever lyrics, left of centre melodies and some ingenious orchestral manoeuvres make this a bit of a well-educated and riveting keeper.  In with a loud shout. 6/1

For your delectation, I’ve whipped up a playlist sampling one track (not necessarily a lead or single) from each album.  The Choice Music Prize will be broadcast live from 7pm tonight on 2FM.

Ellis May: ‘Old Love’ – Black & White Avant-Gardism From Denmark

nikolaj-moeller

The Danish music scene is currently in the ascendant having seen quite the flurry of new fledglings flit across its airwaves last year.  2017 looks set to be no different with a plethora of new releases from the cobbles of Copenhagen having already hit our freshly wiped playlist spaces.

Multi-disciplinarian Sophia Maj, is the force behind new avant-garde solo music project ‘Ellis May’.  A sound designer/engineer by trade, she has most certainly brought the weight of her technical nous to bear on its productions, the first of which, ‘Old Love’, has just been released.

‘Old Love’ is like a sonic confluence of childhood piano sketches, vintage projector reels and the kind of ‘reaching for’ demo sounds a young DM used to play around with in Hansa.  The distorted interplay of  ‘drunken’ staggering around the bass, and repetitive Nyman-like sequences pirouetting across the treble makes for quite the aural confusion.

The overall musical impression though is one of black & white vintage; a faded, scratchy, slightly damaged musical accompaniment to an early 1920s silent movie of a Germanic persuasion.

The vocal is another trip back in time, albeit a more extraordinary and ambiguous one.  It has all the black and white smoky drawl and froideur of Marlene Dietrich strobed by quite an enthralling lilt redolent of the trademark tremulous falsettos of a youthful Martin Gore; a man who spent many years more in touch with his feminine side than most of the women he dated!

“To actualise the song’s authenticity I didn’t want to be a singer singing, I wanted to be a woman singing”.  Unfortunately for me, there is a disconnect between the aspiration and the reality, for what is an ultra-womanly and absorbing vocal during the verse, slips into an asexual, banshee-like wail on the chorus.  In so-doing, it loses that very same womanliness or femininity for which May was striving.

Yet, for all that, there is something utterly absorbing about May’s music and in particular, the pin-point precision with which such utterly quirky sketches have been arranged.  It reminds me of an old saying of my grandmothers – “from the sublime to the ridiculous” – May’s track has both in spades.

I normally come down on one side or the other when it comes to music, but if May’s aim was to throw confusion into the thought-provoking mix, she has well and truly succeeded.

Blood or Love? Heavy Heart’s Cochineal Keepsake

heavy-heart-keepsake-artwork-med
ingAt the beginning of 2016, London based Heavy Heart set out on a mission to release a song a month for the year; you can read my review of their socio-political statement, ‘The Way Home’ here.
Mission accomplished and to kick off 2017, the English alt-indie five-piece are releasing a limited-edition red vinyl 12-track LP comprising their 2016 musical diary as it were.  The album aptly entitled ‘Keepsake‘ will be limited to 300 pieces, each of which will be hand-numbered, and for clever collectors out there, the first 100 eds will also include a set of custom designed postcards featuring lyrics and artwork from each of the dozen songs. The album will be released on 31st March via indie label, I Can & I Will.
To add a frisson of temptation to your tastebuds the band have just released an audio video replete with quirky cut-out nostalgic ’60s photographic images for one of the 2016 ‘monthlies’, ‘High Dive‘, itself released as a single in June of last year.
heavy-heart-as
‘High Dive’ is like staring into a funhouse mirror whilst riding an undulating slow-mo roller-coaster.  While the song somnambulates through a rise and fall of haze, drone and morphia, one can’t shake off the feeling of ‘drunken’ unsteadiness, as if one were standing on their own personal earth tremor.
The atmosphere laden with a feeling of edgy uncertainty is lifted somewhat by the beguiling, illusory vocal of Anna Vincent. Although the song falls loosely into the alt-indie bracket, it reflects Heavy Heart’s ability to explore that genre’s many and varied dimensions.
Heavy Heart have some upcoming London gigs to tempt you away from mid-week footie & Gogglebox:
  • Tuesday 14th March @ Old Blue Last w/ Average Sex + Missing Mäce
  • Tuesday 11th April @ The Victoria
The limited vinyl ed of their album ‘Keepsake‘ can be pre-ordered here or, if you’re not one of the lucky 300, you can download it here.  Social links to Heavy Heart are beneath their new ‘audio-visual’ which you can peruse here,

                                                      Website:      Facebook:      Twitter:      Bandcamp:

Ok so not my normal ‘thang’.  Usually this would be an hyperbolic wander through a shimmering, iridescent, heartachingly beautiful or mesmeric piece of sonic wonderment.  Instead, I treat you to, er, the facts behind the Nordic northwind that is DervSwerve.

A cohort of blogger-pals have been challenging each other to answer a series of random personal questions. Always one to rise to the bait challenge, I’ve answered the call of one Angela Stratta, she of Cappuccino and Brioche fame, found the postcard and answered the q’s.

So voila, here it is … a blog about, er, Derval me!

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dagny

I would love to say it’s this …

but it’s this

derv

Who are you named after?

I was named after the daughter of the much revered Tom O’Higgins, former Irish Government Minister, Presidential candidate and Chief Justice of the Irish Supreme Court and European Court of Justice!

My parents were both living and working in London at the time and Mum, who was in a constant state of homesickness from the day she emigrated to the day she finally returned home for good, used, when she could, to buy a copy of the Irish Independent.  In one pre-natal edition, she saw a photograph of the then Minister O’Higgins accompanied by his daughter Derval, and thought it was such a lovely name that she bestowed it upon moi!  Which was lucky for me given that my Dad wanted to name me Brenda! Brenda? Do I look like a Brenda?

Do you like your handwriting? Do you?

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Both my mother and her sister have beautiful handwriting.  I obvs inherited the paternal gene – dab hand with a paintbrush but with a pen, not so good!

What’s your favorite lunch meat? Why only lunch I wonder?

We-ell, I guess it would have to be baked ham.  I’m not a huge lover or eater of meat having more of a predilection for game, poultry and fish, but ham is easy isn’t it.  And if freshly cooked onsite by a decent deli like Fallon & Byrne, it is usually super flavoursome, succulent and moreish.  Ham is also extremely versatile and complementary to many other foods! (Sounds like a line from a Food Board promo don’t it!).

Longest relationship? With myself, or possibly my mother, depending on where you stand on foetal status.

Do you still have your tonsils? I believe so.  Like I don’t go looking for them or anything, but every now and a misty cold day, they make their presence felt a la very sore golf balls.  Like Alice, I lived next door to severe tonsillitis every year for twenty four years. Then one Winter … pffzt zzzp … they just cut out and gave up the ghost.  Intermittent annoying golf-ballitis recurs, but not very often and it’s more bothersome than painful.

Would you bungee jump? You might as well ask me if I’d walk out in front of a car!  I hate heights, I hate flying, I don’t jump, the wind makes my hair flap into my face and the cold makes me wanna pee. So, no, no, no, no, no.

Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? I don’t even untie them putting them on never mind taking them off! Life’s too short!

Favorite ice-cream? Don’t eat a lot of the stuff but I distinctly remember as a child, developing a long-distance, unrequited love affair with Pistachio ice-cream courtesy of a plethora of American TV shows.  When I did finally make it across the Atlantic at the tender age of 12, that was one of the first things I asked for … and oh boy! OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY! Long distance love became love at close quarters.

Maxi Twist
Maxi Twist

While it goes without saying that my mid-Summer go-to is everyone’s favourite, golden-oldie HB’s Maxi Twist, I have recently developed a penchant for some of the newbies like Nobó’s Salted Caramel or Chocolate & Toasted Almond.  However, my ice-cream heart will always belong to Pistachio!

What’s the first thing you notice about people? Call me superficial but their general appearance, the overall package.  After that it has to be their eyes and what they say to me or not, about the internal workings.

I’m not looking for labels or shoes with such a shine that one can see their reflection, but the way someone dresses, how they carry themselves, their gait, their handshake and whether or not and how they look me in the eye, will sway my initial judgement of them.

Football or baseball?   Er, neither.  I’m Irish so don’t know the first thing about baseball and much to the annoyance of most of ‘footie’ fans, I call it (looks furtively around) – SOCCER! Tbh the only reason I call it that is to differentiate it from Irish GAA football, which is of course, ten times more entertaining, especially as the players can ‘elbow’ each other, which invariably leads to a few on-field fracas!

My favourite sport is Hurling – the fastest field game in the world – which if you’ve never heard of it, never mind seen it, then feast your eyes on this esp from 44.10 to 44.37 … All Ireland Hurling Final 2014, Kilkenny v Tipperary

What color pants are you wearing? Cripes, a policemen wouldn’t ask me that.  If you’re talking in terms of ‘lingerie’, let’s just say that I’m more a Bridget Jones than Victoria’s Angel kinda gal.  If you’re just plain ole’ asking me if I’m wearing strides today and if so, what kind, then the answer is yes, and they’re dark blue fine cords of the vintage College professor type!

Last thing you ate? Lunch, consisting of one small tin of tuna in sunflower oil, served with half a tub of M&S cottage cheese w/pineapple and a Pink Lady apple, chopped. All washed down with two glasses of very cold filtered water.  On an eat healthy buzz!

If you were a crayon what color would you be? Purple.

Favorite smell? Ooh, now that’s a tough one.  I love the smell of grass – freshly cut, or late at night after dewfall, especially during the heart of the Summer. I also love the smell of incense, peonies, vanilla and cinnamon.  Foodwise, it’s got to be toast, coffee and oranges!

But, I think the smell I adore the most is that of the sea  … especially during the changing tide when everything from seabed to seaweed and salt is at its rawest and most intense.

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Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone? A colleague with whom I’ve worked for many years but from whom I’ve been recently separated by reason of our being relocated into two different buildings.  She phoned me to compliment me on my recently published interview with Irish music star Imelda May for the UK online publication, The Monitors.

Hair color? Bit of an enigma my hair.  I had fair chestnut hair until I was around 18 at which point it crossed over to the dark side and I became what’s known as a ‘brunette’, the then  by-word for ‘boring’.  Not what you need when you’re already hormonal, insecure and bespectacled.  This led to several and often hilarious experiments with washes, tints, Glints, Henna and the like until at the ripe old age of 22 I discovered the world of ‘highlights’! (Cue, lots of woo-ing).

Since then I’ve gone from brown with copper highlights, to brown with an aurora of highlights to full on red, a phase which saw me dabble with every shade from Boleyn-esque strawberry blonde to Cluedo-esque Miss Scarlet.

Then around 2009, after several ‘lively debates’ with my then hairdresser (long story), I began the blonde experience.  The transformation took well over a year and an even greater financial investment, but to this day, despite the odd deep dive into a mad as a hatter variation on the theme, I remain a ‘having more fun’ Blonde.

Bet you’re sorry you asked!

Eye color? Also something of an enigma … Grey/green colour, which varies depending on mood & environment, with yellow flecks inherited from my grandfather.

Favorite food to eat? White fish – Hake, Turbot, Sea bass, John Dory; French Cheese – Comte, Reblochon and Pont l’Eveque; Stuffing, preferably home made.

Oh and jellies – of any description!

Scary movies or happy endings? Neither, don’t really do movies!. When I do, they tend to be quite idiotic like ‘Ice Age’ or ‘Despicable Me’. Do books though, if you’re interested? Any takers?

Last movie you watched? ‘Malificent’, ‘cos I’m a total child.

Favorite holiday? The most memorable place to which I’ve ever travelled was Vevey (home of Nestle chocolate) in Switzerland. That first nocturnal view of the Alps from a moonlit balcony combined with the feeling of shrinking like Alice, into inane insignificance, will stay with me forever.

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My overall favourite place though is Rosscarbery, West Cork; nothing will ever compare. It can’t.  When it comes to natural beauty, a treasure-chest of memories, and a complete feeling of being ‘at peace’, no other place on earth can compete with my spiritual and familial home.

Beer or wine? Wine if I must, Sancerre for preference or if the only way is red, then a Barolo or Rioja.  Gin is my go-to, the default being Bombay Sapphire with Schweppes Bitter Lemon or Fever-Tree Light Tonic and a slice of lime.  Lots of ice is a must – even in -7 Norway!

bomaby

Night owl or early bird? With the little sleep I get, night owl for sure.  Usually still trying to get to sleep when the early birds are scrabbling for worms.

Favorite day of the week? Never gave it much thought.  Definitely not Monday.  Probably Friday …

Three or (four) favorite bloggers you want to learn more about?

The admirable Tanya Tonks Mawer who has shown such resilience and strength of character by handling all life throws at her with a few pinches of salt and a bucket of humour.

Stephanie Gaunt, cos I believe there’s a lot more to her than being a Battleaxe!

Shelley Wilson, whose blogging is just inspirational.

& get her before she’s so famous that interview requests will be considered only via PR Catherine Curzon

Who were the last three people to follow your blog? No idea.  I still don’t know how to figure out the people behind the ‘handles’ and avatars.

Derv x

Talos Takes Us On A Personal Odyssey Towards Acceptance & Change

talos

There is something about Cork man Eoin French‘s voice that reminds me a little of the wonderful late Christy Hennessy, albeit in a more latterday incarnation.  French sings with the same animated falsetto and idiosyncratic preciseness that set his fellow Munster native apart from his peers.

But that’s not where the comparison ends.  Dyed in the wool songwriters, both men have produced meticulously crafted songs of a deeply personal nature; songs so perfectly in tune, intertwined even, with their close society and immediate surroundings that they will forever remain timeless.

French is chief architect and project manager of a solo project that started life in 2013 after the creative well of his former band Hush War Cry ran dry.  After a collaboration with Young Wonder‘s Ian Ring, he felt upskilled enough in the art of writing and production to go it alone and thus, Talos was born. Far from operating in splendid isolation, Eoin French enlisted the help of several musicians including Sam Mc Nicholl (percussion) and Alex Sampson (guitar) to fresh out Talos’ instrumental sound.

Born of sparse electronica, Talos’ atmospheric sound is architected using an holistic approach, with layers of airy, ambient Hollis-esque nodes, samples, and spaces joisted by perfectly nuanced guitar, percussion and synths of diverse tonality and dimensions. Since signing to the Feel Good Lost label, Talos has released two singles and two EPs, all of which have been more than enthusiastically received. Latest release, ‘Odyssey‘, is their third single and timely precursor to his debut album due out on 21st April 2017.

An ‘indietronica’ amuse bouche to the main course of ‘Wild Alee‘, this song is a beautifully proportioned quenelle replete with honest emotion and intimate, self-reflective lyrical poetry.

Opening with a gently gusting breeze of synths, the song then falters into a simplistic ambience imbued with a sense of hesitation brought about by French’s rather tremulous vocal.  It’s not long before the wind rises, and the submarinal fx are swept through rippling percussive tidal currents and a synth-rich maelstrom, up into a high-altitude instrumental airstream of disorder and uncertainty, edged with a flash of elation.

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Talos has announced a ‘Wild Alee’ tour kicking off in Connolly’s of Leap (of which I could regale you with vintage tales of laughter, but won’t!) moving onto Dublin through Galway and Belfast, before winding up in Dundalk on 22nd June. Given the April to June timeframe, don’t be surprised if more dates are added.  One week into the tour, on the same date Talos plays Dublin’s Button Factory, his debut album, ‘Wild Alee’ will have its release.

Talos can be found on Spotify, Twitter, and Instagram amongst other social sites.  Watch the lyric video for ‘Odyssey’ here,

Why Norwegian Music Needs Trondheim Calling

Ludvig Moon, Live at Trondheim Calling Photo Austin Muirhead

Ludvig Moon, Live at Trondheim Calling
Photo Austin Muirhead

Of all the Norwegian music festivals held every year, Trondheim Calling is possibly the most important.  Sure, it doesn’t feature international stars in its line-up like it’s sister fest Øyafestivalen or former ‘ones to watch’ who have cracked their respective national music glass-ceilings as seen at by:Larm, but what it does, it does exceedingly well.  More importantly, what it sets out to achieve – showcase upcoming Norwegian musical talent to a wide and diverse audience – it nails, with aplomb.

While Klubb-Øya features emerging artists for a pre-festival one night only, and Off:Larm sees newbies playing venues on the the periphery of the main festival campus, Trondheim Calling gives the rising stars of Norway’s music scene its complete attention. They are the cogs on which its ever growing wheel turns, central to its very being, not accessories to the fact.

No other music festival in Norway invests as much time, energy and money in importing international delegates to help export indigenous talent.  With the assistance of industry bigwigs like Music Norway, NRK P3 and a plethora of press, bookers, agents and PR folks, as well as a horde of volunteers, the festival organising committee brings together a crack team of international industry heavies to mentor, advise, critique and encourage.

Central to the festival is a three day conference programme put together with complete interactivity in mind. It includes workshops, Q&A, presentations, interviews (this year saw mega-watt Talk Talk producer Phill Brown in conversation with Gary Bromham), as well as interactive studio, networking and pitching sessions.

Over the course of three days, a carefully selected expert delegation impart cold hard industry facts, deliver priceless advice and recount a variety of personal and business anecdotes, often with hilarious results.  A little levity is always good to soften a professional environ, which for inexperienced ‘just wanna make music’ musicians, can be more than a little daunting.  Daytime TC is a well oiled, professionally run, conference machine.

This year’s festival saw a new addition to its programme in the form of a pitch/mentoring experimental concept which the organisers hoped would better connect the conference and concert programmes.  Entitled ‘Norway Calling’ it centred around seven acts presenting and playing to an international listening panel who subsequently offered feedback on the artist’s live performance, chosen song(s) and promo-pitching techniques.  The aim was to help give “export ready” artists a bit of an edge, to add a little bit of polish to diamonds still in the rough!

The seven acts featured in the inaugural session were Ludvig Moon, Henrik the Artist, Frøder, Dreamarcher, AGY, Elsa & Emilie and Hajk.  Each act had to make a three minute presentation to all of the festival delegation – national and international – which was then followed up with a series of pre-arranged speed-networking sessions with mentors of the artist’s choice.

Frøder
Frøder

The seven presentations of mixed quality, were very diverse indeed, ranging from heartfelt ad lib to Michael Moore style docu-films. What quickly became apparent were the varying levels of preparedness, assuredness and nous with which each act approached and handled their pitch.  What was also evident was the level to which the acts had had their presenting skills honed by their label/management/pr teams, or not.

This is why festivals like Trondheim Calling are so, so important to indigenous emerging artists.  In 2017, it’s no longer just about the music, the PA system or even the lyrics. These days music artists need to be semi-professional sales people on top of being highly skilled creatives.  They need to know how, when and where to sell themselves and their music.  How to grab the attention of bookers and press suffering from indie overload and electronic ennui.

Like all ‘aspiring’ brands, and ultimately branding is an integral piece of the holy grail jigsaw, bands need an USP. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a child” no longer cuts it in a world spliced open by social media apps giving endless platforms to anyone and everyone from wannabe vlogger to gottabe fashion stylist. Today’s music artists don’t just need a new, unique sound, they also need a well honed elevator pitch!!

The TC conference programme aims to take musicians out of their comfort zones, opening them up to facts and figures to which they might not normally have access.  With self-promotion, marketing and quality music writing focal points of the conference programme, the organising committee has ensured that Trondheim Calling stands apart from its festival peers.

By corralling delegates in a single festival space, TC affords Norway’s rising star musicians an unparalleled opportunity to speed-date their way around industry connoisseurs and aficionados, networking and connecting with people who in either the immediate or long terms, may be able to help them get onto the next rung of the music ladder.

Nocturnal TC is “all about the bass” and 2017’s line-up showcased the best of the latest crop of musicians who remain just under the parapet. Wall to wall music in every shape and shade performed by more than 70 artists, belts out from 10+ cross-Trondheim venues. With the bars and clubs in close quarters, it’s easy to hop from one venue to the next as one zig zags their way through jam packed, spoilt for choice nightly schedules.

Amish 82 Live at Rockheim
Amish 82 Live at Rockheim

With all tickets sold out, gaining entry to some of the smaller venues proved impossible, as anyone who turned up to bijou Moskus to see Pom Poko found out.  However, in the main, queues moved quickly and gaining access to the majority of live performances was relatively easy.  Strong, energised performances and hyped up, super enthusiastic audiences were the order of the festival.  Yes, there were a few sound issues, but Albert Hall aside, aren’t there always!

What the artists playing TC lack in major league experience and slickly polished production they make up for in unbridled passion, raw undiluted talent and an energy of a wattage second only to that of the national grid.  Audience after audience radiated excitement, danced exuberantly and sing-screamed appreciation.  And at the end of a live set, no artist can ask for better than that.

In the world of emerging talent the unparalleled role played by Trondheim Calling is pivotal.  This mid-Winter festival fulfils its brief and more. A three day support and networking hub for musical ingenues by day, stellar sonic showcase of rising stars that more than entertains cross-cultural, cross-generational audiences by night.  It’s the perfect destination-fest for lovers of both music and travel alike.

Details of Trondheim Calling 2018 can be found here.  Norwegian Airlines and SAS fly direct to Trondheim from multiple UK locations, or via Oslo or Stockholm from Dublin.  The Clarion Hotel & Congress Trondheim is the festival’s HQ; rates and details can be found on their website.

Move Over Sweden, Norway Has Arrived #Sigrid

sigrid-raabe

Introducing Sigrid Raabe, the Norwegian challenger to the Larsson throne!

One year ago this month, I stood in Trondheim’s Dokkhuset watching headliner Tellef Raabe close the Trondheim Calling music festival.  Last week, in that very same city, I sat on a sofa in the Clarion Congress hotel with the head of another music festival.  We were discussing the Norwegian music artists we felt were going to go #gold in 2017.  Top of that list came the afore-mentioned Tellef’s baby sister, Sigrid.

Coming from a family who immersed themselves in music and culture, all of whom are musically talented, Sigrid Raabe who began her career as her brother’s backing singer, has finally stepped out of the shadow of her older siblings.  And with a GIANT step at that!

Recently signed to the Island Records division of Universal Music, Sigrid, who goes by her first name a la Kylie & Adele, has just released her debut single, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe‘, and it’s 100% electrocket-pop.

With a big and bold voice scuffed by a grungy, gravelly texture that is the antithesis of the her ice-tipped Norwegian peers, Sigrid doesn’t just sing, she punches out a formidable yet mellifluous vocal with a plucky confidence and ease honed by years of on-stage experience, that belie her young age.

Opening with modulated vocals and sombre piano chords the song quickly perks up with the addition of rapid synth sequences, underground basslines, bombastic percussion and Sigrid’s feisty vocal. A vocal that picks up and rugby tackles the 2-fingered gutsy attitude of the track’s lyrics.

“You’re acting like you hurt me but I’m not even listening …

You think you’re so important to me don’t you, but I wanted you to know that you don’t belong here” 

alesund

‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ is a pop song in the mould of Zara Larsson, another Nordic singer who isn’t afraid to sound off about how she feels.  Similarly to the Swede’s street style, the track builds from the ground upwards on a foundation inlaid with the #hiphop beats that give it a refreshing newness and raw energy lacking in many of today’s ‘same old’ churn.

Swede Zara Larsson is to glam-meets-street pop as Norwegian Sigrid is to dance-pop with a feisty urban twist, and while Ms Zara has been one of the top Scandinavian exports of the past few years, the Queen of the Nordic territories just might be about to lose her golden crown to a formidable new challenger!!  Time will tell, but for my money, I don’t see why not!  Likewise, I can also see a world in which both Scandi sirens can ‘do’ dual world domination! #girlpower

Sigrid’s single, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ is out now on Island Records with an accompanying video due to be released shortly.  Listen to her ‘packs a punch’ pop track here,

Sigrid is set to play by:Larm in March and TGE (UK) in May – if you’re anywhere near Oslo or Brighton on either occasion you know what to do!  Follow Sigrid on Facebook and Twitter – and you’ll find me likewise @ #DervSwerve

The Fjords’ ‘Anaesthesia-Live’ Provides Welcome Mid-Winter Relief

(photo: Geir Mogen)
(photo: Geir Mogen)

‘Anaesthesia’, the 2015 single from Norwegian band The Fjords, has racked up an impressive 1 million + streams on Spotify as well as taking its well deserved place on myriad playlists.  Released in June ’15, a video capturing a live performance in the Harbakhula caves followed in the Autumn, but it has taken until now, for the live audio to make its way onto the ‘online shelves’ of Spotify.

The Indie quartet who hail from the mid-Norwegian city of Trondheim, have, in between dipping in and out of studios both in London and nearer home, also found time to play an eight-date tour of China!  And in news most welcome, were awarded the Audience Music Video Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival for the Helmet produced mini-drama accompaniment for their haunting single ‘All In‘. Watch it here.

“Knuckles all white from carrying that dream around”

Veering somewhere between the devastating mellowness of fellow Norwegians Apothek and the soulful ambience of the more thought-provoking Jeff Buckley (think ‘You & I’), The Fjords place sensitive and poetic lyrics in expansive, atmospheric soundscapes replete with bowed guitar and intergalactic synths.

lyrics

Right now The Fjords are back in-studio noodling, sketching and recording.  With new music releases in the 2017 offing, the online release of the stunning ‘Anaesthesia – Live’ provides a welcome amuse-bouche ahead of what promises to be one of the most anticipated albums of the year.

The Fjords are Petter Vågan (vox/guitar), Erlend Elvesveen (synth, vox), Bárður Reinert Poulsen (bass, synth, vox) and Kim Christer Hylland (drums, electronics, vox).  ‘Anaesthesia – Live’ is available to stream/download on Spotify now.

https://the-fjords.lnk.to/Anaesthesia-Live