Norwegian Trio Set To ‘Take-On’ Cork In June 2018

Norwegian pop legends a-ha have announced that they are to bring their Electric Summer 2018 Tour to the banks of our own lovely Lee. That’s right, Norway’s biggest musical export, although DJ/producer Kygo is fast chasing their tails, will perform Live at the Marquee Cork on 12th June next year.

One of the biggest-selling global pop-phenomena of the 1980’s, the multi-Platinum selling triumvirate of Morten Harket, Mags Furuholmen and Pal Waaktaar-Savoy will perform some of their greatest including Take on Me, The Sun Always Shines and Bond theme The Living Daylights.

Probably best known for their wordwide number one hit Take on Me, the video for which – possibly one of the best of all time – led the zeigeist in music video technology back in the day, a-ha chalked up several best-selling albums including their international chart topper Hunting High and Low, released in 1985.

Most recently the band released an MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice album, which featured a stunning collaboration with fellow Norwegian and Highasakite lead Ingrid Havik, and the 2015 Cast in Steel album.

The 2018 Electric Summer Tour will see a-ha, complete with new band, bring their full electric set to venues across Europe, promising vibrant live shows with set-lists comprising a mix of their biggest hits with some new material.

Now that’s one ‘Back to the 80’s’ trip, you can’t afford to miss.

Tickets go on sale Thursday 7th December at 9am ticketmaster.ie ! 

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Sweet Georgia Gazes Heralds A More Mature Dayflower Sound

On the 31st October 1988, Liverboys The La’s released an infectious jangle that was so simplistic and uncluttered it made for a welcome antidote to the alt-psych-dance fusion that was the Madchester sound. With a melody that wrapped itself around your memory like an endearing cobra, There She Goes, became one of the greatest and most memorable Indie anthems of all time.

Five years earlier, a quartet of pioneering genii dropped the S-bomb onto the ToTP studio and the world of music was irrevocably changed as Hand in Glove provided our first meet and greet with the legend that is Johnny Marr.

Why am I starting a post on a Dayflower single with a meander about The La’s and Marr? Well might you ask! And the answer is thus. Because that’s what I hear when I play this Sweet Georgia Gazes – Marr riffing with The La’s – and it’s like sweet manna from heaven on the day before payday.

A brief opening of backwards wonk leads into a charge of propulsive drumming, which akin to that of a certain Spellbound Budgie, hurtles its way through an intricate writhe of guitar blaze and billows of angelic vocals provided by artist/photographer Leonie DuBarry-Gurr, whose voice by the way is simply delightful. Ever the master of subtlety, bassist Dhonau downplays his contribution which acts as an anchoring counter to Alex Clemence’s trademark dreamy vocal.

Parking the hyperbole, suffice it to say, this is a song somewhat akin to the older self looking back on its younger ‘heart-shaped’ self.

With its nod to the Marr-eseque guitar style and side-step away from the more syrupy sound we’ve come to know, Sweet Georgia Gazes is proof positive that Alex Clemence’s songwriting and the band’s capacity for quirky yet innovative arrangement, have developed and matured to such an extent as to take Dayflower’s sound up to the next level.

With a video in the offing you can expect more gazing from Sweet Georgia … for now though, you’ll have to settle for the more than retro lush audio of Dayflower’s hazy days gaze.

Dayflower is: Alex Clemence: vox/guitar, David Dhonau: bass/vocals/tambourine, Chris Merriman: electric guitar/vocals and Simon Bland: drums/vocals.  The band will play their next Candy Dust gig on 30th June as per in The Cookie, Leicester, full details here.

Follow Dayflower on Facebook and Twitter, and DervSwerve likewise!

A is for ’80s : Paul Young – Came Back & Stayed!

Party in your pad? Double Denim on tap! Royal Blue eyeliner vs Shocking pink lippy. Malibu & Pineapple anyone?

Some weeks ago we promised to start up regular posts about ’80s music!  Lights, camera, action; it’s showtime so ‘let’s dance’.

First out of the ’80s traps is long legged, big quiffed stud muffin, Paul Young.  The blue-eyed soul-belting Lutoner ripped hearts apart when his cover of Marvin Gaye’s Wherever I Lay My Hat rocketed to #1 on the UK singles chart in the Summer of ’83, where it sat on its perch for a total of three weeks.

Young’s sex appeal was further enhanced by the seductive brood of backing musician Pino Palladino’s fretless bass – all cocky swagger and rippling muscle like launderette lothario Nick Kamen.

Young started his career with novelty act Streetband of Toast fame (if you can remember that, you have more grey hairs than Dave Gahan).  A successful stint with soulsters Q Tips followed, bringing Young et al to the attention of both media and record companies including Sony/CBS who were to later sign Young as a solo artist.

Appearances on the Old Grey Whistle Test (Annie Nightingale we still love you!) secured support slots with The J Geils Band (Centrefold), Thin Lizzy (if you have to ask you need serious musical schooling) and Bob Marley amongst others.

In 1982 Paul Young fledged the dismantled Q Tips nest and set up home under the Columbia label.  Following the huge success of swoon-inducing Wherever I Lay My Hat, 1983 saw Young release three further singles – all of which were Top 10 hits.  A second cover single, Joy Divisions’ Love Will Tear Us Apart was followed by an ‘it’s not you it’s me’ power-pop song Come Back & Stay, which peaked at #4 in the charts.

An early November re-release of lighter-loving, arm-waving, feelgood slow dancer Love of the Common People (the original 1982 release had bombed) was timed perfectly for maximum impact on the Christmas charts where it rose to #2.  Hitting the Xmas sweet spot guaranteed a slot on the holy grail of music TV shows – the TOTP Christmas Special.

All four singles featured on Young’s huge selling debut album, No Parlez, which went multi-platinum in several countries including the UK (where it went #1 for 5 weeks and stayed in the charts for over 100 weeks!) & Ireland. The album cemented Paul Young’s status as bona fide soul-singer and pop god, and carved the crooner’s name into the annals of ’80s music history.

A hugely successful promotional tour of the States proved personally disastrous for the singer as he badly strained his vocal chords to such an extent that he had to desist from singing for much of 1984 – a year which should have seen him build on an extremely solid foundation.

His chart topping sophomore album The Secret of Association was eventually released in 1985 from which the rhythm-tastic, Motown-esque track Tomb of Memories is this reviewers favourite PY track – cue 4 minutes of self-indulgence – #memories

Two further cover versions produced chart Top Ten singles. First up was the Ann Peebles track I’m Gonna Tear Your House Down.  But, it was Paul Young’s cover of Daryl Hall’s divine heartbreaker Everytime You Go Away, that was to become his biggest global hit, bagging him the top slot on the US billboard charts – just one of the several #1’s the song swept up worldwide.

Further successes came and went but with intermittent vocal problems continuing to plague the singer, his star began to wane as he spent less and less time in the spotlight.  Finally, two years after his magical 1991 duet with Italian blues singer Zucchero, Sony/CBS called time on Paul Young’s recording contract.

Paul Young has returned to both the entertainment industry and music scene several times since 1993, with appearances on a myriad television programmes, several collaborations and most recently, his Los Pacaminos project which remains ongoing.

Young, who has been involved with the Back to the 80s project, will be touring the US over the course of this Summer.  He continues to be a well respected and much loved member of that pioneering group of ’80s music artists who led the post-punk zeitgeist back in the glory days of pop.

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.

A Dozen Diamonds That Gave A Shine To An Otherwise Murky 2016

Julia Holter

Julia Holter

Well here we are, on the cusp of yet another new year.  Who’d have guessed that as we stumbled unsteadily in a post-Christmas toxic daze towards 2016 that it would prove to be one of the murkiest, most unsettling and quite frankly disturbing of years.  One can only hope, and there is always hope, that this coming year will bring gladder tidings and a lot more joy than its predecessor.

Musically, 2016 had many, many highs.  It also shared several heartbreaking lows not least amongst which were the untimely deaths of Prince, George Michael and David Bowie – three of the rather large cohort of celebrities and legends who passed away in this year of darkness.  While those legends who died were predominantly male, much of this year’s sparkle mainly came from the female stars of the music world.  Lady GaGa, Beyonce, Marissa Nadler, Taylor Swift, Julia Holter … just some of the big female names that featured in the 2016 musical calendar.

Not surprisingly, some of them feature in my Dozen Diamonds of 2016 – a playlist of songs by international artists, with a select contribution from our part-time contributor, Eddie Sweetman.  Interestingly, the two artists selected for inclusion by Sweets are both male, while mine are predominantly female. Those choices themselves would probably make for an interesting case-study!

So which songs, by which artists made it into our top twelve, and why?

12. Margaret Glaspy – Pins and Needles (USA)

Strong, feisty country tinged indie with an edge.  There’s a waft of punk attitude blowing through the gritty melody, and more than a hint of steely determination in the ballsy lyrics.  The right side of rock for my tastes; tastes which I seem to share with most of BBC Introducing, BBC6 Music and BBC 1 … not a bad benchmark. Classy, savvy, strong, energised sounds from a lady who’s going places.

11. Birdy – Wild Horses (UK)

Twilit voiced, inspired poet and musical prodigy, Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde aka Birdy, has seen her star rise, and rise, and explode.  World class productions are now the order of the day but Birdy still holds on to the spiritual and emotional qualities so inherent in her earlier more gauche works.  With a vocal range that can scale mountainous heights and scrummage fireplace ashes, this super-talented musician could craft a song from the nothingness of a silken spiderweb and make it a masterclass in songwriting and performance.

Her 2016 album, ‘Beautiful Lies’ was a gift to the world – a finer, more emotive, and splendid talent you will struggle to find, and with even greater things sure to come, the future is “global” for this little songbird.

10. The Last Shadow Puppets – Les Cactus (UK)

Like them or loathe them TLSP are nothing if not entertaining. Seeing them live in Oslo was akin to watching a human firework display crossed with the energiser bunny thrice spliced with Poitin.  A pair of musicians who have most certainly put the roll back into rock, Turner & Kane may take the music seriously, but the live performances are treated more like a fun ride on the amusements. Never ones to shy away from taking the piss out of themselves, the video for their cover of ‘Les Cactus’, is a classic example of TLSP ‘on form’. As a cover, it pales in comparison to the Jacques Dutronc original, but as a piece of entertainment, it doesn’t fall short.

9.  Ed Harcourt – Occupational Hazard (UK)

Intense, moody, brooding, cavernous, blazing, ferocious – just some of the words I would use to describe Ed Harcout’s 2016 scorcher of an album, ‘Furnaces’, every pun intended.  One of the standouts LP releases of the year, ‘Furnaces’ reached out to and drew into its fold, a broader, more diverse audience than any of the Englishman’s albums had hitherto succeeded in doing.  I was drawn hook, line and sinker to this track because of the wolverine intensity of the guitar sequences and brutal rawness of the lyrics, the combination of which is addictive.  Brutal ingenuity at its bloody finest.

8. Radiohead – Burn the Witch (UK)

The first of two entries from the worlds greatest band EVER, ‘Burn the Witch’ was one of a pair of picks by sometime contributor Eddie Sweetman.  In his words, “incisive, relevant an astonishing comeback and the highlight in my opinion of the album.”  Need we say more?

7.  Amber Arcades – Fading Lines (NL)

What can I say.  I fell in love with this song on first play.  Like a 21st century incarnation of The Cardigans,  Annelotte de Graaf has all the dreamy deliciousness of that Nina Persson vocal, along with plenty of her antecedents uber Nordic cool!  Sexy, edgy, inviting indie-pop with a swirl of darkness running across its shiny exterior.

6. David Bowie – I Can’t Give Everything Away (UK)

The second of Mr Sweets’ picks, and a poignant one at that.  ‘Blackstar’ was a huge favourite amongst the bloggerati and a fitting finale from a gifted man, musician, artist, performer & more, who was truly one of a kind.  On his selection of this particular track Eddie explains: “This was the last track Bowie ever released. Poignant and delicate. Even more so now that we know he was aware he was dying.”  A fitting tribute I think you’ll agree.

5. Marissa Nadler – The Best You Ever Had (USA)

Sadly sickness struck (again) when Marissa Nadler came to town … “out damn ‘germ’ out I say” said I, alas to no avail.  Laid low, my chance to see this bewitching enchantress weave her goth clothed spells was gone in the blink of 24 hours (the length of time it takes me to go from apparently healthy to woefully ill).  I had sped towards Nadler like a bee to honey on the recommendation of my ‘pen as sword’ icon, tQ scrivener John Doran, who had bade me not to miss her more than magical live performance.  Instead, I’ve had to make do with looping replays of her album, ‘Bury Your Name’ from which this is my stand out track. Delish!

4. Julia Jacklin – Coming of Age (Aus)

The new age Little Miss Firecracker of country-grunge hits Dublin at the end of February 2017 and nothing, I mean NOTHING will stop, hinder or hamper my path to Whelans! Elbows at the ready, that space up the front is mine. Part of that new wave of punky twang that includes fellow upcoming songstrel Margaret Glaspy, Julia Jacklin takes smartly honed real-life lyrics and sandwiches them between slices of heaving melodies chock full of punchy guitars layered over a tightly woven R/S.  The result is impossible to resist infectious country stained down and dirty pop. Only a fool would miss the chance to see this raw and rousing talent shine live!

3. Radiohead – Identikit (UK)

2016 saw the arrival of what was possibly the most awaited album for years.  ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ didn’t disappoint.  This piece of classic Radiohead was sheer musical perfection packed with all the innovative ingredients that have made this quintet the consummate musical giants that they are.  And while most blogs will have opted for either of the two singles, this off-kilter piece of jazz infused experimental alt transports me back to the halcyon days of ‘Kid A’.  With its lyrical nods to Murakami’s 1Q84 (there was a similar intertwine between ‘Kid A’ and Kafka on the Shore), haunting interludes from vocal ghosts, and natty, spacious percussion Identikit is the understated star in this a stellar compilation.

2. Julia Holter – Lucette Stranded on the Island (USA)

Yeah, yeah I know.  The album was released in 2015.  But for me 2016 was all about Julia Holter.  Having failed to make her Dublin concert earlier in the year, one of the main catalysts for my travelling to Oya in Oslo, was the chance to make up for that lost experience.  While thirty minutes was far too short to soak up the musical enchantment magicked by an artist of Holter’s calibre, as luck would have it, Julia returned to Dublin in November and gave, what was for me and the several hundred other spellbound concert-goers in Vicar Street, the live performance of the year.  Compelling, captivating, magical, powerful, innovative – Julia Holter ranks as one of the most outstanding of contemporary female artists. This ingenious track just goes to prove it.

1. Weyes Blood – Generation Why (USA)

Not since hearing Dusty Springfield sing ‘The Look of Love’ have I come across another female vocal that radiates such warmth and richness, with a darkness edged with light. A voice with a true and unfaltering power cloaked in a sheath of softness like an iron fist in a velvet glove.  Not until that is, I heard the voice of Natalie Mering, the enigmatic talent behind music project, Weyes Blood. ‘Generation Why’, from the album ‘Front Row Seat To Earth’, is lyrically inspired and musically fresh, and while it contains many of the default elements of a classic pop song, it is the shades of daring alien electronica and the edgy undertones to words sung with angelic clarity that take this song to altogether another level.

The inclusion of so many American artists reflects the shifting sands of my musical tastes during 2016.  For me personally, this has been quite a remarkable year in terms of the quality and diversity of the music that’s been released.  And while the likes of Bieber, Rihanna and A-Z of Hip Hop may dominate the charts, the greater wealth lies in those treasures which remain beloved of those worthier barometers of musical greatness – The Guardian Culture, DiS and my personal fave, The Quietus.

I’ll leave you with a Spotify list of the 12 tracks featured in this sparkling retrospective … and hope you enjoy them as much as both Eddie and I have done.  May 2017 bring more shimmering gems to brighten up our sometimes more than mundane lives!

Dédé Davi Makes Her Debut & Alan Wilder Is Back A La Mode

Dede
Dede

Alan Wilder steps back in from the sidelines as performer-producer on debut single from upcoming Londoner, Dédé Davi.

Alan Wilder, man behind the Recoil music project, formerly one quarter of Depeche Mode, those pioneers of synth pop whose music captured the zeitgeist of ’80s experimental electronica, and general all-round enigma, has, after some years of silence which presumably he ‘enjoyed’, resurfaced in the form of performer/producer on an R&B piano-ballad by an upcoming English singer/songwriter.

calling-the-clock

‘Calling The Clock‘ is the debut single from Londoner Dédé Davi to whom Wilder was introduced by erstwhile Mode road-manager, Daryl Bamonte, now a successful label and artist manager in his own right. Dédé, who has gone from a Uni degree course, through being BBC play-listed, to working with the likes of Steve Hewitt (Paul Draper, Placebo), is currently in-studio working on her debut album.

Rehearsed and recorded in a negligible four hours, the song sees Wilder reprise his role as accompanying pianist, and music composer and arranger, one that recalls his indelible contributions to songs like ‘Somebody’ and ‘Pimpf’ and which will doubtless reawaken the memories of many a Mode fan.

Speaking of the collaboration with Dédé. Wilder said:

 I was struck not only by her beautifully soulful and sophisticated voice, but also the simplicity and directness of the words along with a melody which left plenty of room to come up with the arrangement … With limited hours in the studio, an immediate focus was required to get the right piano and vocal performances … The whole experience was refreshing and rewarding …”

alan-wilder
Alan Wilder

Similarly, the song itself – lyrics & melody – was written in a matter of hours, early ones at that, in a creative burst that saw the Croydon-born artist put body to a title that had been lying around for quite some time.  Explaining how the track came about, the singer confessed:

I knew I liked the sound of it; I just didn’t have a clue what it meant to me or what it could turn into. It came out of frustration, I kind of just stopped caring what it could be and at 1am on a Saturday I just wrote what came out and what I felt like.”

Listening to the lyrics one can easily understand how they flowed during the lonely darkness of the small hours.  The sense of frustration is palpable, the emotion raw, the uncertainty the territory of the still of the night.

Wilder’s musicianship is as meticulous as it is intuitive and his understated yet effectual performance provides the perfect balance for Davi’s heartfelt vocal. Her voice, which is pitch perfect and well controlled throughout, has a warmth and silkiness that lends itself well to this style of soulful balladry.  Mr Bamonte certainly had a eureka moment when he conceived of this perfect musical pairing!

‘Calling The Clock’ is a masterclass in subtlety and discernment.  A modern day soul song, emotionally stirring without being overindulgent, performed with accomplished restraint, by two musical perfectionists.

Dédé Davi  is as they say, ‘one to watch’ and so in a way, is Alan Wilder. Where or when he will next be seen or heard is anyone’s guess. We can only hope it won’t be another four years. In the meantime, you can download or stream ‘Calling The Clock’ (our on Smile Records) here : itunes | spotify and watch Dédé perform the song in the video here,

Album Review: Ludvig Moon ‘Kin’

samfunnet-bislet-ludvig-moon
samfunnet-bislet-ludvig-moon

The danger with indie is that if there isn’t sufficient diversity of theme, tempo, and instrumental style, it can quickly segue into one continuous jangle cum drone, depending on which line the artist is peddling.

In this regard, Norwegian newcomers Ludvig Moon, appear to have done their utmost to unfurl their creative tendrils in several directions to try to ensure that debut album ‘Kin’, stretches across a broader than generic indie spectrum. For the best part, they have succeeded.

Ludvig Moon have been steadily honing their clearly identifiable sound since the 2014 release of their self-titled debut EP.  It is a testament to their synchronicity as a unit that this multi-member outfit has developed such a tightly woven sound – no mean feat in a group where seven musicians are competing to be heard.  Or maybe that is the secret, that together they recognise the Ludvig Moon whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

kin

This septet (see below for the roll call) is a talented cohort with a lot of genuine promise, who produce highly evocative and at times magical material.  As a group, they often seem to be reaching for a sound bigger than the confines of their immediate Oslo environs. One whose sound almost over-reaches; almost.  It certainly spills over beyond the brim of indie, flowing through the outer reaches of American rock,  alt-rock and pop punk – think Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins and Ash.

Whether by accident or design, the sound at which they have arrived, pulls from the vestiges of the glory days of ’80s pop-punk and the classic ’90s indie-rock sounds both defined and dominated by the big American ‘supers’. Eleven track ‘Kin’ spreads its wings across this cross-generational spectrum, dipping and diving into styles coloured by the past blended with that freshness and effervescent urgency that is the trademark of youth.

After a string addled mini-melodrama of an intro, a mere whisper bookended by some windswept cymbals crashing off the shore, the album cracks open with the propulsive ‘When the Storm Breaks’, a song full of vim and vigour, thrashing percussion, great striking guitars, stonking keys and a killer chorus. A track to leave you wanting more.

I dare you to listen to the track ‘Sparks’ and not hear The Cure, albeit the post-punk goths back-dropped by a glorious if frenzied instrumental ascent/descent of musical scales fashioned by what is quite possibly the closest guitars have ever come to sounding like change-ringing.

‘Are We Still’ takes it down a few notches, showing a more restrained and subtle but no less experimental musicianship with its ‘eerie’ touches (redolent of the saw), golden melodies and heartwarming chorus, which by itself is a fine example of the perfect chemistry between fronters Anders Magnor Killerud and Lydia Popkema.

Indeed it is the pairing of Killerud and Popkema, whose vocal contrasts are like fire and ice, that gives so much depth and texture to the band’s songs. The fluidity and balance of their duets heighten the evocative essence of the songs’ lyrical themes. Speaking of which, here’s what frontman and lyricist Killerud had to say about the albums thematic inspos …

The lyrics are based on stories from my life the past few years. People around lost control over their lives and I lost toucb with many of them during those times. For me this album mirrors the winter of 2015. It’s my soundtrack to life as a young, broke and confused twentysomething in Oslo – not knowing who I was, not knowing what I wanted to become. Filling the album with grandiose sounds felt like my cure against the grey fabric of life at the time. Making the album really helped my through the winter though, especially mentally.”

As expected, singles ‘Houses At Night’ and ‘Cult Baby’ take centre stage, but while the latter is the diamond at the heart of this long playing jewel, something in me remains unconvinced by the former.

For originality and instrumental flair, I find myself veering towards ‘Moth’, a song which more than piqued my interest with its perky finger picking guitar sequences, lively percussion and billowing, swirling synth background.

There’s a filmic vibe to this ever growing spiral, with it’s somewhat subtle shades of country come Americana, as it twists and ascends to a curious finale of alien noises and instrumental riddles.  For ingenuity and musicianship, I’d score this a 9/10.  For me, this is a song that walks a different path and the standout track on the album.

There are a few less noteworthy inclusions but overall the memorable outweighs the forgettable.  The album has some really standout moments, not least the afore-mentioned ‘Cult Baby’, a track which has proved to be a firm radio playlist favourite across the broader reaches of the EU, particularly in the land that shall now always be known as Brexit.  A track that could easily take Ludvig Moon into the US Billboard charts should they ever venture to stray that far, it is a benchmark against which future singles will be measured.

For a debut album, Ludvig Moon have played a strong hand with ‘Kin’, and while there is still room for improvement, they are young, ambitious talented enough to make the upward transition to a more mature and experimental level, with relative ease. They say the second album is always the most difficult.  For Ludvig Moon it should be plain sailing.  They’ve set the bar.  It’s now up to them how far they wish to raise it.

Ludvig Moon are currently on an extensive tour of Norway; having seem them live, I can heartily recommend you check them out, details here https://www.facebook.com/pg/ludvigmoon/events/

Ludvig Moon is : Anders Magnor Killerud ( lead vocals, guitar), Ole Torstein Hovig (synths), Herman K. Hulleberg (guitar), Kristofer Staxrud (Drums), Andreas Andre Myrvold  (bass, vocals), Lydia Popkema (vocals, guitar, tambourine), and Simen Sandbæk Skari (French Connection, vocals, tambourine)

You can follow Ludwig Moon on Facebook and keep up with all my reviews on Dervswerve Twitter and Facebook.  ‘Kin’ is out now via Riot Factory. You can buy or stream it via the following links:

Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2ea9463   iTunes/Apple Music: http://apple.co/2dYzxAC    Tidal: http://bit.ly/2dShQ9e
Vinyl: http://bit.ly/2dYzOUe

Samü Release ’60s Dipped Debut Single ‘How It Works’

samu

If you teleported Aurora back to the soulful days of the late 60s, threw a gauze of colour-pop psych over some Broen type wonk, and then fused the two, you might arrive at something vaguely in the realm of ‘How it Works’, the debut single from Oslo based Samū.

With only one other song up on their socials, the ludicrously good ‘In My Head‘, a song that could easily have been crafted by that erstwhile queen of ’50s jazz and ’60s trippy folk cum blue-eyed soul, Amie ‘Warwick Avenue‘ Duffy, Samū’s sound is still pretty much uncharted territory.

A five-piece comprising Trine Samuelsen Hansen, Sander Eriksen Nordahl, Ruben Gilje, Martin Morland and Knærten Simonsen they recently signed to Trondheim based ‘NO FOREVERS‘ a label whose star is very much in the musical ascendancy.

That they draw the bulk, if not all, of their influences from the 20th century is pretty clear, with samples spanning a 40 year spectrum from the ’60s folk of Simon & Garfunkel through sugar coated synth-pop to ’90s slacker pop, all washed down with that easy-evening, ‘Waterloo Sunset’, laid-back chill of The Kinks.

And it is that low-key, serene feeling, that lies at the very heart and neo-soul of their single ‘How it Works’, a song set in a timeless world, in which everything moves in a slow-mo waltz, against a backdrop of hazy days harmonies and easy, peaceful sounds.

Echoey ’60s piano riffs and retro keyboard sounds take centre stage, while nice n’easy  guitar and percussion take a more subtle, gentler approach.

Trine Hansen’s vocal, more golden delicious than the Nordic cool of so many of her peers, skips and dances playfully through the songs instrumental spaces, giving them a delicious sweet filling. The song itself is underpinned by a lumbering bass, which in an almost bluegrass outro, tracks its elephantine plod through a garden bed of spiralised wonk.

Having cut their live teeth playing several gigs in Norway, Samū laid down their first single in Øra studios with Karl Klaseie (Kari Harneshaug, Antler, Østfrost).  The band are now working on their first album, details of which will be announced later in the year. ‘How it Works’ goes on release today, and  you can hear it right here, right now.

Follow Samū on Facebook and Soundcloud for more updates regarding live dates and new music.  ‘How it Works’ is available now on Spotify.

RöykSund ‘Never Ever’ Fail To Impress

Royksopp & Susanne Sundfor
Royksopp & Susanne Sundfor

RöykSund have dropped a new track, ‘Never Ever’. I haven’t been this excited since I discovered their totally Nordic cover of ‘Ice Machine‘ on YT just over two years ago – a cover which I might add, heralded new blogging beginnings and triggered the creation of DervSwerve.

One of life’s happy accidents, I happened upon it when trying to find a live version of the Mode B-side, and there to my surprise were two guys seemingly plugged into the Norwegian grid, a previously unheard of singer and a troupe of mutant ninja drummer boys ripping the skins off their snares. All in the glorious scarlet haze that was Live on Lydverket!

It was love at first sight/sound/beat … The Tundran vocal with its Himalayan reach and the hypnotic spaghetti bolognaise of electronica with more twisting loops than the London Orbital, served with a black army of insistent drums on the side.  To this day, it remains my fave DM cover and, one of my preferred Röyksopp collaborations, of which there have been many.

Aside: RöykSund, if you do happen to read this, there’s more than one Mode fan wants to know when you’re going to release ‘Ice Machine’ as a single!!

There’s nothing wrong with stand alone Röyksopp or Susanne Sundfor releases, far from it.  Nor their third party collaborations for that matter.  It is simply just that there is something truly magical about this triumvirate – this supreme collaborative being – that transcends all others.

Never Ever
Never Ever

Blessed with more talents than a Babylonian tax collector, RöykSund fuse ingenious electro-engineering skills with an unsurpassed ability to deliver the most immaculate of soaring vocals that retain enough pop sensibilities to keep them down on the dancefloor.  And that’s exactly where you’ll find ‘Never Ever‘, down and dirty on the dancefloor, writhing around to a ‘Soul Train’ remix, dressed as a ‘Desperately Seeking’ Madonna wannabe.

Frosted vocals, more cut glass than British royalty are thawed by hot, pulsating electronica in this ‘classic pop’ comp.  Indulging in analog synths of a calibre that’d make Alan Wilder cry with nostalgia, and more hyperactive beats than Phil Oakey and Georgio Moroder could have imagined in their wildest ‘electric dreams’, this is strobe-lit 80s disco-mania accessorised with fine Norwegian crystal – instead of paste and leopard skin –  and its addictive. Intoxicating in fact.

‘Never Ever’ is pure disco ball.  A spinning, glittering dance track that harks back to an age of pioneering electronica, when Jackson was king, Madonna was queen, and Mode ruled the world.

‘Never Ever’ by Röyksopp and Susanne Sundfor is available now via all digital channels – see here.  Follow Röyksopp Susanne Sundfor and Dervswerve on Facebook.

Susanne Sundfor plays Oslo Spektrum this coming Saturday 17th – tickets plus free download of her new single, Reincarnation, here.  Keep your eyes peeled, you never know who you might spot in the crowd, #RYXP.

Listen to ‘Never Ever’ via the Spotify or Soundcloud links below.  

Tempesst Celebrate Those ‘Broke Down Blues’ …

Tempesst Photo BDB Land
Tempesst Photo BDB Land

… or, in other words, when you’re down, there’s only one way to go, so why not join ‘Brian’ and look on the bright side!

Music is a funny thing, and the throw-back connections it can so quickly form in your minds eye, or ear even, can oft be especially bizarre.  Take this track, ‘Broke Down Blues’ by boomerang Londoners, Tempesst.  I clicked play on the YT link, ‘cos that’s what I was supposed to watch right, their new live video shot amidst the chimneyscapes of East London.

Except of course all I can hear when the percussive beat kicks in is America’s ‘Horse With No Name’. The mind boggles!  Of course my #tbt kinda mind isn’t helped by the slacker-Americana vibe and yodelayheehoo cowboy drawl of the vocal!

A couple of stiff coffees later…and I can still hear cowboys, except now as the strings kick in, we’re heading in the direction of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.  So I down tools and go on a bit of an investigatory snoop around the socials to check out just who Tempesst are and what they’re about.

Toma Banjanin, Andy Banjanin, Eric Weber, and Jesse Hutchence are the key ingredient make up of this band who claim to be from London but I’m convinced are from Australia.  Further digging confirms that not only am I correct, yes there are Oz connections but furthermore, the Banjanins*2 are not just bros, they are in fact twins.  Now while they’re FB says they’re unsigned, this single, ‘Broke Down Blues‘ was released by 0E0E, spin off label of Norwegian giant, Propeller Recordings.

Broke Down Rules

Choral harmonies redolent of the top notes at the intro to ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ (#tbt won’t go away). swathes of slide, lying back in a hammock lazy cowboy drone guitars muddled with Americana acoustic, and a vocal marinated in molasses swirl around in front of a backdrop of slacker percussion.

‘Broke Down Blues’ is an easy on the ear, delightful on the soul, kinda song that fits well coming towards the end of a hard week.  “Celebrating the broken” (we like), its ‘things can only get better’ attitude spins only positive from negative, which is how things should be … no point in kicking a guy when he’s down, why not just reach out your hand to help him get back up instead.

The stripped back live version of the video shot in East London, adds to the easy feeling vibe of the original.  Whilst pushing the vocals a little more to the fore. this pared back offering exposes a more interesting instrumental sound, with its duality of acoustic guitars offset by the quirky combination of xylophone and harmonium, all led by the beat of a single drum with tambo on the side.

Who wouldn’t want to see these boys do a live-jam … sunny evening, couple of beers, cool beats, what more could you want?

‘Broke Down Blues’ is available on all digital channels via 0E0E, link here – https://0e0e.lnk.to/broke-down-blues

You can watch the Eastenders Live Episode here, or scroll down further for the pre-recorded “one we made earlier” via Soundcloud! Either way, dip your toe in the Tempesst social pond, here, and get to know what is surely an Americana cum Psych outfit worth further exploration.

Tempesst headline London’s MOTH CLUB on 29th September, get your tickets here:  http://bit.ly/28P1iMq