Roe returns with the maturer, fuller sound of the universal ‘Girls’
The past three years have seen Derry-born Roisin Donald’s career go from strength to strength. Better known to most as ROE, the now twenty-year old multi-instrumentalist is currently riding the crest of a wave, as she floats from one high-profile support gig to the next, shoring up the likes of Kodaline, The Coronas, and legendary rock-group and fellow Nordies, Snow Patrol.
Now fresh from her first sold-out headline tour and a stint at Camden Rocks Fest last week, the multi-talented fast-rising talent has just released her second single of 2019. The follow up to the hugely-successful ‘Down Days’, which racked up over 50k streams on Spotify alone, ‘Girls’ is already showing signs of being another hit having received airplay from radio big-hitters at BBC Radio 1, RTE 2FM, and Today FM.
Although her sound is as genre-elusive as ever, Roe’s latest release has something of a mid-Atlantic feel to it. ‘Girls’ sees Roe dabble with various sound textures, layering lines of soft pop melodies with the richer R&B beats more readily associated with acts like Sigrid and Maisie Peters. The result of this musical wardrobe update is a more funked-up twist on her trademark tuneful indie-folkpop.
Nailing ebb and flow with pin-point accuracy, Roe’s ever-compelling vocal is in perfect sync with the song’s changing tides, leading it from laid back minimalism to the fuller, more immersive 3D sound of the chorus. With a maturing edge to her tone, Roe wields nuance like a pro, using it to get her message across with maximum effect.
A natural storyteller, Roe has been penning songs since childhood. Mixing keen observations from the ‘front seat’ with her own narrative, Roe’s take on often taboo subjects puts her right up there with fellow sharp songsmiths like Sam Fender.
A song for ‘every-girl’“Girls is about changing the goalposts on social expectations and accepting yourself for who you are no matter what flawless content you see online.” It’s a call to action to celebrate those so-called imperfections that in fact make each of us unique.
Gently dipping its toes in mainstream, ‘Girls’ is a perfectly choregraphed pop-gem enriched with warm R&B sensibilities. Possibly the crossover track we’ve been waiting for from Roe.
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Roe might have her ‘Down Days’, but the Derry youngster’s future trajectory is nothing but upwards.
Last year was kind to Derry teenager Roe. Then again, this self-confessed ‘grumpster’ put in more miles than a travel writer, playing gigs across the length and breadth of Ireland, and making appearances at more festivals than should be physically possible.
If her incessant rotation of the live circuit wasn’t enough to keep Roe on music fans’ minds, constant airplay across UK&I airwaves, and a song – Wasted.Patient.Thinking – tracking 120k+ streams on Spotify alone, certainly was.
A regular on Tom Robinson’s Fresh on the Net FreshFaves (Tom has also played her on his BBC 6 Music show), Roe has also picked up some heavyweight fans in the form of 2FM’s Dan Hegarty, and Radio Ulster’s Rigsy and Stu, for whose Across the Line show she played a ‘live sesh’.
A pedlar of electro-alt-pop fusion, the past year has seen the flame-haired wunderkind bolster an already compelling live set with the addition of keys. Newcomers to Roe’s sound might be surprised to learn that in addition to writing all her own material, the teenager also plays all her own instruments both in studio and on stage.
The name behind such elbow-sharp thought-provokers as ‘Hey Thomas’ and ‘Playground Fights’, has made such an indelible mark on the Irish music scene that she was picked by fellow Northerners Snow Patrol to support them on their recent UK&I Arena Tour which wrapped up at London’s SSE Arena, Wembley, no less.
No stranger to airing her feelings on topics such as bullying and broken relations – being frank is her stock in trade – Roe’s latest single dwells on her “own state of mind”, and her struggles with the omnipresent pressures of the outside world.
The spartan opening is compelling. A pensive finger, repeatedly strikes a single piano note, acting as the metronomic heartbeat of this candid monologue in which Roe offers up her personal experience of being “surrounded by negativity and social pressure”.
“I’m a bit disturbed at times, lost in may own state of mind”
This spacious intro is an uncluttered safe space into which Roe can release her narrative, before an increasingly energised build makes for the perfect emotional dump. The maelstrom of synth and guitar is particularly effective!
Roe’s vocal delivery is assured and honest, her distinctive voice syncing with the rise and fall of a glistening electro-pop rondo. Pure pop magic, and 100% radio earworm, ‘Down Days’ could be Roe’s “finest hour” yet.
“Heavy under all the strain of my excuses, weighed down by the thought of trying to move forward, holding on to try and keep from being swallowed up”
“I know that I don’t always find the way”
At the end of 2018, Roe won the Northern Ireland Music Prize ‘Oh Yeah Contender Award’ for Best Emerging Act. Just how many nominations she’ll clock up before the end of 2019 is anyone’s guess!
‘Down Days’ is on release now via streaming services including iTunesand Spotify.
For our 8th Voyage of Discovery newsletter, we’ve decided to mix it up a bit. Gone are the mini-reviews, news excerpts and gig alerts. Instead, we’ve gone for the musical jugular, biting deep, down into big, chunky recent releases from three industry big hitters.
Don’t be shy … let us know what you think! Disagree? State your case! Agree? Did anything in particular resonate? Pen your thoughts in the comment box below, or feel free to slug it out on our socials – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Either way, we hope you enjoy digesting the reviews, and even more importantly, that you listen to our featured releases. As usual, we’re including a Spotify playlist comprising a mash-up of tracks from the three records. DervSwerve x
PS. If you missed VoD Vol 7, you can catch up on all the news, here.
DerVerdicts – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE ER
For the doubting Tommies out there amongst you, let I Wouldn’t Be, the title track from Kodaline‘s new EP, be proof positive (and final) that this Dublin four-piece have, along with Hozier and The Script, cemented their place as one of the strongest Irish musical exports this side of the millennium.
To bridge the gap until the 2018 release of their third album and ahead of their UK headline tour, the Irish outfit has just dropped a four-track EP, something that should assuage their ever-expanding horde of fans both at home and abroad.
The first of four strong and very different tracks, this quasi a cappella homage to motherhood and family is an earnest blend of wistful tranquility, and uplifting celebration. I Wouldn’t Becomprises four seamlessly interwoven vocals, its sole instrumental contribution arriving in the form of a sublime piece of Uillean pipe playing by Mike Mc Godrick.
Lead track Ready to Change has a touch of the Chris Martin’s on the soft vocal rise and fall, and charismatic, crowd-pulling chorus. With its tight, insistent guitars, high-energy drums and gotcha-hooks in all the right places, this dynamic energiser has hand-waving anthem stamped all over it. Laid back, Indie-pop fuelled The Riddle replicates the magnetic chorus-effect of Ready to Change and with its chillaxed melodies and slacker tempo, is bound to be another crowd-pleaser. Finally, down-tempo Blood and Bones provides a fitting close to this organic soother.
I Wouldn’t Becomes across as a spontaneous, uncontrived recording filled with thoughtful sentiments sans the emotional toxicity.
Kodalineis Stephen Garrigan (vocals/guitar)), Mark Prendergast (guitar), Vinny May Jr (drums), and Jason Boland (bass). They will play dates across Denmark, Germany and the UK in December supported by Aine Cahilland are booked for Neighbourhood Festival, Warrington next May – full details on their Facebookpage.
DerVerdict – I Wouldn’t Be did for us what Sam Smith’s The Thrill of It All failed to do – converted the nonbelievers. Kodaline – I Wouldn’t Be is available now via the B-Unique imprint.
“You know me well … I’d do anything for you … ?” Ok Moz, you could start by turning down the foghorn on your stomp-ridden, melodramatic album opener! Riotous My Love, I’d Do Anything For You evokes classic Morrissey’s mid-80’s lyrica obscura but without the swirling genius of Marr and whirling Dervish of the diva that was to tame its shrew. It does however, have enough of a fine line in big band banter and scorching hot brasses to take the edge of Moz’s moth-eaten disaffection with life, love, the media, grass-fed beef and William.
Having said all that, by invoking the glam-rock of Your Arsenal, this robust opener to Low in High Schoolgets your backside moving towards the chair’s edge in anticipation of what might come next.
“Stop watching the news”,”Teach your kids to recognise and despise all the propaganda/Filtered down by the dead echelon’s mainstream media.”
What does come next is a sequence of Un-PC ideologies shrouded in the most blithe of melodies and instrumental potency, delivered with all the mature-pathos befitting of artists of a certain vintage. Becoming more bellicose with age, Morrissey brings the usual fare of contentious lyrical themes to the table – fake news, ‘evil media’, and the omnipresent, ubiquitous sex. In addition, there’s an astonishing pro-Israeli stance much at odds with the current ‘leftie’ world view which for once, posits the gnarly Mancunian somewhat in the same camp as Thom Yorke. Cue rabid debate.
And rabid debate is indeed something which glam-master Moz has never shied away from. But, if we separate the artist from the activist, we expose a polished, and thoughtfully conceived of creation. Lustful In Your Lap is a beauteous confection of intense piano chords and desirous sound effects; Home is a Question Mark a sensational skew-ways torch song given the full classic-Morrissey-vocal treatment; but it’s All the Young People Must Fall in Loveand Spent the Day in Bed on which this 80’s enigma excels. Melodic potentates, their idiosyncratic, and for once infectious upbeat qualities, flaunt the musical flair of this erratic genius.
If 80’s Smiths’ Morrissey invented philosophical indie, his mid-life solo self has honed it; sharpened its lyrical edges by driving it through a hail of condescension and wilful animosity. Morrissey has a natural gift for melody, and it is through this which he redeems himself. An album of atmospheric balladry, baroque pop and egomaniacal rock, Low in High Schoolis as unorthodox as one has come to expect from one of the leading exponents of contentious composition. It is also a finely balanced menagerie of orchestral theatrics and melodic finesse.
DerVerdict – Accomplished musicianship, big on drama – Low in High School is an A-Z of testosterone-fuelled ballads and poison-pen letters; supers and fans of Your Arsenalwill swipe right, all others probably left. Morrissey – Low in High School – is out now via étienne/BMG.
Notwithstanding its description as a “social observation” and “political” record on the face of it, Paloma Faith‘s fourth album is not an obvious socio-political commentary.
Despite being her fourth album, The Architectrepresents the artist’s first foray into these previously uncharted waters and in doing so, Faith joins that legion of artists of a certain age/status/’phase’ who have nonchalantly discarded those [lovelorn, wistful, broken-hearted] [wide-eyed, optimistic, all-our-lives-ahead-of-us] dreamers of yore that inspired their early catalogue. Instead, they present their ‘serious-artist’ selves as earth-parent, activist and ‘insert as appropriate’ rights campaigner, whose new found love of political discourse and social warriorship drives them forth on a mission to share their brightly burning ideologies.
Opening with a Samuel L Jackson monologue, the album’s palpable subversive tendencies quickly dissipate with the onset of the rather cryptic The Architect. A song about the much misunderstood and oft overlooked world of domestic violence, it’s a big-voiced ballad whose salient message suffers at the hands of obfuscation. Elsewhere, Labour luvvie and very Marmite Owen Jones throws his rousing lot behind Faith’s efforts by jumping on his portable soap-box to wax lyrical about “the politics of hope“.
Album lowlights, limp pop track Kings and Queens and the unworthy John Legend duet I’ll be Gentle pale in comparison with theMotown melodrama of Guilty which sees the erstwhile Brexiteer shine a la Winehouse. Where Paloma Faith never fails to impress is when her faultless vocal reaches its true ‘powerhouse’ soul-singer potential.
It does so unfailingly on tracks like retro belter Crybaby which recalls late 70s R&B funk, while the slightly melancholic Surrenderbenefits from having a glorious gospel chorus and shimmering bridge to augment Faith’s pole-vaulting vocal. Sia penned Warrior falls short of its potential; a track about the refugee crisis, like the lead track, its debatable how much its lyrical vagueness will resonate with fans of the diminutive colour-pop chameleon.
This slick production strikes a fine balance between soulful schmalz and skyscraping New York-like belters. There are plenty of resplendent brass-fuelled orchestral moments on The Architect to take it beyond average, and while its political aspirations may fall somewhat short, Paloma Faith’s resolute chutzpah and formidable vocal dexterity, combined with some glorious technicolour tail-fanning, should see this album achieve both the commercial and critical acknowledgement it deserves.
DerVerdict – Never one to follow fashion, Paloma Faith must be lauded for marching to the beat of her own drum. But not everyone moves to the same rhythm! Paloma Faith – The Architect – is out now on the Sony label.
So, so much. In fact, so much so that’s it’s becoming nigh on impossible to keep up with the deluge. So, our environmentally friendly, time-saving, power-saving all together rolled into one neat newsletter would seem to be the order of the extremely hectic day.
In this newsletter we’ll run through some of the best sounds around, with a dash of news bites and tour dates thrown in for good measure. As usual, you’ll find a complementary Spotify playlist at the bottom of the post. Happy discovering!
The Irish Beyoncé?
Souléis a name you need to know. Fast becoming one of the hottest R&B/Dance-pop acts in Ireland, she has most recently started to spread her wings performing live in the UK and mainland Europe: the singer was part of the Other Voicescontingent that took part in Tech Open Air Berlin earlier in July.
Aligned to Dublin’s renowned Diffusion Lab, this innovative young artist is at the crest of an ever growing wave of vivid electro-R&B washing across the Irish music scene. Following on from stand-out tracks Good Lifeand Love No More, Soulé’s latest single recalls everything that was good about Destiny’s Child when Beyoncé was still at the helm.
Unashamedly sassy, What Do You Know has attitude in spades, shovelling it through a spin-cycle of infectious beats and sending it helter-skeltering down a festoon of vibrant electro-sounds. The up-beat rhythm and kick-ass vibe are a winning combination which along with Soulé’s richly textured vocal make this song addictive from the off. Watch the lyric video here.
Corporation Pop, Music for the Workers
Across the Brexit pond, in Liverpool to be exact, apprentice songsmith Emilio Pinchihas obviously been honing his craft well as he has just dropped yet another compelling tune, Good Things Weigh You Down, flush with slacker guitar riffs, langourous beats and biting chord progressions.
Pinchi’s current oeuvre is understated throwaway with a mid-90s flavour. Everything about his confident yet modest delivery breathes authenticity as he mulls over ‘real-world’ experiences with conviction.
“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” – Ovid
Raddled with melancholic hindsight, Good Things Weigh You Downis a world-weary Albarn-esque take on the ‘water dripping on a stone’ argument. Or possibly, a version of “lie down with the dogs and get up with the fleas” as the artists ponders on how people influence each other’s behaviour, and how given sufficient time, they rub off each other’s personalities, opinions etc.
“People start to reshape you and vice versa. We bring sides out in each other which we don’t always notice at the time,” Emilio explains. “The song is a flashback to before During Voided Hours, documenting the last days of a dying relationship, tied around the idea that everything eventually runs out. Even good things will weigh you down, given enough time.”
I strongly suspect there’s an EP in the works here … let’s hope so! Good Things Weigh You Downis available on digital platforms now.
No Longer Looking Back In Anger
Shades of the Beatles,the Kinks and a serious swathe of Oasis, that’s what screeches through the brain as Liam Gallagher‘s latest single plays on.
In the Britpop wars I was in camp Blur. Although For What It’s Worth, I’ll admit to having bought both of Oasis’ first two albums and even to knowing all the words to Wonderwall (well like who didn’t/doesn’t?). Never the greatest fan of the brothers Gallagher, I approached this one with caution (as you do with most things ‘Our Kid’) and must ‘fess up to being more than pleasantly surprised.
The new single is indeed called For What It’s Worthand worthy it is of some critical kudos. A mid-tempo song, it hits all the sentimental sweet spots – earnest lyrics, insistent yet sincere vocals, catchy hooks, soaring strings and delicious guitar licks.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for the hurt, I’ll be the first to say, “I made my own mistakes”
If my eyes don’t deceive me, I could hazard that this is an open letter of apology to his brother; but they probably are, and I’m probably wrong.
Produced to perfection, with a bridge that ‘looks back‘ at the best of Morning Glory, this is the kind of track that would be right at home on a Tom Petty album. Except it’s not, it’s ‘right here, right now‘ and sees Liam Gallagher return to form.
For What It’s Worthis the third single from Gallagher’s upcoming debut solo album, ‘As You Were’, due for release on 6th October and available to pre-order here.
Only The Echoes Of My Mind – Fred Neil Remembered
When you hear the song Everybody’s Talkin‘ one name automatically springs to mind. Harry Nilsson.
However, it wasn’t Nilsson that Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood had in mind when she laid down a cover of the 1968 hit (also famously covered by the late Glen Campbell), it was the songwriter himself, Fred Neil. Neil passed away in 2001 leaving a musical legacy that influenced and continues to influence folk-vibing artists such as Tim Buckley, Stephen Stills, Gram Parsons and obviously, one Weyes Blood.
Mering’s delivery of a song she has performed live many times over the past few years is as faultless as it is spine-tingling. Drip-drop synth raindrops form the sparse, minimalist electro-scape that backdrops a beautifully touching vocal.
The track is one side of a Double A 7″ vinyl which also features another cover in the form of Soft Machine‘s A Certain Kind. The double release is also available on all digital platforms.
Fresh from her collaboration with Ariel Pink (see below), Weyes Blood has just embarked on tour with Father John Misty. While the itinerary sees her return to various locations throughout the UK, there is a glaring Dublin shaped hole, where a live date should be!
**Random comment – the final seconds of the track sound like the Tardis on take-off!
Bite Size …
Fluorescent Scandi Pop Lights Up The Night
Paris based Martin Solveigis in the house. Hot on the heels of his worldwide smash Places the DJ/producer returns with energetic dance-fest All Stars. The sassy house anthem features Finnish songstress, Alma, all green hair and sky high vocal. Alma‘s youthful, carefree attitude adds the sass-factor to a beat driven floor filler set to take Ibiza by storm.
Stick With Mrs Brown Boys
The biggest mistake The Vampsmade was teaming up with Martin Jensen. The “uncompromising and unorthodox” DJ has wrecked what was probably a pretty decent song. All augurs well with Middle of the Nightuntil it hits the chorus and the stop, start, stagger of that house-DJ style just pours cold oil on what had, thus far, been a well greased machine. Shame. The Vamps are about so much more than this as their #1 album has proven! And good for them.
The Girl’s Still Loud
Derry’s Nadine Coyle returns for yet another solo run with single Go to Work. Early ’90s Pop without the early ’90s wonder. Good voice, find another top-liner.
Grey Is The New Vanilla
As he moves closer and closer to morphing into George Michael mark II, Sam Smith continues to drive a 40ft container through the pop singles charts, arriving at his #1 destination quicker than Lewis Hamilton from poll.
His latest drear has notched up a sixth number one so it’s obviously us and not him that’s got the problem (or possibly we’re still bearing a spectral grudge!). If you like your Kleenex clutching wallow-fests landing somewhere between early Will Young and b-side Michael this piece of grey pop will bring the tears to your eyes – though probably not as many as it brought to these ears. ‘Nuf said.
Sound Bites …
Culture Vultures Link Up With Blockchain
As part of their programme for Culture Night on Friday 22nd September, the guys in Science Gallery, Dublin, are hosting a talk from Grammy-winning recording artist and audio engineer Imogen Heap. Imogen will discuss some of the reasons the music industry is looking to new technologies such as Blockchain, to help restore it to a fairer ecosystem.
Can we rebuild the music industry using Blockchain? For tickets and more details on the event click here.
That Sun Just Keeps On A-shining
For the second time in as many days we find ourselves name-checking Ocean Sound Recordings in Giske, Norway, this time for a beautiful acoustic performance of a huge 80’s smash hit.
Back in late June, Morten Harket along with Ingrid Håvik of the band Highasakite, delivered a pretty impressive duet rendition of a-ha’s The Sun Always Shines On TV for MTV Unplugged. The stunning acoustic/orchestral version was arranged by Lars Horntveth with a-ha. Watch it here.
Indie Nation – A Retrospective
London, mid-’00s, The Libertines, Dan Bastille Smith, Florence and the Machine, Razorlight, hordes of fans and a young Irish photographer – get the picture?
The young photographer in question was Gregory Nolan and from 19th to 22nd October he is opening up his photographic archives to the public in a new exhibition entitled This Was Our Scene.
Cataloguing rare visual treasures from the heart of the noughties Indie scene in London, Nolan’s work also perfectly captured the raw enthusiasm, energetic buzz, and profuse heat, sweat, tears and spilled beer of the throngs that packed the city’s live music venues. Sadly, many of those venues have too become a thing of the past.
This Was Our Sceneopens on Thursday, 19th October in Fumbally Exchange, Dublin 2, with a public talk hosted by Irish photographer Gregory Nolan (plus special guests). The exhibition will run daily from 10:00am – 6:00pm until Sunday, October 22. Visit www.thiswasourscene.com
And Vinylly …
Lots of big albums out in the past few weeks – Daughter, the National, LCD Soundsystem, Foo Fighters, and Gary Numan (oh dear), but the pick of this post is Ariel Pink.
Dedicated to Bobby Jamesonis at once intuitive, insular and immersive. Blissed out and fuzzed up, shades of The Doors, classic rock, thrash metal and ’60s garage flow into and across each other to form predictably unpredictable Pink pop. Standout track – Another Weekend.
Before we let you go, just to share our good news story of the week. DervSwerve has been shortlisted in the Arts & Culture category of the Blog Awards 2017 sponsored by Littlewoods Ireland, wish us luck in hopefully reaching the finals!
Watch this space as we’ll be back before you know it with VoD #6 . In the meantime chill out with our VoD #5 Spotify playlist. If you like what you see, hear and ready, why not give us a follow on Twitteror Facebook!
If their social media presence is anything to go by, Swedish band ‘Many Voices Speak’ are a very, very recent formation. Online for less than a month, the band have obviously been living in close quarters and deliberately keeping themselves under the radar, given they have already signed to not one but two labels, and also debuted their first single, ‘Video Child‘.
Opening with a shiver of guitar strings with a nuance of Twin Peaks mystery, ‘Video Child’ slowly and cautiously evolves into an intricate, yet loosely woven retro menagerie of guitar lines lightly dusted with reverb, delicate melodic keys, and barely there horns, all underpinned by the most discreet of RS arrangements. Full of Hollis-esque spaces that give it a relaxing tranquility, the song has a dreamy nostalgia into which we are irresistibly drawn, not least by the softly restrained vocals of Matilda Mård, whose careful enunciation evokes feelings of both nostalgia and regret.
With scant information on both their socials and website, there’s little to go on here, but what we do have is a quote from Mård about how the song was shaped: “‘Video Child’ was shaped from a kind of rebellion against the musical introspective sound that I devoted myself to for several years. To me it’s a song that looks back to the late nineties. Both lyrically, but also I’ve given into another kind of arrangements that provide space for a larger expression, which looks back to the artists who made me want to sing in the first place, like Dido and Destiny’s Child.”
‘Video Child’ is lifted from the band’s debut EP, ‘Away For All Time’, which Mård wrote during a long term stay in the Swedish town of Borlänge. Be prepared for more gentle, halcyon pop melodies laced together by pure, unadulterated vocals that invite and assuage with the lightest of impressions, as they sing of a darker past whilst looking to a brighter future.
You can stream or buy ‘Video Child’ via Spotify or iTunes, while Away All the Time will release via Hit City U.S.A. on October 28th. In the meantime, you can listen to the debut single here.
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.
I’ve said this before, and I am saying it again now. Sometimes you just have to let the music speak for itself. You have to let it breathe. And that is what I am doing with this masterpiece by Bjørn Morten Christophersens, performed by Schola Cantorum, entitled “Oak & Mayfly”, the video for which was directed by Frigge Fri. The lyrics below, were based on a poem by the wonderful H. C. Andersen.
OAK AND MAYFLY
Growing, stretching, widening, craving
Towered past in a mighty crown
Flying, gliding, dancing, living
Thousands of moments in blissful play
Flying, gliding, dancing, living
– and die
Good night, good night
Poor little mayfly, too short a life
Good night, old oak, there falls a leaf
Stretch and fly!
A wonderful dream
A moment forever in the Kingdom of God
Some things are just meant to be: like strawberries & cream, Rogers & Hammerstein, Ernie & Bert … Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm!
Carlsberg don’t do musical collaborations, but if they did …
“ #ArnaldsFrahm … probably the best musical collaboration in the world.”
So far, 2015 has seen Nils Frahm release his album ‘Solo’ AND take the BBC Proms by storm. Similarly back-to-back busy, Oli Arnalds has managed to work his way through not one but three projects, performing a fine balancing act between the highly acclaimed Chopin Project, the Trance Frendz collaboration with Frahm, and the Kiasmos project, on which he pairs up with Janus Rasmussen, of electro-pop outfit, Byrta.
#ArnaldsFrahm have just released ‘Collaborative Works’, a Double CD comprising of previously dropped EPs – ‘Loon’, ‘Stare’ and ‘Life Story Love and Glory’ (which always makes me think of Oasis – profound apologies for the insult!). Added into the mix, are seven newly recorded songs featured in the ‘Trance Frendz’ studio film – if you haven’t seen it, you must; it’s an absolutely fascinating, simply filmed, insight into how these two masters of improv and ingenuity work.
‘Stare’ is the starter for ten on here. Released in 2012, it was the very first collaborative recording between Arnalds and Frahm and features cellist Anne Muller. It is electronic ambience with class.
‘A2’ exemplifies the vibe of ‘Stare’; a stark yet bold and brave piece. More electronic than classical, its malleability has allowed #ArnaldsFrahm to take the sounds they wanted to use and mould them in their own musical likeness. It’s subtly potent stuff, and a perfect introduction to those unfamiliar with the pairs work.
‘Life Story’ from the 2-track live improv, is as delicate as a butterfly flitting through a summer meadow, as soft as rain falling on lush green leaves, as clear as spring water flowing through a mountain. If it’s possible for music to be an emotion – ‘Life Story’ is it. Superficially simple, it is a masterfully blended synthesis of hypnotic piano sequences, quietly and intermittently interrupted by the sounds of the musicians moving as they play. There are moments when the chords sound almost as if they are being played on a harp. This is music for angels, spectacular in its simplicity, and as charming a musical fairy-tale as ever I’ve heard.
The other two parties to ‘Collaborative Works’ were recorded in 2015, and when heard, clearly show the changes three years of performing, composing and maturing, not to mention bonding, have brought to this friendship, for indeed that is what it now is.
The first new kid on the block in this compendium is ‘Loon’, which the duo recorded over five days in Frahm’s Berlin studio. Comprising of five synth-led pieces, this element of ‘Collaborative Works’ is essentially a series of live takes, performed on an Oberheim 4 Voice and a Korg PS3100, wired up to a mixing desk.
The lead track, ‘Four’ was released in September as a precursor to the release of ‘Loon’ .
Minimalist, but very much ‘alive’, ‘Four’ opens with electrical pulses of synth, reverberating across a stream of soft melodic chimes. This pivotal sound sequence, redolent of the anomalous scenario of electrical charges zig-zagging across a soft-flowing waterscape, provides an interesting contrast between raw voltage buzzing over a gently soothing underflow. As the track progresses, there is a shift in weight as the più forte ‘chiming’ briefly takes centre-stage until it softens into thoughtful, spacious, easy peals. Like the slow plink, plink, of the last raindrops falling, as a rain-shower comes to an end, they bring this sublime wonder to a close.
Let me momentarily digress. ‘Four’ was accompanied by the most exquisite video, filmed by German director, Misha Shyukin. It is ambient, dark, atmospheric, minimalist – replicating every fibre of the music. Together, like #ArnaldsFrahm, both music and film are sublime.
“…,instead of ending the (live recording) session after the first take we continued improvising throughout the night, ending up with several new pieces written and recorded in 8 hours with no overdubs and no edits. We felt there was something special in these songs as they arrived so quickly and unexpectedly, remembering that our friendship and collaboration originally started with live improvisation on stage. At the end of the night we had all this music that sounded unfamiliar even to us, loudly asking to be included in this collection.” (Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm)
The track entitled ‘23:17’ is one of the uber newbies.
There are times when words fail me and trying to describe this is painfully hard. It is a musical reverie that momentarily loses itself in the dark, comes back out into the light, only to fall back into a murky musical tunnel once again. Gentle, repetitive piano chords loop around dirge-like “organ” sounds, yet there are sufficient spaces between the latter sequences so as not to smother the delicate sequences of the former. Music of the night meets Beauty and the Beast. This is a wonderfully clever composition and yet like so many of the other tracks on this compilation, its seeming is more simple than the complex reality.
‘Collaborative Works’ brings all of Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm’s recent works together; it is first class from end to end. Top notch ingenuity, musicianship, arrangement, and production.
It is indeed more than a collaborative work…it is a gift from #ArnaldsFrahm to the music-verse, and one for which we should be truly grateful to have received.
‘Collaborative Works’ is available now via Erased Tapes and contains two CDs comprising of 17 tracks. Enjoy.
There are times when something really random happens and you’ve just got to share the experience.
‘Can of Worms’ – a track from Gold Celeste’s debut album ‘The Glow’, is one of those random happenings, that so often occur to me mid pm, when in a slumber-some ‘least expecting shit, caught off guard yet again’ state.
As usual, and as is my wont, I was looking for something else. Up popped this bag of tricks, or should I say, bag of clichés, or would that be can of clichés.
As seems to be the norm with Norwegian indie-gaze-post-rock, this is a sonic sunny day sparkler, laden with wince inducing, acetous lyrics. As jaundiced as it is golden, Can of Worms is also more percipient than it might first appear! The honeyed ooze is a magnetic musical conceit. The kick comes with the clever use of clichés, layered like lines of attack, one atop the other. Vocal bullets, fired with precision, one after the next, albeit in very sotto vocefashion.
If you play this song and “hear”rather than listen, if you don’t think twice about it, your feedback might be along the lines of: “nice tune, dreamy, bit of spangle here, whish of sparkle there, lots of sunshine, very feel good factorish with a few Pimms thrown in for good measure (or Nordic equivalent) kinda song”.
Play it again. This time delve into the words (printed below). You don’t need me to go all thesaurus and explain the meaning. The message is pretty cut and dried; in fact, extremely cutting, and VERY DRYd.
The link to the track is just under the lyrics – pls read and listen “concurrently”, as the judge would say. Socially inclined links are at the bottom of the page for those into loving, liking, and sharing.
Gold Celeste’s debut album, ‘The Glow’ is out now via funksters “Riot Factory” records.
Can of Worms – Gold Celeste (c)
“Open this can of worms, they said it would be good for you. They said it would be good for you, good for you, it would be good for you, well good for you, good for you…(rpt)
This one goes out to our tenacious patriarchs, thanks for keeping us in line. Though there’s been some minor bumps along the way, these geezers are bent to stay. So when shit hits the fan… Open this can of worms, they said it would be good for you, they said it would be good for you, it would be good for you, well good for you, good for you…
A person with a new idea is a crank, until the idea succeeds. Some day “you-know-who” will unveil their true selves, revealing rusty tins no one needs. A penny for your thoughts… This is your time, be the change you want to see in this world. This is your time, don’t be afraid… This is your time. be the change you want to see in this world. This is your time, don’t be afraid, you don’t have to open this can of worms.
They said it would be good for you, they said it would be good for you, good for you, it would be good for you, (well) good for you etc….”
The first time I heard Nina Fiansing, was on her track ‘The Falling Angel’, which had just been uploaded onto the Fresh on the Net #Dropbox, where I’m pleased to report, it proved exceptionally popular!
I remember wracking my brains for hours trying to think which female artist I was being reminded of, and like sleep on a restless night, it finally came to me. Tori Amos. Seemingly I’m not the first, and probably won’t be the last, to point out the similarity between the vibe of this song, and that of Amos’ early 90’s productions. Dark piano, vibrant synth, melodramatic bursts of percussion and angelic harmonies – it’s very Tori.
The similarities however, don’t carry across into the vocal, which in my opinion has a suggestion of Ann Wilson crossed with Marie Fredriksson (Roxette); no mean thing! Just listening again to Nina’s ‘Wake me up from this dream’,as I type this, reinforces the comparison, well to myself at least! You might think otherwise.
So just who is Nina Fian? Who better to tell us than the lady herself!
“I’m originally from Vienna. My dad was the well known jazz musician Karl Fian, so music was in my blood from the day I was born. Hey, there’s also an opera singer in the family! 🙂
I am self-taught on the piano, I started playing it at nine. Initially, I harboured dreams of being a performing musician! In terms of artistic development, I took my inspiration from an eclectic range of influences, from classical to classic rock, even metal.
At eighteen, I started studying classical guitar at the internationally renowned Vienna Konservatorium. When I graduated at 21, I packed my bags and headed for Liverpool. I’ve lived there very happily ever since, easing myself in bit by bit, immersing myself in the music scene, getting an understanding of the culture. I started hitting the open mic scene to help me try out new material. So far it’s been a really great experience.”
That’s the background to the lady……..now for some background to the music!
You’ve released some new material with a new production company, how is that going?
“Great! Yes I recorded my latest material with Sugar House Production after getting together with them in February. We’re currently working on an EP, which will hopefully be released early next year.”
So the music you are releasing just now, where are you taking it, or indeed where is it taking you?
“I’m happy with the sound I am working with now. I think it’s me. I definitely want to stay with that sound, it just feels right. I like the power and energy coming from the new tracks. It’s something different, something new for me and it’s carrying me with it.”
Do you prefer a powerful instrumental sound to let your voice loose over? Does it give you more vocal freedom?
“I think the more powerful the sound, the more powerful I can be with the vocal. It opens more doors.”
Does performing live give you even more freedom of expression and how do you like to work with the audience?
“I think performing live is great, it feels really good and is something I’ve become quite comfortable with. Communicating with the audience is good, and very important. It’s great to get feedback, or to feel their energy.”
Is the live performance very different to working in the studio?
“Yes, very, very different. It’s easier for me to sing live. You can express yourself more, more easily than in a studio, but I do enjoy both.”
What drove you to write ‘Wake me up from this Dream’, and how do you normally write your songs – music first, melody, a note, a thought? What do you think your songs say about you?
“It IS actually based on a dream! I write differently with each song, but mainly the music comes first. I just improvise on piano and I like what I hear, what I feel, then the song comes to me. Sometimes though it’s a life situation that will make me write a song. Mainly most of my songs are written about or after life experiences.
About me? Um, not sure. I try to write songs that I hope will open people’s eyes. I write about life, how we feel about things, how we deal with situations, cope with them. I write about learning to embrace life. I believe things happen for a reason, and that our lives are like school – there is always something new to learn. It never stops!”
Finally Nina, how do you feel your music is being received?
“Very positively actually. ‘Falling Angel’ is currently number 4 in the ReverbNation charts.
I’ve had a lot of media interest, which is super exciting. BBC Merseyside radio have really got behind ‘Falling Angel’. They invited me onto BBC Introducing with Dave Monks to do a live session, which was great. I have also been invited to appear on BAY TV Liverpool for a session on 12th October and next year to Roundsound Radio for another session.
I’ve also just heard that both tracks (‘Falling Angel’ and ‘Wake me up…’) will be getting airplay on radio TVRDO in the Netherlands. It’s all really exciting and really positive.”
Thank you Nina 🙂
‘Falling Angel’ is Nina’s current single release. You can listen to it here.
Well it looks like it’s all going pretty well for our Viennese vocal whirl at the moment. So what’s the verdict?
Well, we’ve only included three of Nina’s songs here – you’ll find the full seven published tracks here on her SoundCloud page – https://soundcloud.com/nina_fian.
If you listen across the seven songs, you’ll find they have are very different in sound. ‘Falling Angel’ is a piece of thrashing electronica with a larger than life vocal, to which say, ‘Living in a fragile frame’, is a slow, endearing counterpoint. Reflective, meditative, it is a gentle ballad, which shows the other side of Nina’s musicianship.
Across the divide, there is one interconnecting factor – atmosphere. Each song has a personality of it’s own, but beyond that, they have a lot of differing atmospheres – pensive, sorrowful, regretful, hopeful, loving. They look inwards, but then they also look beyond – as Nina has said herself, life is about learning and her songs are about our experiences, how we live with them, learn from them. Above all these songs are honest. They are true reflections of the person who created them, and who has very beautifully and skilfully, brought them to life.
Whilst I really love ‘Falling Angel’ and think ‘Wake me up from this dream’ is a cracking song – my favourite track of Nina’s is the delightful acoustic ‘Hope’. It exhales sadness…it is sorrowful, but without any gushing. It is a very plainly produced, simple, but highly evocative song, gently sung, without drama, but, with a lot of sincerity.
There is a lot of contrast in Nina’s work and I’m curious to see what makes the final cut on her forthcoming EP. An interesting vocalist and highly skilled musician, Nina is on the cusp of what will hopefully turn out to be a very rewarding future.
I’ll leave you with the song ‘Hope’ ….. and let’s ‘Hope’ that 2016 will be the ‘Dream’ year for this ‘Angel’ xxx
“I never had the chance to say what I wanted to say”