Random Acts of Music #2 – A BBC 6 Music ‘Fluenced Playlist

Susanne Sundfør

In this second ed. of Random Acts of Music we’re taking our lead predominantly from serious music influencer and doyenne of experimental electronica and idiosyncrasy, the dulcet-toned MaryAnne Hobbs. To spice things up and keep it diverse, we’ve also lobbed in a few choice cuts from across the 6 Music Board.

Just in case you missed our first New Music Playlist #NMP, you can check it out later by clicking this link.

Today’s playlist is somewhat submerged in dense, dark soundscapes at points tinged with glistening moments of ethereal brightness. There’s an almost religious, definitely spiritual quality to some of the tracks; to counter the celestial and bring things back down to earth, we’ve included some extremely earthy and very meaty animalistic vibes.

Full Spotify playlist at the end of the post.

Photo : BBC 6 Music

Starting off the latest Recommends playlist is Aphex Twin with Umil 25-01, just one of a bunch of tracks the electronic Gandalf has uploaded out of the blue. Originally dropped as a bonus track to follow the release of ‘Orphaned Deejay Delek 2006-2008’, it’s a meandering snake of a tune peppered with sharp percussive hits. You’ll find this amongst others over on the Irish-born Englishman’s label home Warp.net. Check it out.

Walking a completely different sonic path is Berlin based musician Martyn Heyne whose magical guitar-work adorns expansive, visceral soundscapes.

Latest single Carry teases a new album due out later this year on the newly established 7k label. Speaking of his own personal interaction with music Martyn offers “For me the only way to discover something new in music is to listen without any preconceptions as to what it is. No expectations at all”. Sound advice.

August Rosenbaum is a Danish composer whose innovative compositions are currently taking music industry and media types, as well as fans by storm.  If music could be described as a luxuriously adorned celestially beauty, Credo is it. Or if you prefer your analogy a little more Italianate in a futuristic Renaissance kinda way – in the Dane’s own words – “Imagine an altar boy stepping forward to sing at an Italian church mass in 2050”.

Credo is Lifted from the August Rosenbaum album ‘Vista’ due out on November 24th on uber-hip, Danish independent record label Tambourhinoceros. If the two single releases provide a vista of what is yet to come on the full length, we can look forward to something pretty special! (Check out lead track Nebula – a ‘poignance’ of strings set afloat on a sea of all consuming darkness).

Another track that could easily have been recorded in the shadowy, nocturnal darkness of a marble-lined Gothic cathedral is Mountaineers, the Susanne Sundfør single featuring the illustrious John Grant. The Norwegian music artist recently signed to the Bella Union label for whom she’ll play an intimate album launch in London’s Courtyard Theatre on 22nd August (see poster for details).

Mountaineers is to music as Villette was to literature, and like the Bronte novella, there is something almost preternatural in its power.

It unfurls, largo, with Grant’s potent plain chant vocal lingering long on a brooding thrum, creating frissons of tension and mystery. Into Grant-created darkness comes the light of Sundfør’s magical vocal. Like a gentle hand soothing a troubled soul it adds an uplifting and bewitchingly ethereal texture as it majestically whips the melody up from Hades to Heaven.

Susanne Sundfør will be interviewed on Monday 14th August by Radcliffe and Maconie for 6 Music. Programme start time 1pm GMT. Her latest album Music for People in Trouble – from which Mountaineers is lifted – is due for release on 25th August. Susanne’s first on Bella Union, it is currently available to pre-order here

The MfPiT promotional tour kicks off in Helsinki on 12th September with a pitstop in London on 2nd October and one in Dublin five days later on 7th.

Speaking of heaven and higher highs, Midnight the new single from Jessie Ware, is a delicious R&B redemption from the Gothic froideur of its Playlist predecessor.

Earthy, sensual, seductive, its the perfect vehicle for Ware’s powerful honey-textured vocal. One minute it’s gliding recklessly over undulating synth lines, the next storming through a stomping piano riff, the temperature of Ware’s vocal matching the rising heat of the lyrics.

A taster of her as yet untitled upcoming album due later this year via PMR/Interscope, Midnight is an audacious ode to risqué love with a searingly hot, rhythmic pulse.

From hot blooded carnal pulses to ‘junglesque’, tribal ones. Listening to Pact Infernal‘s Purification is like crawling blindfold through a dark echo chamber surrounded by an invisible audience of strange sounds. The highly charged atmosphere is laced with intrigue, and shaded with a touch of terror reminiscent of ‘what danger’s lurking in the jungle?’ film-scenes.

Purification is the opening track on the duo’s debut ‘concept’ album Infernality which is on release via the Horo label and was “written to invoke a tribal ritual of the mind“. It’s deep … mineshaft deep.

Keeping the textures deep and immersive, we move onto Leaving the Park from Brookly-based Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never. Another tune from his score for the film GoodTime it’s due out on Warp on 11th August.

An intensity of frantic squiggles and streaks of noise rush through a booming darkness in a sound that strangely feels both expansive and claustrophobic.

It’s certainly immersive, drawing you into its spiralling galaxy. Innovative expression of chaotic emotion, Leaving the Park has a back to the future feel as it references Tangerine Dream in the most post-modern of ways.

American multi-instrumentalist wonder-woman Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has as fuller diary than most, with a prolonged stint of festival and island hopping pencilled in, starting with a slot at prestigious Øyafestivalen in Oslo on 11th August.

Finnish Flow Festival (try saying that with a mouthful of peanuts), plus dates in Sweden, France and Poland follow, as well as a mid-Winter gig in NYC that will see her showcase her upcoming album.

Kaitlyn played the Nils Frahm festival in London last year where per that flaxen mistress of the decks, she “enchanted the room“.  The inventive and far-seeing electro-experimenter continues to enchant with An Intention, the first taster of her new album entitled The Kid which is due out on 6th October.

There are similarities of sorts with Welshwoman Kelly Lee Owens – both artists push and stretch boundaries oft’ beyond their ‘comfort zone’; they both also favour a fusion of existential synths and breathy harmonies.

The apparent effortlessness of Smith’s art belies the perfectly arranged elements that furnish her imaginative electronic habitats.

Full details of her tour schedule and album release can be found on Smith’s website.

 

Four-piece Grizzly Bear who hail from Brooklyn, NYC, have just dropped single Neighbors taken from their upcoming album Painted Ruins which is due out on the Columbia label on 18th August.

When they finish live-love-bombing New York’s clubs, they’ll be hitting my home town, where they’ll pitch up at Vicar Street for a double date on 4th/5th October with Finn-Dane super-group Liima. UK and Euro dates follow – details on their FB page.

Photo Tom Hines

Possibly the most touchingly beautiful and warmly endearing song on this playlist, Neighbors is the fourth release from the bands first long player since their 2012 album Shields. It’s as mellow as the dawn glow with a caress more tender than a gentle breeze.

Blending swatches of folk, indie and electronic, the track flows across lines of heaving synth, warm-textured ‘horn’ samples and tight circular guitar riffs. The understated vocal complements the carefully produced union of organic and electronic.

You can watch the rather quirky but really entertaining visual accompaniment to Neighbors here.

For the next track, what we wanted to bring you and what we can bring you are unfortunately two different things. What we wanted to include here was the Andrea Belfi remix of the Dead Light track, Sleeper. However, as it’s currently unavailable in any format other than MP3, that isn’t a playlist runner.**

A huge favourite of Ms. Hobbs, drummer Belfi has re-imagined the short, soul-stirring Sleeper, weaving inspired rhythm patterns into its minimalist fabric.

Belfi’s percussive choreography is akin to expressionist or freeform dance. Vital, expressive, uninhibited and provocative – it enlivens and reshapes, bringing new textures to the surface of what already was an incredibly captivating composition. Bravissimo.

Sleeper (Andrea Belfi Remix) is one of four brand new mixes due out on 25th August on the Village Green label but can be pre-ordered here.

**On the playlist we’ve included Sleeper in its original format and an Andrea Belfi solo track, Lead (percussive shades of Sat in Your Lap).

The Spotify gods are not being kind to DervSwerve just now, as lo, we’ve been struck down with déja vu yet again, as the track we wanted to feature hasn’t been uploaded. No matter, we’ll pluck another from the heart of the Blondes catalogue.

Blondes are a two-piece based in NYC who are set to release Warmth their first album on the R&S label. The track we wanted to bring you was MRO* but the only track available to us just now is KDM, which at just under 6.50 is one helluva #tuunne.

Warmth Artwork

It’s the type of track where using the word trance would be apt as the groove is all rather heady and hypnotic. Pulsing rhythms beat into layer after layer of synth trance but it’s in the overall packaging that the genius lies.

There’s an underlying graininess and almost deliberately unpolished edgy rawness to their skilfully arranged, idiosyncratic production.

Warmth is due for release on 11th August but can be pre-ordered here.

*As of 11th August, MRO has been added onto the RAoM playlist

 

Our penultimate playlist entry is from an old hand under a new guise. Purl trading under the Illuvia moniker brings us the delicious Surrounded. To quote from his bandcamp page …

Music as a doorway to the Eternal – Welcome. My name is Ludvig Cimbrelius and I create music, endlessly … it is a language capable of expressing some of the vast depths of beauty that resides within us all.”

How absolutely wonderful is that?

Equally wonderful are the cool, clean lines of his self-released track Surrounded. Minimalist electronic breeze, piano notes in the form of Summer raindrops, and harmonies in the guise of spritely echoes.

It’s just all too gorgeous.

Illuvia is lifted from the album Eternell and you’ll find both over on bandcamp. Buy it and let your senses be beguiled!

..

Last but by now means least, easing us out is the fascinating Two Thousand and Seventeen from Four Tet.

On the wings of Kieran Hebdon this is an amuse bouche from his new album due out later this year on his own label Text Recordings.

It shimmers. It stuns. Precision fretwork of the most intoxicating kind is paired with laid back synth soundscapes to create something so unique that it defies categorisation. Which can only ever be a good thing.

Strings played in an elaborate Asian style are the gilt-edged bling to a paired-back electronic twilight, ornate decor melded with layers of grey.

With its exquisite guitar sequences, which are played with dexterity and flair, and backroom fodder synths, this is a track where melodrama is counterpointed by the most workaday of ‘backing tracks’. Simply perfect.

And a simply perfect ending to what’s been a pretty special playlist. To hear our regular Random & other playlists or to keep up with all the news and views follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or hop across to Spotify! DervSwerve

 

HWCH Fest – Call for Applications

IRISH MUSICIANS – CALL TO ACTION

Ireland’s HWCH – Hard Working Class Heroes annual music showcase and conference once again returns to autumnal Dublin, this year crossing from 28th to 30th September.

As per, the main focus is showcasing the huge wealth of emerging musical talent that has our current Irish scene practically bursting at the seams, ipso facto, the HWCH festival folk are making their annual call to action.

Now is the time for Ireland’s musicians, singer-songwriters, bands and solo artists to apply for their chance to take part in this internationally renowned showcase event which will run across several Dublin venues later this year.

MUSICIANS – 

Log on to hwch.net and click on the “BANDS APPLY HERE” button – applications will be through the artists’ Breaking Tunes profile.  Closing date for applications is JULY 14th.

Okay? So far so simple right? We -ll, here’s where things get a leetle tricky! By way of marking its 15th ‘birthday’, HWCH has decided to spice things up a bit so musicians you can prepare to feel the heat, because in #HWCH17 fewer bands will be put through to the final line-up!

Get your application in, whack your competition face on and get practising guys! #workhardplayhard  Literally!

And that’s not all! More changes are afoot with the three-day eventer now hosting the showcase lives on Friday and Saturday nights only. Playing coy, they are keeping their cards close to their chest and holding back on some other announcements. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open.

Run by First Music Contact, HWCH provides up and coming Irish acts with a platform to showcase their wares to media, industry professionals and music fans alike – exposure they may not otherwise have access to.

Through the Music from Ireland office, FMC help with funding for new Irish artists, as well as opening the door to opportunities via their contacts with international festivals such as SXSW, TGE and Eurosonic to name but a few.

Since it kicked off in 2003, HWCH has helped sew the seeds of several acts who have since blossomed onto our contemporary scene; artists such as Hozier, Girl Band, Le Galaxie, Otherkin, Ailbhe Reddy & More.

To celebrate all the fine talent that has passed through the HWCH doors and as a mouthwatering taster of the delicacies to come, I’ve put together an amuse-bouche for you in the form of an HWCH Taster Menu which you will find below.

It includes tasty morsels from some of the artists mentioned above as well as top tracks from Jape, Le Boom and the latest single release from the Coronas.

Remember the deadline is 14TH JULY and the clock is ticking.

Btw, if you hop over to the HWCH socials you’ll find nifty vids of local and international judges giving some invaluable tips n tricks.  Do It Peeps!

HWCH is supported by The Arts Council, Culture Ireland and Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland

DervSwerve x

 

Discover Narnia – The Magical World of Nordic Music

📷 @bleirvik

Is there anything more magical than an expansive tract of land carpeted with thick pile, powdery snow, imbued with a sense of hush and serenity?  As one soaks up its daz-white emptiness offset by a stunning azure blue sky and high noon sun of the type more associated with the Mediterranean, the purest air seeps into ones lungs, invigorating, healing, giving one an unexpected head-rush of dizzying proportions.  This is mid-Norway in early February and despite its minus three temperatures, it has a clement, almost springlike feel to its late winter weather.

As if by way of silent solidarity, the weather replicates the colourful iridescence and paradoxical cold charm, that like a pair of oversized, ice-tipped wings, so much of the music from this region drapes itself in.

Norwegian music has for many years held me in its thrall, with its effortless scaling of Himalayan vocal heights, pristine tonal clarity and sheer unadulterated enthusiasm.  Time and again, it has drawn me to its Narnia-esque snowscapes, lured by its easy charm and communal spirit, each visit proving a little more enticing, each foray drawing me a little deeper into its ‘norsk kultur’.

Enough of the Danubian hyperbolic flow!  A recent trip to Norway brought about the opportunity for several interesting interviews, some of which were, it was agreed, to be published by a rather large online publication.  However and most regrettably, despite having received written agreement prior to the event, said publication has since reneged on its commitment and those long hunched over transcripts have gone unseen.

So, by way of small reparation to those artists who were promised a space in the much broader columns of that blog which shall remain nameless, I have decided to do a three-part Norwegian special to kick off my new Discover series featuring the best of Nordic music.  The two posts will be made up of a sprinkling of those artists who are doubtless feeling very much aggrieved (you’re not on your own!) and a smattering of others to whom my ears are oft’ inclined.  Enjoy, Derv x

WHO? KATRIN FRODER

Bergen born Katrin Frøder who goes by her surname, is one of many artists signed to the Toothfairy label, who are fast becoming ‘a thing’ in their native patch.  Best known for her unmistakable signature vocal that resides up there somewhere alongside the seraphims, Frøder crafts hypnotic electronic-based music saturated in more technological quirks than would challenge the best spark.

Having taken some time out to recalibrate, the Norwegian who is currently beavering away at penning new songs, says a revitalised return to form has inspired new music even stronger and more alive than that of her self-titled debut.

With several lives dates down and appearances at top festivals under her belt, the singer opted out of the chance to play at SXSW, choosing instead to stay closer to home to continue with her songwriting.  She has most recently been releasing collaborations with fellow label mate and renowned electronic producer Carl Louis, best known this side of the North Sea for his work with ARY.

Quirky, with an idiosyncratic style and a penchant for a bit of blue hue, Frøder is an artist who stands out from the crowd while her unorthodox creative style lends itself to weaving both spiralling sonic fascinators and beat-driven crowd pleasers.  Most recent releases see her featuring on Carl Louis’ Easy and this wistful wonder, Come With Me. Expect new solo music later this year.

WHO? LUDVIG MOON

Each time I go to write a review of LM’s music, I have to return to their FB page to count up just how many of them there are in this sprawling indie horde (there are 7).  Ludvig Moon, signed to Norwegian indie label Riot Factory, are a band who I would classify as ‘still maturing’, a group within touching distance of nailing their sound.

Their debut album Kin had all the ingredients for a runaway success but alas, as seems to be the norm with much indigenous Norwegian ‘pop’ music, it didn’t really figure in their music charts scheme of things.  Highly acclaimed and critically well received, it was, is, give or take the odd hiccup, an extremely well produced compendium of thrillers and seducers.

Ludvig Moon aren’t just another indie band – they are the sum of extremely talented instrumental parts, complete with a duet of vocals that are a synchronised match made in harmony heaven.  While they may look a little top heavy on the instrumental side, and are usually found spilling over the side of any industry standard stage, when you strip back to component level the wealth of the individual threads doesn’t just validate it compounds the splendour of the overall weave.

Ludvig Moon say they’re in a happier place and it shows. What’s also evident is an abundance of freshly charged high voltage energy.

Blankets their latest from the forthcoming All Our Friends EP, due out on 26th April,  (there doesn’t appear to be a pre-order so keep your eyes peeled) is a collaboration with The Little Hands of Asphalt and Team Me, possibly the only band to be able to lay claim to having c.99% of Norway’s musician population pass through its line-up since its inception.

There’s a touch of the poppier side of alt-rockers MSP to this track which drifts nicely back to a mid-90s landscape of Britpop when boys could be girls and girls could be whoever the damn hell they wanted to be.  A video montage of ‘home “let’s get shit-faced” movies’ and archive film footage shows humour, personality and too much tongue.  New music due date, 26/4/2017.

WHO? LOVESPEAKE

Ooh, one sip of this seductive sweetness and you’ll be intoxicated for hours.  An anaesthetic for a bad day, heartbreak or general pain in the ass-iness, Novocaine is our new musical drug of choice as produced by the colourpop hit factory that is Lovespeake.

Every picture tells a story, and this track’s artwork alone, should give music fans a good indication as to the optimistic mindset and rainbow of creativity behind this Norwegian ensemble.  Headed up by Alexander ‘Pav’ Pavelich, who I had the pleasure of running into recently at an Einar Stray gig, Lovespeake and their album DNA were one of the runaway musical successes of 2016.  Their precisely conjured cocktails of sun-kissed melodies, Caribbean beats and retro-disco are the product of the most fertile of musical imaginations combined with a rush of vital dynamism.

Lovespeake cosy up to singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Max Frost, who seems to have a lyrical thing for pills of a certain persuasion #Adderall, on their latest piece of colourful wizardry, with the Texan adding a deep south raspy drawl to counter Pav’s spotless polar falsetto. Two things strike you when you first hear this track – Frost’s deliberately spacious vocal and the song’s ’70s disco groove.

This audacious combination produces something to the effect of a mash-up of a slowed down Someday by The Strokes and A Night To Remember, the 1978 smash by the most classy of all funksters Shalamar.

Like the most delicious dessert laced with bourbon, this is toxic saccharin; a moment on the lips, a myriad soporific trips.

WHO? SIGRID

Uncredited

Following the lead of Adele, Aurora and er, A-Rihanna, newcomer Sigrid goes by forename alone.

The baby sister of singer/songwriter Tellef Raabe, she was singing backing vocals to his headliner at the Norwegian Trondheim Calling festival in February 2016. What a difference a year makes!

Despite the fact that her first single Sun, which she released in 2013 at the tender age of 16, was a smash hit, it wasn’t until she signed to Island Records that the wheels began to seriously turn for this youngster.  With the full force of the Island wind-machine behind her, Don’t Kill My Vibe didn’t just land, it torpedoed its way into our musical space.

Frighteningly perfect pop, it’s like an angry feline with an itch and the odd human to scratch. “You think you’re so important to me, don’t you” she swipes at some envious no-mark, her pitch-perfect vocal sung with that confidence only the young can muster, bouncing off echoey drum-claps and negotiating the melody’s high altitudes with the sort of conviction most of her peers will never achieve.

One of the latterday signs that you have ‘arrived’ is when you acquire your own Wikipedia page … Sigrid, but in case we need to reaffirm just how good this girl is, here’s the acoustic version of her global (yes global!) hit, Kill My Vibe. Watch, listen, shiver.

WHO? JENNY HVAL

Writer, musical architect, experimenter, songsmith and latterday Norwegian icon, Jenny Hval is revered the same way in Norway as Bjork is in Iceland.

A protagonist at the fore of the current zeitgeist of female avant-gardists taking the oft maligned genre of art-pop to the masses, she is as lauded for her outspoken social commentary as she is for her creative brilliance.  If music could be an ‘installation’ in the same way art is, Hval’s work would be first in the door of the Tate Modern swiftly followed by a stint in the Astrup Fearnley.

Her last record Blood Bitch was a highly acclaimed concept album influenced by all things hematic. It was rapturously received by critics who universally heaped it critical acclaim.  Cited by every influential publication in their ‘best of’ lists for 2016, it was the overall winner of the annual Phonofile Nordic Music Prize for best Nordic album, the award being presented to Hval during the renowned By:Larm international music festival.

Most recently Hval has been in the news with her bonafide collaboration with Welsh producer Kelly Lee Owens, who famously reworked her track Kingsize back in 2015.  Recalling Owen’s “personal affinity for water” Anxi slips and slides its techno persona through the musica obscura that lies between ambient and pop. Pulsing through a myriad metamorphoses, it maintains a mood of dark foreboding as Hval intersperses the electronic narrative with bizarre spoken word vocals – a monologue which moves at a pace that is quirkily out of sync with the pull of Owen’s beat.

The song swoops up out of the darkness into a brighter soundscape at the heart of which is a steady techno pulse, until apropos of nothing, it swerves right back down again, into an otherworldly void. Art that manifests a host of unorthodox ideas, music which reaches far beyond its natural boundaries; that is probably how Hval’s work is best described.

Jenny Hval will perform in Dublin’s NCH on 6th October as part of their Perspectives series. Tickets http://www.nch.ie

Nordic music, Norwegian in particular, has evolved and grown so spectacularly over the past decade that it is now hard to remember a time when it wasn’t part of our natural musical make-up.  If you haven’t previously come across any of the five featured artists hopefully this first chapter in a new Nordic themed series will have sufficiently opened your minds to excavate further down into this magical, musical mine.  If not, please do come back, there’s plenty more coming down the tracks.

As usual, no music series worth its salt would come without a complementary playlist.  Here’s our ‘starter for five’, which we will add to week on week with each new blog-post.

DervSwerve

 

Is Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon The New Rocky Horror?

Not since the walls of every venue in the land echoed with the rousing chorus of ‘Time Warp’ have we witnessed such a frenzied response to an on-stage production, one which many music snobs would deem more ‘70s kitsch than ‘George & Mildred’, the Cinzano ad series and Sweet put together!

Viewed from a distance Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon is like Multi-Coloured Swap Shop meets Rainbow for drag queens, but on closer inspection this is an altogether cleverer concept than one might at first realise.  Set against a backdrop of the glam era that manifested itself throughout British popular culture in the ’70s, Church allows her concept to come into being. The catalyst for this ‘kitschella’ seems to have been the singer’s desire to steer her career in the direction of a “be true to thine own (unconventional) self” approach, one which sees the ‘fun-factor’ dial up turned up to the max.

Recently, that close-up pleasure was all mine, when the former ‘Voice of an Angel’ now trading as the Dominatrix of the Dungeon Dimensions (my term, not hers) brought her rainbow hued sparklefest to Dublin.

A sparse and pretty diverse early crowd soon blossomed into a heaving swarm of Church acolytes for what was to become an extravaganza of the weird and wonderful delivered “in the best possible taste” as Cupid Stunt, creation of the late Kenny Everett would say.  In fact, if Everett were still alive I have no doubt he’d be up front centre, if not on-stage, lapping up every delicious second of this glam rock meets vaudeville spectacular.

Pop Dungeon is a vibrant, melting pot of cover songs morphed, reshaped, and segued in the most breathtakingly innovative ways; perfectly synced mash-ups, of disparate songs, which only the keenest of creative minds and sharpest of musical ears could re-imagine. Its set-list is a colourful riot, a neon-bright, eclectic pick ‘n mix of indie, 80s, disco, rap, rock anthems and off the wall oddities, which on paper, does not and should not work. But it does, and bloody wonderfully at that!

On the night, Talking Heads’ Burning Down The House comes hot on the heels of Nelly’s Hot in Herre, while Trousersnake parleys with Thom during a Cry Me/ParAndroid muddle.  The Edwin Starr classic soul banger War is given full turbo treatment while Missy Elliot is treated with all the funked up respect she deserves.  “We’re a democracy here in Pop Dungeon” coos the singer as she passes the baton to her choir of ‘Charlie’s Angel’s who in turn perform lush covers of everything from M.I.A to Rage Against The Machine.

Set highlights include two Beyoncé numbers, an En Vogue cover and two Prince homages, the latter of which is a stunning rendition of Diamonds & Pearls, which Church morphs into a magnificent operatic scale-sweeper as she effortlessly traces the theme tune to E.T. . A performance so magical it renders speechless, an otherwise rambunctious crowd.

The handful of times when Church lets her former opera-star self come to the fore are without doubt some of the most spectacular elements of this multi-dimensional megamix.  At her subtlest, on 10CC’s I’m Not In Love and encore opener Hide & Seek, she is possibly at her most quietly triumphant.

Going to see Pop Dungeon isn’t just like attending any other gig.  This is an high quality, off the radar innovative and beyond-Bolt dynamic carnivale of entertainment, performed by a ten-strong troupe of extremely colourful, enthusiastic and talented artists who by all accounts, have a wonderful chemistry and marvellous rapport.

And, might I also point out, that Pop Dungeon are possibly the friendliest on-stage artists I have ever come across – their constantly smiling, happy interaction with the crowd was something I have never previously witnessed! Kudos!

Pop Dungeon is leading the ‘karaoke’ zeitgeist with Church turning the crime f.k.a ‘cover versions’ into a professional ‘coverfest’ that has the potential to become the next big thing. An unorthodox creation that Charlotte Church has taken and made her own, it is a project with which she has undeniably proven herself as innovator, arranger and producer.  It is not beyond this audacious Welsh woman to up the ante, and upscale to a full bells and whistles ‘grand production’, a Cirque du Soleil of the music world, brimful of fascinating wonders and wildly creative goings on.

In many ways, with its kitsch glamour and innovative wackiness, Pop Dungeon is the Rocky Horror Show of the 21st century. Like its cult musical predecessor, it has all the outré sensibilities, off-the-wall ingenuity and addictive magnetism required to gain a global cult following.

An all-out camp creative triumph, a critical and one would hope commercial success, Pop Dungeon has put Charlotte Church back to the fore of modern pop-culture where she belongs. All hail Queen “Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, fucking Church”.

Pop Dungeon tours until 12 May – check here for details.

DervSwerve

Elk’s Specimen EP Is A Journey Beyond Post Rock

There is music which by default tumbles into that categorical looseness known as post-rock, a term so vague that even the most knowing of oracles would be hard pressed to define it.

I like to think of it as a musical free spirit; music without a map or specific direction, meandering aimlessly through a myriad uncharted territories.  Chameleon like changes of sound and texture, vacillating between tempos, swimming seas of varying emotions.  I cannot define post-rock in the same way that I cannot confine the music of Elk to one single genre. The Shropshire four-piece are about so much more than a single-instance of style.  

Elk are Dom Main (vox/electronics), Jamie Wesley (guitar), Will Soutter (drums/electronics) and James Kerr (bass).  They met whilst at Durham Uni where they allegedly studied things medical and scientific, and having a formed a bond over tea, music and er, Elks obviously, they turned friendship into a band and are playing together even since. 

Today marks the release of their debut EP ‘Specimen‘, three tracks of truly phenomenal musicianship and exceptional vocals that radiate transcendence and epitomise originality and diversity.  Despite being recorded in the hermetic confines of an attic the resultant three songs are anything but dark or claustrophobic.  

That Elk take their influences from a wealth of artists – Japan, Radiohead, ’80s electronica – is reflected in the eclectic nature of their music, something which is very evident when you listen to their new EP.  Opener ‘Continuously’ like the ebb and flow of a tide, veers in the direction of Kid A and then away again, falling on your ears like a shower of otherworldly dreams.  Experimental ambient in nature, it comes replete with stick click percussion and slickly executed tempo changes.  After a careful build, the song rises to a deftly woven compelling climax that features a rather adeptly performed insistent guitar solo.

Possibly the most captivating and definitely the most poignant song on the EP is the title track.  I was lucky enough to be on Fresh on the Net reviewing duty when it featured in their Fresh Faves back in February – click here to read the review. ‘Specimen’s gentle rise and fall leads us through a pastoral landscape on its journey to some faraway, meditative nirvana.  Lead singer Dom Main’s angelic falsetto is set in a transcendental ambience the peace of which is broken only by intermittent shards of sonorous guitar.  If you could only use one word, it would be ‘bliss’.

Final track (and best of the three) ‘Iceberg’ makes yet another stylistic volte-face, one which elevates Elk’s post-rock sound to Radiohead levels (lying somewhere between Kid A and Hail to the Thief).  A fusion of electronic wizardry and earthy jazz-pop it is a vivid exploration of texture, a confluence of wildly disparate yet complementary styles.  Its brilliance is in its idiosyncratic weirdness; its divergent elements, perfectly teased and executed, are brought together in a carefully conceived of arrangement and precision production.

‘Specimen’ doesn’t define Elk but rather sets out their stall in terms of skilful musicianship and unbounded innovation.  By taking this unorthodox adventure into unmapped soundscapes, Elk have shown they are willing risk-takers and fearless experimentalists who put originality ahead of populism.

The ‘Specimen’ EP was mastered by Cem Oral (Gwen Stefani, NIN) at Jammin Masters studios, Berlin,  and comes complete with contemporary artwork by the award winning Matthieu Leger.  To celebrate its launch, Elk will join FOTN alumni Sykoya amongst others in the line up for HOTVOX, Camden Assembly, 29th April, details here.  Other gigs to follow, details will be posted on their Facebook page. ‘Specimen’ is out now and available for download from Amazon.

Discover #Brexit – Music To Break Up To

Photo: Christopher Furlong

As Article 50 is triggered and the process of taking Britain out of the EU aka #Brexit becomes a reality … did you experience that surreal Donald Trump-esque WTF vibe too? … it’s an appropriate time to launch our new music series, ‘Discover #Brexit’.  This UK focussed series will feature songs, possible anthems, which, over the course of the next few years, will help see Britain through its biggest state of flux since WW2.

The series, which will run in tandem with my new Discover Ireland series, will mainly but not exclusively feature artists supported by the wonderful folks over at BBC Introducing.  Some of you will already be aware that I am a volunteer moderator, reviewer and flag flier over at new music artist support hub Fresh on the Net. During my two-year tenure, I have seen at first-hand the challenges new music artists have to overcome to get their name known and music heard. Which is why helping to promote new artists and music has pretty much become a passion!

I’ve witnessed fab bands like False Advertising, Vryll Society and Estrons (work extremely hard to) get their heads above the media parapet, while superb acts like Bryde, Tiny Folds, Cascades, Jazz Morley, The Trusted and War Against Sleep have all had music featured by their respective regional BBC Intro hubs.  Some were even lucky enough to snaffle a slot on the highly prized BBC Intro Saturday Night lives.

The aim of this Discover series, is to highlight up and coming emerging music artists in addition to bringing music from some of Britain’s finest to, if not your doorsteps, then your laptops, iPads, smartphones & co by way of an ever-changing Spotify playlist.

So, without further ado, let’s get the party started.

Dutch Criminal Record

Who? DUTCH CRIMINAL RECORD

Possibly one of my favourite bands of the now, I first came across Chichester based Dutch Criminal Record back in 2015 when I reviewed their hotly faved track ‘Socks and Sandals’ for Fresh on the Net.  They describe their music as ‘indie surf’, I describe it as f**kin’ cosmic.

This is my kinda indie – golden glow vocals, clever guitar riffs and a ‘locktite’ rhythm section.  There’s plenty of instrumental talent, spades of ingenuity and some mighty catchy songwriting behind this fun four-piece, super-popular with music fans and tipsters alike. They’ve successfully pushed four songs through the FOTN machine in addition to having their music featured on sundry Spotify playlists and the BBC Introducing MixTape.  With some gigs coming up including one in London you should keep an eye on their FB page.

While I’ve a thing for their current single ‘Change of Heart’, all warm melodies and renegade guitar riffs, they’ve just released a Super8 shot vid for their track ‘Stuck Between’, here it is, just for you!

WHO? HONEYBLOOD

Glasgow duo Honeyblood released their Babes Never Die album last winter, since which they’ve been all over BBC radio playlists like Piers Morgan on Twitter. Most recently they bagged one of the coveted slots at the 6 Music Festival which, conveniently for them, was held in their home town.

They’re currently upside down in Oz, next stop Singapore, which must come in at a considerably higher ranking on the wow factor scale than Lanarkshire.

Stina Tweeddale and Cat Myers make up Honeyblood, the former on vocal/guitar duties with the latter on drums.  Their sound could best be described as hard and fast, urgent thunder while their vibe screams empowerment and an abundance of une énergie furieuse.  There are traces of pop sensibilities and some softer pop-rock melodies, but the overall style is grunge with a metal shard stuck up its ass. It’s a bit Sleater Kinney with knobs on and all the sass of The Slits, and puts Honeyblood up there with other alt-rock cum neo-punk zeitgeisters such as Wolf Alice, Sløtface and Black Honey.

April will see the pair face into an extensive round of live dates kicking off at Galway’s electic Roisin Dubh (they play Whelans Dublin on Saturday 8th, makes note to check diary) before working through various venues across the UK, wrapping up at London’s Koko in June. Dig into the ‘5th Element’ like visual for their single ‘Sea Hearts’ here.

WHO? DAYFLOWER

Leicester based fuzzsters Dayflower, confectioners of sweet n sticky sugar pop and general all-round reverb-festooned indie dudes.  Another band who’ve won the hearts of FOTN and BBC Intro with their deliciously hypnotic, drone infused anthems.

The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and general Leicester lege David Dhonau (of dystopian hip hop collective ‘1,000,000,000,000 o’clock’ fame  … no words!) and Norfolk blow-in Alex Clemence, Dayflower has been through a few transitions of late resulting in a more tightly knit and focused unit whose sound has, as a result of its metamorphoses, evolved extensively.

Their most recent double A – ‘Neverfriend/Seeing Up’ – sees the band diffuse an edgier, more acerbically grungy tang through their candy-pop drone, giving it more balance while still retaining its original lo-fi sensibilities.  Gone is the smartie-sweetness of previous tracks, replaced with richer, darker and more textured sound fx, putting Dayflower’s drone into the same category as gaze pioneers, MBV.

Curators of the now notorious Candy Dust club-nights, Dayflower’s following has grown to epic proportions well beyond Leicester’s borders, as word of their proactive promotion of a plethora of new music artists from across the spectrum spreads like honey on toast.

Their latest video for the single ‘Seeing Up’, sees sequences of psychedelic fade merge with some captivating drone footage, making for one hell of a mind-bending, awe-inspiring visual.  Watch it here.

WHO? HARLEA

Photo Disorder UK

The London based blues-rock singer is a grittier, sassier Duffy for 2017.  Everything leans towards sixties flecked blue-eyed soul but the grinding rock n’ roll guitar content adds dangerous levels of toxicity. Birmingham born Harlea was snapped up by 0E0E singles label of Propeller Recordings  before releasing two tracks ‘Miss Me’ and ‘You Don’t Get It’.

Harlea’s voice, flecked with golden undertones, is one almighty powerful weapon of vocal force.  It’s determined, stubborn sassiness trimmed with melodic soul, like a turbo-charged Maserati replete with soft, beige leather upholstery. Light to the shade. Omega to the Alpha.

And that’s the thing with Harlea – she is a young woman performing in a genre that is predominantly male. One in which only the gutsiest of females – Chrissie Hynde, Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks – thrived and survived.  Something tells me that Harlea is both well capable and equipped to do likewise.

Playlisted by every major UK radio station and currently doing the interview-rounds with big glossies such as Vogue and Elle, Harlea is set to take 2017 by the scruff and make it her own.

WHO? TEMPLES OF YOUTH

Originally a three-piece called Shallows, this Winchester based outfit downed tools, took stock, did some skin shedding and reinvented themselves as electronic duo Temples of Youth. Jo Carson on vocals and percussion with Paul Gumma on guitar make up this rather thoughtful and unpretentious outfit.  With more of a social and political consciousness than most, their last single was an ode to lost futures in a post-Brexit Britain, although given its inevitable pessimism dirge is probably a more apt description.

Frequent flyers on the airwaves of both BBC Intro South and Solent (the latter having snaffled some of the former’s terroir), Temples have also featured on FOTN and the BBC Mixtape, and have been playlisted by Beeb heavyweights such as Steve Lamacq, Huw Stephens and Dermot O’Leary. In fact, all of their five singles have received airplay between the Beeb Big 3 – 1/2/and 6.

The duo are constantly on the go, writing, recording, gigging and actively seeking out new ways through which to get their music heard.  Most recently they shot two live sessions in collaboration with Context Films, one of which – ‘Enso’ – you can watch here.  Gigs a-plenty are lined up including the Gigslutz affair in London from April through the Summer so keep an eye on their socials for updates.

WHO? KELLY LEE OWENS

Goddess of existential electronica, Welsh synthsmith Kelly Lee Owens is to experimental music as Alan Wilder is to avant-garde. Owens’ ingenuity knows no bounds while her ‘instrumentation’ is precision personified.  Innovative mining and exploration of sounds, samples and weaves are second nature to this mistress of the unconventional.

Like a musical Edison for the 21st century, Owens has forged an unparalleled line in austere electronica in many ways akin to the found-sounds of a hospital ICU, which should come as no surprise given her nursing background.  There’s something of the clinical to her sound yet it is far from simplistic froideur.  Technically perfect it may be, but ultimately this is ethereal escapism. Cathartic and purgative, it is both tangible and intangible, real and unreal. Put simply, this self-written, self-produced, self-titled album, is one of the best debuts I’ve ever heard.

The album includes a collaboration with (Phonofile) Nordic Music Prize Winner Jenny Hval entitled Anxi.. An intense, beat ridden compulsion, it is infused with the dreamiest of liquid harmonies which solidify into a melodic, spoken word sequence, post which the track metamorphoses into a mesmerising trance instrumental, interrupted only by momentary clouds of bewitching chant.

Several festivals including Norway’s Øya, Dorset’s The End of the Road, Primavera and Iceland Airwaves are all pencilled in. Nothing scheduled for Ireland yet but the year is long.  Keep track of developments on the official website.

WHO? THE LUKA STATE

Might just have the next Blossoms right here folks – ie, the next big thing to come up, nay burst their way through the ranks of FOTN/BBC Introducing  – read my review here!

Bold as brass, larger than life and twice as loud, this four-piece rock band from Cheshire are widely tipped for great things (Q, Clash, Disorder) and all you have to do is listen to their latest single to understand why.  TLS have rock n roll on a cinematic scale running striding through their veins; their sound being as widescreen as it is urgent but not at a price.

Rocking out cock-sure vocals with Lamborghini-esque horse-power, front man Conrad Ellis is capable of singing the catchiest of melodies with the most insistent tones without ever dropping a note. Instrumentally too there is a dogged determination to the way this band play.  The overall symmetry of their delivery, a testament to hard graft and dedication, is not to be underestimated.

Like most of the other acts here, The Luka State are touring their cotton sox off – full details on their socials. They have “something exciting coming your way” so stay tuned!

WHO? THE CLEAR

Next up yet another band who made it onto the boards of FOTN and BBC Introducing (musicians, are you getting the hint yet?)  A slick three-piece from Sheffield, The Clear are Chris Damms, Jules Buffey and Bryan Day.

Aside from taking a parking space on the same Fave reviews as the upstairs neighbours TLS – review here – these suave sophisticats have also been featured on the BBC 6 Music shows of Radcliffe & Maconie and Chris Hawkins.

The only word to describe their sonic style is ‘class’ – everything about what they do is elegance personified, right down to the high strings, percussive trim and undulating infectious beats.

Vocalist Julie Buffey’s voice is as suggestive in tone as it is luxurious in sound, her lines delivered with stylish aplomb and a hint of something more.  Musically, The Clear’s style is a compendium of jazz, pop-orchestral, latin and tropical with more than a hint of John Barry around the edges.  So much so that several reviewers mooted that their latest single, ‘The Planets’, would make for one hot momma of a James Bond theme!  What do you think?

WHO? CLYMA (MATT GOODERSON)

Someone who hasn’t yet featured on FOTN, mainly ‘cos he hasn’t tried, but who has worked with artists that have, is Matt Gooderson.  The artist now known as Clyma, is a musician, composer, lecturer, remixologist, producer, DJ and geek renowned throughout the industry for his technical prowess and a cinematic imagination that enables him to concoct the most astonishing remixes.

Recent collaborations include work with Infadels and the glorious Gris de Lin for whom the tech-meister remixed the track ‘Your Ghost’ (more on the way … shhhh!).  Most recently, Tinchy Clyma has done a beyond amazing job remixing the JOSH Savage//Alice Pearl project, ‘Whisper in the Snow’.

Without corrupting the essence or simplicity of the original, Clyma has taken this ‘gentle breeze’ of a song and given it another life, a more vivid direction.  In not interfering with the pared back vocal sensibilities Clyma has held onto the wistful innocence and raw emotion of the original, while at the same time transforming the overall vibe into a more energised and eclectic one.  A master of creative ingenuity, technical proficiency and the art of subtlety.  Check out the Clyma-Savage remix here.

As the Brexit guillotine falls on the green and pleasant lands, valleys, lochs and causeways of the UK, I think it appropriate to bring this to close by featuring an artist of mixed parentage whose heritage reaches out beyond UK borders to disparate countries but who, because of birthright, can identify as British. Lianne Le Havas was born 1989 in London to a Greek father and Jamaican mother.

Will the post-Brexit anti-immigration dystopia into which team GB has thrust itself herald the rise of a monoculture and subsequent demise of the diversity and cross-ethnicity that once made it the great cultural melting pot of the 20th/21st centuries?

As the world turns on a new and uncertain axis, I’ll leave you with one of the most perfect, most sublime of songs to come from pre-Brexit Britain, as sung by the wonderful and very British, Lianne Le Havas.

From blistering grunge punk through blues-rock, from R&B to drone, this is best of breed British music in 2017.  Check out the first cut of my Discover Brexit 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 emerging artist support hub & music portal Fresh on the Net, brainchild of Brit legend Tom Robinson.

The Discover #Brexit showcase series will run fortnightly.

Ships Announce Debut Album, Release Second Teaser

Photo : The Beatyard

Irish electro-duo Ships have just released swoon-synth track ‘All Will Be‘ heralding the announcement that their debut album, entitled ‘Precession’, will be self-released on 1st May.

Dublin based Ships are Sorcha Mc Grath and Simon Cullen, who’ve been playing together for a while now, plying their trade, honing their skills and evolving their sound.  Their album has been a long while in the offing, but all good things come to those who wait and their ever patient fans will be more than delighted with what’s on the way if their latest single is anything to go by!

‘All Will Be’ is an inter-galactic synth-affair redolent of the glory days of ’80s electronic dance with an urban astronaut twist. Streams of synth-reverb flow through black-holes of underground blues-bass while elsewhere Usain Bolt is doing the 100m sprint up and down the keyboard.  Vocals are a soft and feminine affair with just the right touch of wistfulness to draw attention without being clichéd.

The track is a follow on to album lead ‘Around This World’ and is out on the usual digital channels.

‘Precession’ will be released in both digital and vinyl formats on 1st May but is available to pre-order now via Ships’ Bandcamp page, link here.

 

 

Discover Ireland – Irish Music Under The Microscope

Talos – Photo : Olga Kuzmenko

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

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

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

Photo of Catherine Mc Grath Uncredited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TooFools @Button Factory Photo: Claudia Verdecchia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonzai Uncredited

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

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

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

The Discover Ireland series will continue showcasing Irish music fortnightly.

Come On Live Long Break Bread Along With Some Bones

Photo Rich Gilligan

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

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

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

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

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

Now, listen to the finished product!

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

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

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

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

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

nikolaj-moeller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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