Now is a very exciting time to be involved, in any way, with Irish independent music. It’s not that the music being made now is necessarily better than in times past, or more important, but that the game itself has changed. It is easier and cheaper to access recording materials; it’s easier and cheaper to promote your music thanks to the internet and its numerous iniatives; we still have great venues; the DIY spirit is alive and kicking; and collectives and labels are springing up all over the place.
There is another side to all of these changes, and that’s the uncertainty that surrounds the music industry; the unstable record sales; the cautious big-name record labels; the fast ascent to fame of newborn bands who really needed another few years to ‘find’ themselves before being introduced to the world; the speed at which you can burn away after living fast on a high of blog posts and bandcamp sales. Music is more disposable, and listeners won’t always pay money for it.
And yet…. this isn’t a post about all the difficult parts to this new musical era that we are all still wrangling with, the download-or-don’t debates, the fear, the uncertainty. It’s about the fact that despite all of this, great music is still being made. It’s sometimes overwhelming how much new music floods into my inbox every week.
Some of it is quality, some isn’t. But that’s to be expected with any creative form. There are still a lot of people doing inspiring things, so it’s an honour, really, to get to be involved in spreading the word in some way about them.
Today marks the first monthly NewFound Sounds podcast/column in The Ticket. It’s pretty thrilling – and not a little nerve-wracking, if I’m honest – to get to combine three things I love (radio, writing and music, needless to say) in one package, and have it featured in The Irish Times. If I’m even more honest, part of me didn’t believe it was actually happening until I woke up this morning and checked the website straight away on my phone (let’s not get into print-versus-web journalism in this post, however…)
But here it is. You can check out the column here, and listen to the podcast here. Any feedback, suggestions or comments welcome. I’m sure it will evolve as it goes on, and I’m really looking forward to finding new bands and themes for it. This month’s podcast features tracks from A Driftwood Manor, I’m Your Vinyl, Horsemen Pass By, SlowPlaceLikeHome and Seamus O Muineachain, who are all making totally different but utterly gorgeous music.
This week’s theme is new music, and the next two, I can tentatively say, will feature Irish bands playing in upcoming festivals. I’m thinking it would be great to focus on Irish metal / hip hop / experimental music in the coming months too, with input from people within those scenes….
All of this wouldn’t be possible without a brilliant editor, so a huge thanks to Anthea McTeirnan for giving NewFound Sounds her stamp of approval and encouragement.
A big thanks also goes to Lauren Murphy, who does the gig guide for the podcast (and put up with me growling ‘gah! noise!!’ into the mic everytime something moved while we were recording it). You’ll hear more of Lauren on future podcasts.
As for the theme music, another huge thanks must go to Toby Kaar, who kindly provided a selection of unreleased tunes for me to pick a song from. Sound! Check his music out here.
PS: If you’re looking for more independent Irish music, here are a few links for you:
Yesterday I squinted my way through an interview with the band Nibiru for a Community of Independents shoot at a sunny Bernard Shaw – it will be aired on DCTV on Thursday night, and online the next day. I had this image in my head of Nibiru as grizzly guys in their late 20s/early 30s – and it turns out they were a little more fresh-faced than that.
They are all members of different bands and two of them had just come back from touring Europe with one of their other projects. It never fails to impress me how people can jam, practise, write, tour and record with a number of different bands at the same time – and I say that as a freelancer who is always juggling a few different things.
Here’s a track by Nibiru to whet your appetite for the interview:
You Kiss By The Book
In other news, Hefty Horse will present a special fundraiser for the band You Kiss By the Book (whose Americana stylings couldn’t be more different than Nibiru’s sound) in July
That is a pretty sweet line up – entry is €10 with free digital copy of new album and doors are at 8pm.
Here’s more info from the band themselves on their fundraising intiative:
You Kiss By The Book have finished their third album, Family Tree, and are looking to raise some money to give it a physical release. The record was recorded wth the help of Sean Lynch is his recording studio in Cabra, mixed Paul and Fran at Storm Studios and mastered by Stephen Quinn at Anologue Heart.
The money made on the night will go towards releasing the album on CD, which we plan to have out towards the end of July. We will be accepting any extra donations for the album and we will give you a thank you on the liner notes. There will be t-shirts and vinyl available at a discounted price as well.
Niamh de Barra
Finally, Niamh de Barra has released another EP, Below the Sea. Niamh’s music is as dark and atmospheric as always, but this time she has expanded her sound, introducing electronic textures and beats. With its layered vocals and tribal grooves, it’s a treat for the ears.
If you’re someone with an interest in the Irish music scene as a whole, a great festival to give you an insight into what’s going on here is Hard Working Class Heroes. Yes, it doesn’t cover every single band in the country but it’s a good snapshot of what’s happening nationwide. One interesting aspect to the festival is its panel discussions, where people working in the music industry in a number of different countries gather to give their opinion on subjects such as technology, downloading, labels, and more.
Jim Carroll of the Irish Times was the man asking the questions during the sessions. Late last year, DCTV, a Dublin-based community TV station, asked me would I be interested in hosting two discussion shows on the panel sessions for their Community of Independents series. Despite having no TV experience at all and a mortal fear of seeing myself on the screen, I said yes – sure why not do one thing every day that scares you, eh?
The shows feature Andrew Bushe from Estel and Keith Johnson from IMROchatting to yours truly – they both come from very different places on the musical spectrum. Andrew had an interesting viewpoint as an independent musician active in the Dublin scene for years, while Keith represented the industry side of things.
I’m not really a religious person, but I’m no atheist either. Maybe you’d call me spiritual – or just plain indecisive – but whatever it is, I believe there’s something other than ourselves out there. With that in mind, when I listen to a piece of music that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and a shiver run down my spine, I feel a jolt of something that can’t be described in words.
Some people believe that spaces are marked with the invisible fingerprints of those who once passed through them, and that music made or played in spiritual or religious buildings takes on a certain mood because of this. So when someone takes an instrument long associated with religion, and places (plays) it in its usual context, there is often a special feel to their work. Or perhaps that is a sort of musical placebo effect…
Whether you are a believer (in anything) or not, Music for Church Cleaners by London-based musicianÁine O’Dwyer is an experience anyone can be open to. This album, which is released on the relatively new – and already hugely impressive - Fort Evil Fruitlabel, is available on tape. The resulting (and always welcome) tape hiss only adds another dimension to the improvised songs that Áine (a member of United Bible Studies) crafts on a pipeorgan, as do the clatters, hoovers and other sounds you hear throughout the live recordings.
Each time I listen to the tape, I naturally picture a person in muted clothes, with Henry hoover in hand, methodically cleaning their way around the church while Áine plays just feet away. They are simultaneously aware of and ignoring each other, each going about their own work uninterrupted. If I close my eyes, I could be sitting in a pew myself, head bowed and – for the first time ever – not wishing this experience to be over soon.
€5 per cassette
Rep. of Ireland / N. Ireland: add €1.50 p&p for one & €1 for each extra
Rest of world: add €2.50 p&p for one & €1 for each extra
Each tape comes with a download code (tucked inside the inlay so well that I didn’t even notice it first time around) and, in Áine’s case, a photo of the organ she played on in St Mark’s Church, Islington, in 2011 (above).
I did have fears based on the new sponsors, Meteor, given how disconnected the old Meteor Awards were from the Irish independent music scene, but overall the decisions here are down to the judges, a very trustworthy and knowledgeable gang.
That said, it is perhaps inevitable that the music would all come from one corner of the Irish music scene – I wonder how this could be remedied, or should it be up to other awards ceremonies to reward the best albums in Irish hip hop, metal, trad, etc?
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Free music: Out on a Limb Records
Out on a Limb Records have been giving away free downloads of albums from their back catalogue all during the week. So far, Owensie, Windings and Giveamanakick have been featured. Who is on offer today? Check out their website and twitter for more info.
Free music: Orcas
Orcas is the new musical project by duo Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below) and Benoit Pioulard. The first inklings that they were working together came when they released a haunting cover of the Broadcast song Until Then, in tribute to the late Broadcast musician Trish Keenan. Now they’re back with their first original release, which is available for free download (see below). Combining their ambient sensibilities and love for layered, ghostly sounds, Carrion is both stark and beautiful. Expect a full album later this year.
Fancy listening to some incredible old Katie Kim songs? Check out VAULTS Vol 1, which is only available to buy on tape during her forthcoming tour, and is on Bandcamp now for your listening pleasure.
I achieved one of my dreams a few months ago when I got to sing as part of a small ‘choir’ for a song on the Walpurgis Family album. The album, Dawn, is released this month and it has already gotten a rave review from Patrick Freyne in Hotpress, who really knows his stuff. Here’s Let’s Go Camping from the album – listen closely and you might hear me (ha!). Congrats to Jeroen and Popical Island on the release!
Many venues tick the boxes but do not go further than the token requirements. The wheelchair area often has a restricted view or limits you to having one mate with you, even if you’re with a gaggle of mates.
My tips are Nanu Nanu, Depravations, Alarmist, Bouts, and Come On Live Long – but heck, it’s a bloody great list of bands.
I love Radiolab in a big way – it’s like the younger, more rambunctious sibling of This American Life. Its latest show is about the bad things that people do, like, er, commit murder. Expect to feel very informed (and a bit wary of humanity) after listening to this.
Gib from the independent record store Elastic Witch had a chat with me for this week’s Sweet Oblivion. You can listen to it by following the link here.
Montreal-based musician Jon Cohen is playing Ireland next week – Dublin’s Grand Social on Friday 20 January to be exact. If you’re a fan of Brendan Benson, The Dears, and Broken Social Scene, I think you’ll really dig his stuff.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this video from Dirty Beaches. I really love his stuff and so does Cohen – we had a chat about how he really wears his influences on his shirt sleeve, and yet manages to maintain his own originality.
His album Badlands and other releases can be found on Bandcamp.
The world needs more independent record stores, but it’s an extremely hard time to open one. That’s why the latest bunch of Irish indie record stores – Elastic Witch in Dublin and Wingnut in Galway, and now Waterford – are taking a new approach to selling records in Ireland.
Instead of focusing on being stand-alone entities, they are harnessing the power of an existing business in which to root themselves, showing that in recession times it’s good for people to come together to make things work.
The first place I saw You’re Only Massive play was in the poky, sweat-stained upstairs venue in Cork’s Fred Zeppelin’s pub. The room – which always feels as though it is about to collapse and fall onto the bar below, killing an entire generation of Cork metal fans – was packed, and on its snug stage were two very young women, each holding a microphone, and to their right sat a tape recorder.
In my mind’s eye, on stage are Maebh and Megan – but as Maebh informed me yesterday, I must have gotten that night mixed up with another gig I had seen them play, as that night in Fredz, Amy Stephenson from Queen Kong was singing with Maebh.
Ah, how memories fail us! Still, I was right about the backing track of self-made beats, and You’re Only Massive rapping lyrical about all the things that consumed their young minds. Not throwaway, ‘does he like me?’ lyrics, but words that cut deeper than that. (One particular chorus went: ‘Fuck ‘em! Just fuck em!’)
The duo were feisty, full of confidence, engaging. At the time, I thought that Maebh and Megan were in secondary school but in fact both were in college. Regardless of their age, I wished I was that full of confidence back then. Hell, I’d like to be that confident now.
By 2008, Maebh and Megan had gone their separate ways, with Maebh Cheasty continuing to work as You’re Only Massive. She upped sticks to Berlin and brought You’re Only Massive into a new phase of life.
Maebh is keen to put it across that You’re Only Massive isn’t a solo project – as you can see from the picture below, she works under the name with Dave Murphy, who is also based in Berlin.
I sent Maebh some questions about You’re Only Massive – who have two Irish dates planned for the end of this month – and her answers were as forthright and passionate as I could have hoped.
It never fails to amaze me how many people are creating beautiful, challenging and eye-opening music in Ireland. And in turn, it never fails to amaze me how many people get up off their arses and put on unusual gigs, or unique events, simply with the aim of bringing new sounds to people and exploring the realms of music and performance.
There’s a real feeling in the air these days when it comes to Irish music events that if you can imagine it, it is possible. And this is being exploited in a wonderful way by those who call Ireland’s expansive music scene home. It’s a joy to witness.
Ed Devane is a man who likes to experiment when it comes to music, and musical instruments, so it is fitting that he is at the helm of the Stop/Run events. I asked him to write a piece for Sweet Oblivion about the series, as I knew he would be able to capture the spirit of the event/s just as intended.
Stop/Run by Ed Devane
Stop/Run is a project that consists of two big ideas, and multiple smaller ideas that tie these two together. The first idea is the instrument ensemble: 9 instruments that can roughly be split into two categories, string and percussion. They can be described loosely as electroacoustic, sculptural, and mechanical.
The percussive instruments are chromatically tuned across two octaves, and two of the stringed instruments are capable of infinite drones. Some can be controlled remotely by computer (via Arduino) or electronics, while others need tactile, human interaction.
I originally started building instruments out of necessity: the use of modified guitars in my music (as Ed Devane and Withering Zithering) eventually led me to design and build custom zithers more suited to my playing style. In making these, I rediscovered my childhood love of making things with my hands, something I had neglected from long years of making intangible electronic music.
I designed and built Stop/Run late last year following an invitation from Severed Head gallery to curate a sound art event. I had some experience of event organisation through Second Square to None, and a couple of the projects I initiated for that helped me develop the collaborative aspect of Stop/Run. The Ten Second Rule and SSTN Noise Series helped me make a lot of new contacts, and got me thinking about macro-scale composition and patterns in creative approach.
This is where the second major idea of Stop/Run comes in: rather than make these instruments and play a concert with them myself, I thought it would be far more interesting to invite other musicians and composers to use them whatever way they wanted. At the first gig in Dublin, in December 2010, the 7 artists involved each took a highly individual approach to the problem of writing for instruments.
Graphic notation, sampling, the addition of external sounds, electronic noise and free improvisation all got a look in. Now that the project is set to continue, this idea is expanding to become a cross-sectional snapshot of Irish music styles, as interpreted through the Stop/Run instruments.
In June this year I was fortunate to receive Arts Council funding to extend the project to other parts of the country, with a new cast of artists in the following places: Galway, Cork, and Belfast. Stop/Run:Galway will feature a very different set of musicians to the first Dublin show.
For the concert itself I’m excited to hear the combination of Irish Traditional music, metal-influenced rhythms, sequenced mechanical percussion and experimental poptones from Triúr, Bitwise+Madek, Tony Higgins and DeclanQKelly. Two of the acts on the bill, Jimmy Penguin and Ventolyn&Becotyde, will use the week of rehearsals prior to the gig to make recordings which will form the basis of EP’s. I will also be performing a piece at the concert, which will take place on Friday 26 August, from 8-10pm, at 33 Dominick St Galway.
Stop/Run is all about challenging people’s creativity. The only rule I impose is that my instruments are used in some way (and not destructively!). The instruments themselves are the rules – their limitations as well as their capabilities dictate to some extent what the musicians can do. What I want to see as the project grows are a wide range of creative approaches, new techniques, collaborations between artists who may not otherwise work together, and new audiences coming to experimental music gigs. Everything will be recorded and archived on www.stop-run-music.com.
In October I’m going to be artist in residence at the Guesthouse in Cork; during this time I hope to work with a wide range of acts, and have weekly concerts. I also plan to take advantage of having the instruments set up for a whole month to record a piece for the Withering Zithering album I’ll be making this autumn for Forwind Records in the UK.
I’m looking forward to working with a wide range of artists, many of whom as yet I have never met, and hearing what they do.
I’d like to develop this project in a variety of ways, through educational workshops, audio-visual embellishment and inter-disciplinary collaboration with dancers, hackers, film makers and The Audience!
It was great to find out more about the hardcore scene, which is very much focused on DIY – so much so that one of the city’s bands have bought a vinyl pressing machine so they can press their own records.
It was really interesting to hear about the changes that have been taking place in the hardcore scene in Galway. (And by extension punk and metal; though the scenes are not the same, they share common members and elements – for the sake of not confusing readers, I’ll use ‘hardcore’ in this piece).
With many of the original members of the hardcore scene from the past two decades now in their thirties and forties, people are moving on in life, and for a lot of people this includes moving away from being a regular part of that scene. With families, jobs and other commitments, it’s not always possible for people to play in bands or get to as many gigs.
But Daniel told me that as some people are moving away from the scene, a younger group is moving into it, including teens who are themselves forming bands and getting gigging. Every ‘scene’ will naturally evolve and this is a particularly crucial time for the hardcore folks in Galway, as the younger members will feed off the guidance and example shown by the older men and women who’ve done it all before them.
Galway needs people like Daniel and Us vs Them, along with the many hardcore bands of all descriptions that play in the city, and the other promoters and gig-goers who help keep the hardcore flames burning.