Sunday, 27 July 2014

10 Acts To Catch At Electric Picnic, 2014, Part 1


Yes, it's still over a month away, but now is the time to do some audio homework and check out some of the slightly lesser known acts, to the pure obscure before heading off to Electric Picnic, 2014. I'll skip over the main head-liners such as Beck, Portishead, Outkast, Chic etc. and start with 5 pretty well-known acts in Part 1 and then some more obscure ones in Part 2, the type of bands you could feasibly wind up in front of when you've been separated from the herd and had one too many, but may end up being pleasantly surprised at.

1) Mogwai - Probably the best known of this first tranche of bands. Having seen the Glaswegian post-rockers on numerous occasions, including live at Witness in 2003, I can vouch for their unique performances and they're also a group who play a great spread of tracks from their discography. The fact that they've recently re-released 1999's excellent Come On Die Young will also hopefully influence their playlist.


Mogwai - 'Hunted By A Freak'

Albums to check out: Mogwai Young Team (1997), Come On Die Young (1999), EP+6 (1999), Happy Songs For Happy People (2003)


2) White Denim - Upon first listen to a White Denim album the initial feeling is, these guys are doing something tried and tested with a little added quirkiness, why should I bother? Their debut album, Workout Holiday, was probably one of the last gambles I took when buying a cd, nowadays you have your SoundCloud and your YouTube to have a little dabble before making a commitment. I was not disappointed, in fact I'm fairly sure I murdered that album to death, it was a hectic, crazy and addictive 36-odd minutes of garage-rock in some ways Weezer and Pavement inspired, and in other ways, inexplicable. I do wonder how their music might sound live so it could be a little bit risky, but you could also probably do worse, having said that, their 6 studio albums have all been generally well received.


White Denim, 'Let's Talk About It'

Albums to check out: Workout Holiday (2008), Fits (2009), D (2011) 


3) Twin Shadow - real name George Lewis Jr., born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Florida, he has the whole package, velvet vocals, rock icon look and he is blatantly talented. Another one I've seen live, this time at Crawdaddy in 2011 following the release of his debut, Forget, and it was an excellent performance. Twin Shadow will be an act you'll definitely get away with not having heard any of his music, and can just turn up and enjoy the show and songs, put this one down as a dead cert. Funky, Prince-esque with a dash of Morrissey.


Zead's Dead & Twin Shadow, 'Lost You'

Albums to check out: Forget (2010), Confess (2012)


4) SBTRKT - Aaron Jerome smashed it with his self-titled debut album in 2011, following on from remixes of music by the likes of M.I.A., Radiohead, Basement Jaxx and Underworld. The dub-step maestro prefers to remain anonymous and let his music do the talking, but who cares why he does it, it's all great, personally I'm dying for his second album, Wonder Where We Land, to come out on the 22nd September, no doubt there'll be a good dose of it played at the Picnic. Of all the acts in this list, I would be prioritising seeing SBTRKT. 


SBTRKT, 'Kyoto' from Transitions II E.P.

Albums to check out:  Fact Magazine Mix 66 (2009) & SBTRKT (2011)


5) Temples - Kettering band Temples are essentially a 60's psychedelic rock band, think Electric Prunes or Strawberry Alarm Clock with the latest version of Pledge polish and you'll get the idea. Temples have become something of a curio since they released their debut single, 'Shelter Song' back in 2012. Since then and up until the release of their first album Sun Structures, they've had plaudits from Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher and supported Suede and The Rolling Stones, and their tiny vinyl catalogue is already going for insane amounts of money online for some reason. Temples will either live up to the hype or fail spectacularly, worth going to see more for the strangeness that surrounds them and their inoffensive jangly-guitar songs which are actually very catchy. These guys could be your 'Let's sit down here on the grass and have a beer and a catch-up' band. I would certainly go along for a couple of songs at least, personally, just to find out if they're actually trolling us.


Temples, 'Shelter Song'

Albums to check out: Sun Structures (2014)

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

10 Scandinavian Artists From The Last 15 Years

The following list contains well known acts and some you may not have heard of, and I'm pretty sure I may have overlooked a good few as nationality isn't something I dwell on with regard to bands and solo artists, besides, their English (when used) is usually better than our own so it can be hard to distinguish them from American / UK and Oceanic artists at the best of times! One common theme they all have though is that they're pretty bloody good, which isn't surprising as the Nordic countries have a proud tradition of creating great music, remember Ace of Base? 

*I'd love it if anyone could recommend any other albums in the comments below, or on the Facebook page as well.

1) Sigur Rós - Reykjavik, Iceland

My own personal favourite, hearing 1999's Ágætis byrjun for the first time was a mind-blowing experience, it was like an acid trip in Middle Earth, never has the word ethereal been more suited to an album, haunting vocals in Hopelandic, an amalgamation of Icelandic and an invented pseudo-language by lead singer Jonsi (Volenska in Icelandic) combined with beautiful strings and haunting guitars, it's undoubtedly a masterpiece that has an assured place in the music history books. The below video for 'Svefn-g-englar' ('Sleeping Angels') featuring actors with Down's Syndrome is also very touching.


Sigur Rós - Agaetis Byrjun, 1999


'Svefn-g-englar'

Key Album(s) - Agaetis Byrjun (1999), ( ) (2002), Takk (2005), Kveikur (2013)


2) Röyksopp - Bergen, Norway

2001's Melody A.M. was an electro-pop delight and while subsequent albums never reached the same heights, they are still worth a listen, especially 2005's The Understanding. The album was loaded with hits such as 'Eple', 'Sparks', 'Remind Me' and 'Poor Leno', some of which heavily featured in advertising after the album's release, such as a UK T-Mobile ad featuring 'So Easy' and the experimental videos for the singles also received considerable airplay on MTV, boosting the albums popularity. The below video for 'Remind Me' is still intriguing 13 years later, I first saw it on a barge in Amsterdam, which made it extra special....

Röyksopp, Melody A.M., 2001

'Remind Me'

Key Album(s) - Melody A.M. (2001)


3) Kings of Convenience - Bergen, Norway

From the same neck of the woods as Röyksopp, and whilst officially still together, it's been 5 years sings Kings of Convenience released their last album, Declaration of Dependence. The folk pop duo of Eirik Glambek Boe and Erlend Oye are very reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel, soft, calming vocals and soothing acoustic guitar, a perfect example of which is the opening track, 'Homesick'. The  lyrics of the second track, 'Misread' are a fine example of Scandinavian dexterity of a language which is not their mother-tongue;

'How come no-one told me
All throughout history
The loneliest people
Were the ones who always spoke the truth
The ones who made a difference
By withstanding the indifference
I guess it's up to me now
Should I take that risk or just smile?'


Kings of Convenience, Riot On An Empty Street, 2004

'Cayman Islands'


Key Album(s) - Riot On An Empty Street (2004)


4) The Radio Dept., Malmo, Sweden

Inspired would be too strong a word, but The Radio Dept. are the band that got me thinking about how many good bands there are from the (European) northern hemisphere. I first came across them when going through lists of 'the best albums...' a few years ago and was very pleasantly surprised to find that they had two excellent albums, their debut, Lesser Matters (which just arrived in the post today from the States, hence the train of thought for this list, and 2010 release, Clinging to a Scheme, 23 songs across two albums and no duds, pretty impressive stuff. Once again, ridiculous mastery of the English language, writing better lyrics than most bands which are native speakers, we really need to start copying their educational system!

The Radio Dept., Clinging To A Scheme, 2010


'Heaven's On Fire'

Key Album(s) - Lesser Matters (2003), Clinging To A Scheme (2010)


5) Kent, Eskilstuna, Sweden

Shout out to Brian Healy for these guys, who had two remarkable albums in the late 90's, Isola and Hagnesta Hill. Best summed up as camp and kitsch indie-pop with more than a hint of punk, they remarkably released both albums bilingually with no difference between the tracks on each album other than the language. Still going, but no longer releasing English versions of their albums, the band's forte was their catchy sound and excellent lyrics, as comfortable with high-speed guitars as they are with lo-fi ballads.

Kent, Isola, 1997


'747'

Key Album(s) - Isola (1997), Hagnesta Hill (1999)


6) Peter, Bjorn & John - Stockholm, Sweden

Sell-outs! Sell-outs! Yes, P, B & J or their record company or both whored themselves out to advertisers following the release of Writer's Block in 2006, and they have never matched their song-writing since, on pretty non-descript follow-up albums, but Writer's Block was an album that went from 'These guys are kind of good' to mainstream popularity at a stellar pace, and it all comes down to the album's pop bliss at the end of the day. Funnily enough, considering the saturation of the well-known 'Young Folks', the other singles on the album were not that popular, and it was tracks that weren't released as singles such as the excellent and timeless 'Amsterdam' and 'Start To Melt' that grabbed fans.

Peter, Bjorn & John, Writer's Block, 2006


'Amsterdam'

Key Album(s) - Um, the one above.


7) Todd Terje - Oslo, Norway

Look, Todd's just the man, from his excellent 80's remixes, collaboration with Bryan Ferry, this years piece of delectable audio that was It's Album Time, to his hair-raising set in The Button Factory a few months ago. I've praised him enough on Facebook and here so I'll leave it at that.

Todd Terje, It's Album Time, 2014


'Delorean Dynamite'

Key Album(s) - It's Album Time (2014), An Anthology: Weighed & Measured (2010)


8) Lykke Li - Ystad, Sweden

Lykke Li, excuse the pun, 'exploded on the scene', with 2008's Youth Novels and has since released two acclaimed albums which have seen her become an assured artist who is also one of my favourite female soloists of the last few years. She is a remix DJ's wet dream with her sultry vocals and fist-thumping choruses. Not that it matters, but she has managed to inhabit the side of the fence of respected musicians, whilst at the same time seeing her popularity transcend all branches of music fans from snobs, hipsters, casual listeners to chart fans, and she keeps nailing it with each record, up to and including this year's I Never Learn.

Lykke Li, Youth Novels, 2008


'I'm Good, I'm Gone'

Key Album(s) - Youth Novels (2008), Wounded Rhymes (2011)


9) Fever Ray - Stockholm, Sweden

Gothic electropop from Karin Dreijer who is also a member of The Knife, unfortunately in one sense, most well-known for the theme tune of the wonderful History Channel's Vikings TV series. Fever Ray's one and only self-titled album from 2009 is a haunting and very dark piece of music, tracks 'If I Had A Heart' and 'When I Grow Up' are easily the highlights of the album.

Fever Ray, Fever Ray, 2009


'If I Had A Heart'

Key Album(s) - Only one! So, Fever Ray (2009)


10) Trentemoller - Copenhagen, Denmark

Multi-instrumentalist DJ Anders Trentemoller's ambient techno sound is quite similar to Todd Terje at times but far more focused on a contemporary sound as opposed to Terje's mix of same and 80's synth electropop. Swinging from contemplative soft soundscapes to more beat driven remixes such as his collaboration with fellow Danes, Efterklang on 'Raincoats', his growing reputation has seen him work with the likes of Moby, Royksopp and the previously mentioned The Knife. 

 Trentemoller, 'The Last Resort', 2006


'Miss You'

Key Album(s) - The Last Resort (2006), Into The Great Wide Yonder (2011)

Friday, 4 July 2014

New Irish Music - The Daily Howl, Self-Titled E.P.




The Daily Howl, 'Hang It On A Hook'

Info: The Daily Howl are a roots / rock / pop group who are heavily influenced by Americana and blues, which is something incredibly refreshing with regard to the Irish music scene at the moment. There is a wealth of new talent and gifted bands at the minute, more than I can ever remember over the last twenty years, we are spoilt for choice. At times though there is over-reliance on indie / electronica and emulating British bands who have achieved great success, and that's to be expected, and not a bad thing, but it's nice to be able to dip into something that's grounded in genres which are not only a rarity at the moment, but always have been in Ireland, particularly blues.

The Daily Howl's debut E.P. opens with the catchy and melodic 'Hang It On A Hook' (above) which is reminiscent to my mind of a Bluetones / Belle & Sebastian country mash-up. The second track's intro and harmonies are a wonderful throw-back to The Dubliners' or Luke Kelly in a strange way, 'Haulin'' by name and nature has a pop / country feel, with it's marching band drumming and feel good guitar riff throughout. My personal favourite is the final track 'I Will Let You Down' which really captures what I think is the band's strength, fast-paced rhythm with nailed on harmonies, and toward the end of the track some excellent lead guitar which will hopefully feature more on future tracks, but that's just me being selfish. As I mentioned earlier it's great to see a new band inspired by genres that aren't commonly explored, as a big fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Marty Robbins, Neil Young and The Everley Brothers and contemporary bands like Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses, it will be interesting to see how The Daily Howl evolve, there's already plenty to suggest that they are on course to gain much wider public recognition.


The Daily Howl, 'I Will Let You Down'

Who are they? The Daily Howl are an energetic 5-piece Roots/Rock/Pop band from Wicklow with a passion for vocal harmony, a catchy chorus and infectious rhythm. A distinctive Americana & Blues influence is also evident in their sound and style. Having just recorded their debut EP, the band look forward to it's release on July 4th. They are, however, also writing and road testing material for their debut album which will be recorded in October/November in Serra Vista Studios, Portugal, with Morrissey's Musical Director, Boz Boorer. 

Where Can I See Them? After treading on the edges of the festival circuit last summer, playing a number of Arts Festivals, The Greystones Americana & Roots festival and the Jack of Diamonds Americana & Roots festival, this summer looks to be a breakthrough one for the band. Having so far been confirmed for a number of festivals including Castlepalooza and Light Colour Sound Kilkenny, more festival dates will be announced soon along with a nationwide tour surrounding the release of their debut EP.

Listen / Like & Follow: 



Monday, 30 June 2014

Milky Chance - Sadnecessary (2014)




Milky Chance, 'Stolen Dance'


Info: Milky Chance are German duo Clemens Rehbein (vocals) and Philipp Dausch who originally released their debut album, Sadnecessary, in October of last year, it now get's it's Irish release on July 4th. Clemens and Philipp met in an "Advanced Music Course" at the start of eleventh grade, and they immediately gelled when it came to music. They played in a local band until graduation, even though the group disbanded, Clemens and Philipp kept on making music. Weaving together elegant electronic production with acoustic guitars and lilting, lush vocals, they harnessed a style unequivocally their own. 

Last year in their tiny self-built studio the duo cut Sadnecessary and last summer they released it on their own Lichtdicht Records in Europe. Within a few weeks, lead single ‘Stolen Dance’ had reached number one on Hype Machine. The above single, 'Stolen Dance' has gone to number 1 in 6 European countries and the video itself has a staggering 43,000,000+ views on YouTube. To date ‘Stolen Dance’ has also topped iTunes and Shazam charts across the world and was BBC Radio 1’s Record of the Day and song of the week on Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show on Today FM. 


Milky Chance, 'Down By The River'


What's the ablum like? The sound is very much folktronica (it's a genre!) with a very strong reggae style in both vocals and music, think Finley Quaye meets Alt-J with some sinister Joe Strummer moments á la 'Guns of Brixton' on Sadnecessary's fifth track, 'Feathery', for example.  

When I first watched the video for 'Stolen Dance' it was immediately obvious why the track was so popular in Europe and Australia, it's a snappy but slightly pensive track and Rehbein's vocals are gritty and soothing at the same time. What really took me by surprise, however, was after listening to the album from start to finish for the very first time I realised there wasn't a single bad track on the recording, and to be perfectly honest I didn't want it to end, even with the two bonus tracks, 'Feathery' and 'Loveland' which are alternative versions of songs already on the album. 

While someone might initially perceive Milky Chance as a solid feel-good act, there is far more depth to the music on Sadnecessary and one of the albums strengths is it's versatility, verging from folk-pop to acoustic, to reggae, to yes, you guessed it, folktronica. There's also that rare ability at play where Rehbein's sometimes pained vocals are contrasted with Dausch's optimistic music, as on title track 'Sadnecessary' and reggae beauty 'Fairytale', which also has small shades of fellow German DJ, Paul Kalkbrenner's beats.

Sadnecessary is an album that takes you along whether you want to or not and ultimately is a thoroughly enjoyable listen from start to finish and I have to say personally I'm delighted I came across it, it's a keeper.

Rating: 4 / 5





Friday, 27 June 2014

Concert Review - Jack White, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin

Photo by: David James Swanson



Jack White & Alison Mosshart, 'Love Interruption' credit: acquiescefc

Not even the pouring rain could dampen the....ah, it was worse than that, it was pissing rain, Monsoon in the Museum it could have been billed as, but as expected, it was well worth it, there were times when Jack White's presence and musicianship (and dat ocean blue suit) was so good all your brain could concentrate on was the stage and you forgot about the worst day of the year weather-wise. Having seen White play in the O2 in Dublin two years ago at what is still up there as one of the best live performances I've seen, I knew to expect a similar performance and the iconic maestro did not disappoint. It was my first time going to a live event at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and I have to say it was very well organised, similar to Marlay Park as an outdoor venue, no long queues for drink or food and the luxury of being able to get as close to the stage as you want without any great trouble, the polar opposite of the disastrous Phoenix Park.

As with his previous gig in Dublin we were treated to an array of songs from all of his previous incarnations, The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather and a solid chunk of his first solo album, the excellent, Blunderbuss as well as plenty of tracks off Lazaretto which was released two weeks ago. Kicking off with a thumping 'High Ball Stepper' (with a pinch of Kanye West's 'New Slaves'), the first single from the new album, followed by the Stripes' 'Dead Leaves in the Dirty Ground', which is probably one of my own personal favourites of theirs, he wound through another 15 tracks before the encore. There was 'Hotel Yorba', of course, 'Ball & Biscuit', 'You've Got Her In Your Pocket', 'You Don't Know What Love Is' and 'Hello Operator' by The White Stripes as well as 'Top Yourself' and 'Old Enough' by The Raconteurs. 

Photo by: David James Swanson

About two thirds of the way into the show things slowed down a bit and one of the highlights at this point was another track from Blunderbuss, 'Love Interruption' for which Jack did a duet with Alison Mosshart who was in The Dead Weather with him and is currently in The Kills who were the support act on the evening. White also ensured he kept in touch with the saturated masses and tried to raise spirits with a good deal (not too much) of interaction with the crowd, from sing-a-alongs to banter and graciously thanking everyone for joining him on such a shitty evening, at one point, in solidarity with the rest of us, he stood at the very edge of the stage in the rain, but not for long!


Jack White, Why Can't You Be Nicer' / 'Top Yourself' credit: acquiescefc

If there's one thing you get from a Jack White concert, apart from seeing a living legend who can put on a breath-taking live performance, it's bang for your buck. The crowd were treated to a whopping 25 song set, with 8 of them coming in the encore. The encore was like a condensed greatest hits of his discography plus 2 covers, The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' and blues great Lead Belly's 'Goodnight, Irene', which was played after the PA and all systems were switched off, acoustically with The Kills, he just didn't want to go home. Other tracks during the encore were pleasers such as 'Icky Thump', 'Fell In Love With A Girl', 'Steady As She Goes' and of course 'Seven Nation Army'. To round up the evening I slipped into my Star Wars pyjamas (at home, not at the venue) and sipped on a wee dram of sambuca to warm my innards and contemplated many things, one part of that sentence is true.


In a recent review of his new album, Lazaretto, I remarked how it had me a little bit underwhelmed in comparison to his first solo effort, Blunderbuss, which was outstanding, but I think for now, I'll just have to spend a bit more time with the new album, and hope that his next one reaches new heights. I also hope it's not another two years before Jack White comes back to play in Ireland because his live shows are guaranteed to be 110% entertaining and leave you with a distinct sense of satisfaction.

N.B. *** A very special thank you to YouTuber and fellow Jack White fan acquiescefc for kindly allowing me to use his footage from last night's concert for videos of 'Love Interruption' & 'Why Can't You Be Nicer / Top Yourself', he did a great job considering the deluge of rain and freezing cold hands! He has lots of great live videos from concerts such as Tenacious D, Queens of the Stone Age, Manic Street Preachers, The Rolling Stones and many more, well worth subscribing to his channel here acquiescefc

Photo by Remy Connolly



Thursday, 26 June 2014

Interview with Earthship & New E.P. Proximity Effect



Earthship, 'The Great Wheel'

Who are they? Earthship were originally a five-piece jazz / funk outfit who have evolved into an electro-pop group while successfully retaining elements of their roots. The band are made up of vocalist Paula Higgins, bassist Karl Clews, keyboardist Mark Farrelly, guitarist Eoghan Judge and drummer Bart Kiely, all of whom hail from the West of our beautiful island. 

What's Happening? You couldn't pick a better time of year for the release of Earthship's debut E.P., Proximity Effect, which is going to be out on the 11th of July and any self-respecting DJ would be adding enormously to our summer by giving any of the four infectious tracks airplay. The band are also intensively touring the country in July playing 10 venues throughout the month taking in Cork, Clare, Galway, Kerry and Dublin (see dates below).




Karl kindly took a break from slappin' da bass to answer a few questions for me for which I'm very grateful, without further ado....!

Remy: It’s instantly apparent listening to the Proximity Effect’s title track, ‘The Great Wheel’, that you have a jazz-funk sound, which might be considered an alternative genre on the Irish music scene, do you think it will limit your potential fanbase, or are Irish music fans a lot more open-minded these days?

Karl: It’s funny that you say that our ‘jazz-funk sound’ is ‘instantly apparent’ … because we actually thought we’d done a good job of hiding it! Not good enough, obviously! It’s true that we started out as an instrumental jazz-funk-fusion band, but pretty quickly discovered that there was a limited market for that kind of music here in Ireland – not among the music fans, ironically, who have always enjoyed our live shows, instrumental or not, but among promoters and venue owners. The biggest obstacle for us on the Irish music scene has never been a lack of people who want to come and hear what we do – it’s been the reluctance of promoters and venue owners to book us because they’re convinced that their clientele won’t want to hear jazz, funk, fusion or anything that doesn’t have vocals. Our experience, however, has always been that, when they get the chance to hear something a bit different from the norm, Irish music fans are very open-minded. The problem is that those in charge of booking music are reluctant to take a chance on anything that isn’t necessarily the flavour of the month, and especially not on anything that smells of jazz – which appears to be something of a dirty word here in Ireland . So, with the Proximity Effect EP, we were trying for a more ‘pop’ sound – toning down the jazz-funk elements, bringing the vocals to the forefront, and sticking to a 4-minute pop format – as a means to open up more gigging opportunities, the idea being that maybe promoters wouldn’t spot straight away that we’re a jazz-funk band in disguise! The fact that you spotted it immediately suggests we didn’t quite accomplish that. Maybe a leopard can’t change his spots. Or the funk just can’t be contained.

Remy: Cited influences include Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Weather Report among others, were these artists that the band members in general would have grown up with from a very early age via parents (i.e. a record player at home), or was it in later youth that they were discovered?

Karl: No, none of us grew up in households where jazz and fusion were regularly played – do such households even exist??! We all found our own way into that music through more popular forms: for example, through 70s funk, disco and soul (Parliament, Earth Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder), 80s Britfunk (Level 42, Incognito, Light Of The World), and 90s acid-jazz (Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies). This was the music we heard as kids, either on our parents’ record players or in the pop charts, and as you get into a particular artist and you become curious about where this music was coming from, you generally feel compelled to seek out their influences. And it just so happened that guys like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock are just a couple of the influences that all these artists we were hearing had in common.

Remy: The Irish music scene has expanded rapidly over the last decade, do you think that’s necessarily a good thing, or does it pose certain problems for new acts?

Karl: It’s not an issue that’s unique to Ireland. The number of people who classify themselves as musical artists has exploded globally, as a result of advances in recording software. It obviously used to be the case that to even get anywhere near making a professional quality, commercial recording, you had to prove yourself first – as a live performer and as a songwriter with potential commercial appeal – so that a label would pick you up and pay for you to go into a studio. The labels acted as a filter system, of sorts. Nowadays, anyone with a half-decent laptop can record a commercial release-quality track in a bedroom, and send it out to the world via YouTube. You don’t need to be able to play or sing in time or in tune, or even play an instrument at all. Samples and loops for any instrument are available freely all over the internet, and any timing or tuning issues can be fixed in the mix. You don’t even really need much knowledge of song-writing any more – countless hit songs from the last few years consist simply of the same three or four chords looped ad infinitum. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – tastes change over the years: it just means that to make something that can do well in the charts today, you no longer need the kind of knowledge of musical theory and song-writing chops that bands like Steely Dan or Toto had to make something that can do well in the charts today. Any herbert can, in theory, make a hit song. There’s no filter any more. There’s almost too much music out there, and the internet as a delivery system makes it a completely level playing field. So there’s a lot of good stuff out there, but there’s also a lot of rubbish. And no one has the time to sift through it all for the gems.

Remy: With a name like Earthship, the E.P. title Proximity Effect and samples on tracks with clear references to the great beyond, is there an undercurrent of astronomic and scientific wonder running through Earthship’s music?!

Karl: Well spotted. Yes, we’re all geeks at heart. Comic book nerds and science fiction fans. It’s something of a tradition in jazz-fusion circles – numerous 70's fusion bands, like Return To Forever, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Sun Ra composed whole albums that were essentially intergalactic odysseys rendered in music. I don’t know, it’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek stance, but there is definitely a certain correlation between our finding wonder and delight in science and technology, and wanting to use that technology to convey a similar feeling to others, and between our fascination with the exploration of space, the unknown and possible futures, and a desire to explore in an artistic medium, to make sounds and create soundscapes that have never been heard before.

Remy: At times Paula’s vocals remind me a lot of Beth Gibbons from Portishead or Kelli Ali from Sneaker Pimps, both very successful acts from the 90’s, aside from the 70’s artists mentioned previously, are there any more contemporary artists that have influenced Earthship’s sound?

Karl: Well, we’ve already mentioned a few more influences from the 80's and 90's in an earlier answer. But as for current artists … something happened in the 90's, whether it was the Simon-Cowellization of pop music or some other sea change in the tastes of the music-buying public, or this breakdown in the filter system we’ve already talked about, I don’t know. But the kinds of artists making the kind of music we like stopped getting into the charts or onto mainstream radio. They’re still out there, but they’re underground. They’re quietly plugging away, making a living touring, but they’re never going to sell millions of albums. So we could mention some names, but they may not mean much to many of your readers. For the record, though, Snarky Puppy is a band we all admire, along with The Robert Glasper Experiment, for the way they’re pushing the boundaries of what we call jazz nowadays. In a more soulful style, Meshell Ndegeocello’s albums are always interesting and challenging, in a good way. And if you want sheer funk, there’s nobody doing it better today than Dumpstaphunk. At the other end of the scale, though, we’d admit to having a soft spot for Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk – they’re keeping the spirit of the funk alive in a way that is still appealing to a mass audience. So you’ll certainly hear echoes of all these artists in Earthship’s sound.

Remy: You have a pretty hectic summer touring schedule coming up where you’ll be criss-crossing the country playing local venues, are there any plans to play at any of the forthcoming music festivals such as Electric Picnic where you have previously performed?

Karl: To be honest, we’ve missed out on a lot of the festivals this year, simply because at the time when we should have been applying to them, we were locked in the studio, recording the new EP! It was an all-consuming business, and unfortunately, none of us thought to look up and check what time it was … We get very blinkered when we’re in the studio! But we’ll be at LightColourSound in Kilkenny, and the Dream Gathering Festival in Cork, and we’re hoping to be on the bill again at the Cork Jazz Festival this year – we’ve had a great response there the last three years.

Remy: Who is going to be in charge of making your tour bus playlist before you hit the road in July?

Karl: Tour bus? If only! No, we can’t afford a tour bus – we’ll be stuffing as many of us and as much equipment as we can into as few cars as possible. Whoever is still able to reach the car stereo by that stage is by default in charge of the playlist.

Remy: Is there an Irish act / musician past or present that you would particularly admire?

Karl: Honestly, it’s difficult, because there are so few Irish acts, past or present, that we can identify with. There are a few from the past that we can admit to admiring, but that is definitely ‘admire’ in the sense of ‘I can respect what he/she has achieved’, rather than ‘I like his/her music’. As Earthship’s bass player, my ears always prick up when I hear Thin Lizzy – Phil Lynott was a unique bass player with a very immediately identifiable sound and style on the instrument – too many players today, of any instrument, have a homogenous, ‘fits all sizes’ sound with no distinct personality. We have a certain admiration for Van Morrison, too, for the way he was able to bring a jazz sensibility into the mainstream for Irish audiences. But that doesn’t make playing Brown-Eyed Girl with various wedding bands every weekend any less painful for us! As for up-and-coming Irish acts that we’d recommend, there are some exciting artists coming out of Limerick at the moment, including GodKnows and Leading Armies. And we keep crossing paths with a band, originally from West Cork, now living in Dublin, called Mongoose, who are definitely destined for big things, in some form or another!

Remy: Do you still buy physical albums any more or, like a lot of people, is it mostly digital content, and when at home do you still prefer the actual act of putting on a CD or record or is digital just more practical?

Karl: It’s sad but true that the digital format has taken over. Each of us in the band grew up with CDs, and many of us spent our Saturdays as teenagers rifling through racks of vinyl in second-hand record shops. Those dog-eared cardboard sleeves, and the tiny CD booklets, were essential to our musical education, and it’s probably true to say that we wouldn’t be the musicians we are today if we hadn’t been able to find out, for example, that it was Doug Rauch who played bass on Santana’s ‘Caravanserai’ or Branford Marsalis who played sax on Sting’s ‘Dream Of The Blue Turtles’ just by reading the credits in the liner notes. There is a whole galaxy of musical discovery that is being phased out by digital downloads: the album as an artistic statement in itself is disappearing as fans now cherry-pick the hits from any given release, rather than downloading an album in its entirety. And more often than not, digital albums don’t come with liner notes at all: you have to turn to Google if you want to find out who played drums on such-and-such a One Direction track, if that information is even available. So, yes, I’ll still buy CDs when I can, but the selection available in most Irish record stores is woeful, so it’s more likely I’ll get them from somewhere like Amazon in any case. But even then, once I’ve read and digested the liner notes, I tend to rip the audio from the CD straight to iTunes and my iPod, and the CD will go into storage. Digital has its practicalities, and we wouldn’t be true geeks if we didn’t espouse those advantages, but, unfortunately, a little of the magic of buying and enjoying music has been lost along the way.

Remy: Some bands say they spend so much time in music venues that the last place they want to be in their free time is at a gig or a concert, do you feel the same way or do you still enjoy heading to see other bands / artists perform?

Karl: - Yes, it’s true, if you play music every evening, and listen to music most of the day, your ears are bound to get tired. Sometimes you just need a bit of quiet! But it’s important to show your support for fellow bands, to make an effort to go out and hear them play whenever you can. Many of our fans are musicians themselves, and we appreciate the effort they make to come and hear us play, so we have to return the compliment whenever we can.  We’re all in this together. And of course, being the music fans that we are, we still get excited when we get to hear our musical heroes. Obviously, we all have different ‘best concerts we’ve ever been to’, but personally, it was seeing the Neville Brothers at a jazz festival in Nancy, France, back in the 90's: three of the greatest soul voices on the planet in one band, a musical heritage that encompasses everything from doo-wop through funk to hip-hop, and the perfect setting, made it an unforgettable concert.

Remy: Coming from the West of Ireland, do you ever wish there was a West Coast / East Coast rivalry in Ireland like the old hip-hop one in the United States and you could get a bit of a buzz playing on rivals turf when you’re playing in Leinster, or are you happy with the way things are?!

Karl: In our experience, that rivalry exists, but not between the East Coast and West Coast, rather between Dublin and the rest of Ireland! There’s a very distinct Dublin music scene, and it can be hard for a band from outside of Dublin to be taken seriously there. There are a number of organisations in Dublin doing some great work in contemporary jazz and funk, running festivals and special events all year round, and some great venues that specialize in the kind of music we play and love, and Earthship has tried on numerous occasions to get involved, to no avail. Very few artists ever emerge from the blue, fully formed in isolation; every artist benefits from a scene, a sense of community, from gigging with and being associated with similar acts. There’s a cross-pollination of fans and influences and ideas, and pooled resources can achieve so much more than any individual artist in isolation. It’s not rivalry we’re looking for, it’s that sense of community, and it’s difficult to find or establish that in a country in which music promoters are so wary of the words ‘jazz’ and ‘funk’, and the very institutions that purport to exist to promote such music are on the other side of the country and, for whatever reason, seem reluctant to admit artists from outside of Dublin. But it’s still early days for us, we’ve lots of work to do, and we have our sights set on the European scene ultimately, so it’s not something we dwell on particularly. In any case, we’ve four Dublin dates lined up for the tour in July, so with a bit of luck we’ll open a few eyes and ears while we’re there.

Thanks again Karl and be sure to check Earthship out this summer and give them a bit of social media lovin'!

Earthship Tour Dates: 

Sunday 6 July                    Whelan’s, Dublin. 
Monday 7 July                   Crane Lane, Cork. 
Tuesday 8 July                  White Horse Sessions, Kenny’s Bar, Lahinch, 
                                      Clare. 
Saturday 12 July                Dream Gathering Festival, Cork. 
Sunday 13 July                  Bello Bar, Dublin. 
Tuesday 15 July                 Sweeney’s, Dublin. 
Friday 18 July                    Kelly’s, Galway. 
Wednesday 23 July            Mercantile, Dublin. 
Thursday 24 July                Monroe’s Backstage, Galway. 
Friday 25 July                    Courtney’s, Killarney, Kerry. 
Sunday 17 August              The Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna, Clare.

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Monday, 16 June 2014

New Irish Music - Go Swim, Animal E.P.




Go Swim, 'Animal'


Info: Listening to Go Swim's upcoming E.P., Animal, brought back a strange and delightful flood of memories for me of the dying days of recording songs off the radio onto cassette tapes from the likes of Dave Fanning's 8pm 2FM slot and especially Phantom FM in it's pirate days. Previous incarnations of Irish bands such as The Republic of Loose (Goldrush) along with acts such as Turn and Future Kings of Spain, but melded with their very own contemporary disco-infused sounds. Go Swim's music is infectiously upbeat with addictive hooks and riffs as well as rabble rousing harmonies between front-man Steven Smith and guitarist Julianne Shaw. 

While they have been compared to peers Foals and Two Door Cinema Club if I was to sum up how I hear their sound it would have to be as a mix of M83 and New York band The Drums, particularly on the beat-thumping 'Call Sign' (below) and the final track 'Off The Trail'. I couldn't agree more with The Irish Times' Jim Carroll who summarised their sound as "Shiny riffs and wowesome hooks'. Animal is an E.P. I'm already looking forward to getting my hands on and can see getting plenty of outings on upcoming hazy summer evenings with friends, when Go Swim release their full album down the road it should be prescribed to people who suffer from melancholy.

Go Swim's Animal E.P. will be relased on the 27th of June with a launch at White's Tavern in Belfast (tickets here http://www.wegottickets.com/event/276757) and the band will also be supporting Kaiser Chiefs at Féile an Phobail in Belfast on the 8th of August. 




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Website: http://www.wearegoswim.com/