Saturday, 3 October 2015

Single: Variant Sea - River Sallows

Variant Sea River Sallows

Variant Sea - River Sallows

Info: In terms of new acts you can't really get much newer than ambient post-rock duo Variant Sea, Luke Duffy (piano) and Shell Dooley (guitar) have only worked together on this particular project since last month and are already on the cusp of releasing their debut E.P., Season of Mists, which drops on the 6th of October.

The first offering from the new E.P. comes in the form of single 'River Sallows' (above) and I could almost just write a one-word review of it, 'beautiful', and simply leave it at that. I've always found there to be something uncontrollably moving in gentle piano pieces and regular readers will have lost count of the amount of times I've harped (sorry) on about the joys of strings. On 'River Sallows' Variant Sea have combined both so subtly (Dooley's use of bow with guitar) and with great care, like a surgeon delicately weaving a stitch through a wound they draw both together until they are joined harmoniously. 

Like an elongated piece of classical music I could happily lose myself in this track if it was repeated ten-fold going on 40 minutes rather than just over 4. It's like a modern yet traditional Chopin piece, the enjoyment of which is added to immeasurably by the longing strings reaching out to the piano, almost as though both instruments were in a waltz toward each other, two separate personalities that desire to connect but are kept apart by an unseen barrier. Beautiful.

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Single: LGHTNNG - Sharks

LGHTNNG Sharks Groningen

LGHTNNG - Sharks

Info: Hailing from Groningen in the Netherlands come four-piece electro-pop band LGHTNNG who recently released two tracks, 'Sharks' (above) and 'One Night Away' from their upcoming E.P. Nights Change Days

'Sharks' itself is a very catchy 80's synth-based track which wouldn't be amiss on the Drive OST beside French synthwave act College. Other similar acts which LGHTNNG have referenced as similar are Portland trio Chromatics and Electric Youth. Both tracks have a sophisticated and endearing quality to them, with the former combining disco beats with clean soft vocals whilst 'One Night Away' adopts a slightly more subdued tone, overall two solid homages to the genre from the Dutch group.

LGHTNNG - One Night Away

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Album: Jamie Stanton - Flying Colours

Jamie Stanton Flying Colours

Jamie Stanton, 'Livin' It High'

Info: Cobh artist Jamie Stanton is a multi-instrumentalist who has just released his debut solo album, Flying Colours, a rock-based yet genre spanning collection of 10 tracks recorded at Wood Street Studios in Cork City. Only released on Thursday the album has shot to the number 1 spot in the Irish Rock Album chart and currently sits at #5 in the overall Album, chart where it is steadily creeping upwards. 

Flying Colours opens with a sharp single acoustic bass note, a minute prelude encapsulating what is to follow on the album, a mix of thoughtfully laid out tracks moving from lighter classic rock ballads to harder edged metal offerings. The first two tracks 'Peligro' (peril) and 'Baldio' (wasteland) blend into each other seamlessly, with some very skilled Spanish guitar playing by Stanton, like a mariachi on a mission. The stall has been laid out and as the album progresses you suspect the overall theme has been described in the title of these two songs, an arrival via troubled waters.

The full introduction to the artist comes on the rock opus that is 'Destination Nowhere', a mix of late 80's early 90's classic rock with hints of Thin Lizzy style lead guitar as we approach the final third. 'Livin' It High', the debut single (above) enters new ground, a dirty and gritty country-blues number which you sense finds Stanton in his most familiar and fulfilled space, a really nice slice of foot-tapping and head-nodding rock n' roll with a ton of personality.  

Jamie Stanton

'Hold On Me' begins with a soulful gospel choir, bringing forth images of the American Deep South in days gone by, the ballad tells of an unrequited, or more than likely forbidden love, using nice metaphorical lyrics to describe overcoming real and imagined boundaries. As the title suggests, 'Outlaw' sees Stanton develop the story-telling side of his repertoire of styles, a noble yet ruthless criminal filled with intent prepared to carry out any act required in order to provide for himself and those close to him, the backing vocals and string arrangements are particularly appealing here and add to the atmosphere he seeks to invoke. 

The album's title track moves on to the harder rock metal sound which the artist identifies particularly with, dare I say there's a vocal and drum cap doff to Marilyn Manson on this one and it's nicely dark and humorous throughout. Flying Colours ends with a microcosm of Jamie Stanton's sound, like a whistle-stop tour of the various rock genres he has traversed across the recording, from country to blues, classic to hard rock and a lyrical folk tradition. There's no doubt that on his debut album Stanton has poured everything into it and is taking his music deadly serious, proof that when you combine passion with hard work you will be rewarded, as is evidenced by the rapid rise of Flying Colours through the charts in such a short space of time, he should deservedly take great pleasure in it's success to date.

You can buy Flying Colours by Jamie Stanton on iTunes here

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Single: Black River Manifesto - Kingmaker

Black River Manifesto Kingmaker

Black River Manifesto, 'Kingmaker'

Info: Currently based in Brooklyn, NYC, Black River Manifesto have become regulars on the local underground and DIY scene, comprised of Derry native Aodhán O'Reilly (guitar), Jeonglim Jang (upright bass) and Gabe Katz (drums), they combine old school rock and punk with modern instrumental twists amongst a haze of powerful sonic sunbursts. 

I found Black River Manifesto to be quite an exciting prospect, especially after dipping my toes in their previous releases such as the gothic bluegrass vibe on 'Devil May Care' (below), the sound is ultimately slick and throttles your inner essence in quite an arresting way that I can only imagine is very satisfying in a live situation. 'Kingmaker''s rattling bass and guitar intro sets the tone for a three and a half minute sojourn that will leave your head spinning. The music sways steadily between Pixies hysteria and early 60's rock styles of Dick Dale and their self-proclaimed favourite Link Wray, with Black River Manifesto lathering these bases with their very own noise-punk gusto to create a sound that genuinely makes you sit up and take notice.

Thankfully the trio are planning to tour Ireland and Europe next year and should this come to pass it will definitely be worth checking them out live.

Black River Manifesto, 'Devil May Care'

E.P. Review: Red Moon Bayonets - A Silent Companion

Red Moon Bayonets - A Silent Companion E.P.

Info: Red Moon Bayonets are a four-piece alternative rock band from Annascaul in Co. Kerry and Dublin founded by front man Vinnie Flynn, with Dan Smith (lead guitar), James Young (drums) and Dave McCleery (bass) completing the line-up. Together for three years now, the band released their debut self-titled E.P. quite shortly after getting together in 2013, this was followed up by their second E.P., The Dark West before the third and latest release, A Silent Companion, in May this year. Consistently strong reviews of their material, coupled with a loyal following has seen Red Moon Bayonets become a regular fixture on festival rosters this year, having played Vantastival, Canalaphonic and the Oxjam Tent at Electric Picnic. Their most recent achievement has been scooping the E.P. of the Year prize at the Pure M Magazine Awards.

Red Moon Bayonets, 'Love of Mine' (Live at Abner Browns)

From the get go on A Silent Companion you are served up with sultry blues rock atmospherics and moods on opener 'Bayonets'. Smouldering vocals and pernicious guitar and percussion call you into the darkness, like the grim reaper through the mist, this reminded me a bit of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club meets Blue Öyster Cult, and that's not just because of the aforementioned scythe carrying character. The band have cited Queens of the Stone Age as an influence and you get a first hint of this on 'Alive', it's like a slowed-down version of something off Songs for the Deaf with Flynn's vocals straying into Muse's Matt Bellamy territory. 

Red Moon Bayonets A Silent Companion

Third track 'Endure' adopts a more acoustic approach, something RMB do very well as evidenced by the great performance in the above video, one thing that particularly impressed me on this E.P. was the trembling vocal control exercised on all of the tracks but the last two in particular, it's a distinctive rock sound that suits the music perfectly. The record ends strongly with the excellent 'Our Last Breath' which repeats the openers atmosphere, rhythmically and vocally it reminds me a lot of Marc Bolan and T-Rex but also sees the band delve into a country blues sound, and yes there is that nod to QOTSA again, overall a thoroughly enjoyable rock stomper. Red Moon Bayonets leave their influences in a small box in the corner of the room and pay little heed to them as they have created a unique and individualistic sound that is not common in the Irish music scene at present, or just doesn't approach the quality on display here. 

Red Moon Bayonets will be playing a Halloween Party at The Bello Bar in Dublin 8 on the 30th of October with many other great acts, more details to follow.

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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Live: Segrasso E.P. Launch @ The Workman's Club, 22nd Sept. 2015

Segrasso Workmans Club Dublin

Info: Last Tuesday Dublin band Segrasso launched their second E.P., Too Late and No, at The Workman's Club along the quays. Support was provided by Nervvs, Slouch (first two photos in below gallery) and Christian Collins. Their traditionally fire-brand approach to live performance was evident once again, coming naturally to one of Dublin's most talented bands at the moment.

Segrasso - 'Seriously'

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All photos by Remy Connolly, please ask permission for reuse.

Video: Department - You Just Don't Get It

Department You Just Don't Get It

Department - 'You Just Don't Get It'

Info: Department are a four-piece indie rock band from Dublin who have released their first track to the public, 'You Just Don't Get It' (above) ahead of their forthcoming debut E.P. in early 2016. They are currently working with producer Philip McGee (Kodaline, The Academic) and describe their influences as coming from the likes of The Police, Michael Jackson, The Arctic Monkeys and The Killers, an interesting mix if I may so say! Incidentally, they also put together the above video themselves which is nicely edited to go with the music.

I've long being saying that we are currently experiencing a period in Irish music where it is awash with talent and doesn't feel like we've approached anywhere near the apex. As someone who has been fortunate enough to have written about new acts and music for the best part of three years now, one of the most rewarding aspects has been re-assessing my own tastes and also familiarising myself with genres I would not have been exposed to as much as others. Every style of music is constantly evolving, taking its lead from what has gone before or morphing into new hybrids, sometimes the change is unnoticeable until later on, and at other times it has happened under your nose and surprises you when you are met with it. What am I rambling on about here? This is supposed to be a review of Department's new track. 

It's timing really, I've recently had a lot of music sent my way that you could loosely define as Indie / Alternative / Pop rock, necessary pigeon-holes to guide us in describing sound. The aforementioned upsurge in creativity on the Irish music scene has certainly made it's way into these sub-genres, ones that traditionally (some) people may dismissively call commercial or 'made for radio', and as a result of this preconception not give it a chance, I've been guilty of that before in the past until I was taught a very good lesson in reasoning by one band that I'm eternally grateful for!

To avoid this turning into an article, I'm going to talk about the music now, and 'You Just Don't Get It', basically the tipping point of me becoming convinced that indie / pop rock is in a very healthy and strong position for the first time in a long time in this country thanks to bands like Department, and I note we're only on their first serving here, but that makes it all the better. The band have described themselves as Michael Jackson fronting an indie band, bass-lines on the track certainly come across as an homage to the rich ones we had on Thriller ('Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'' springs to mind), Bad and Off The Wall

It's also refreshing to see a straight-forward stab at saturation in the media of celebrities, our complicity in this monstrosity and how it eventually grows so big that it consumes individuals and moves on to the next victim like a virus. Department have dealt with this theme nicely and thrown the pop 'everything but the kitchen sink' at us while they were at it, catchy chorus, dance inducing guitar hooks and punchy verses. Would I listen to this track more than a few times? Yes. Would I enjoy it repeatedly? Yes. Here's hoping no one unduly interferes with what bands like Department and the recently reviewed The Academic have started out with because it's working well and we need them to retake this mantle on our behalf.

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