Saturday, December 18, 2010

top Irish EPs of 2010

Edit: the Angkorwat EP is free to download, Bandcamp are confusing me with their DL limits

1 - Angkorwat - Early EP

Strictly speaking, all of this material was released before 2010 as far as I know. But the collection of all Angkorwat's off-kilter lo-fi pop experiments on one free-to-download EP provided yet another reason to love Bandcamp. 'My Three Beautiful Children' is the purest example of her craft, the central music box-like melody playing off her vocals to create an intangible sense of magic, but elsewhere the woozily hypnotic hooks of 'Gatecrasher' or 'Kidgloves' marked her out as a kindred spirit of sorts to Nite Jewel, although even that comparison doesn't do justice to how unique this all sounds. With brand new material imminent, it's going to be fascinating to see where she takes things from here.

2 - School Tour - Yes Way

Utterly bewitching sounds from Gerard Duffy (also a member of Children Under Hoof and Patrick Kelleher's Cold Dead Hands). Minimal, quietly entrancing electronic drones that quiver and subtly change shape. 'You Killed Me (Arpeggio Version)' recalls the strangely-haunting music box-melodies of Radiohead's 'Kid A', while 'Ylimaf Sdnas'' backward tape loops are hypnotic despite its brief running time.

3 - Logikparty - High Risk Narcissist

With their abrasive, No Wave-influenced sound, Logikparty are one of the finest live bands in the country. They're also no slouches on the recording front, with High Risk Narcissist being the follow-up to the excellent 'Good Hood/Iodine' 7" from earlier in the year. 'The Number A' and 'Dead Machines' are characterised by caustic, white-hot guitar lines, pummelling drums and shrill, belligerent vocals. 'Japanese Flag' on the other hand grooves instead of pummelling: it's driven by an irresistible, elastic bassline, sporadically punctured by shards of piercing guitar. (State)

4 - Children Under Hoof - A Collar Can Become A Noose

A supergroup of sorts, but as self-effacing as they come, Children Under Hoof have a loose, experimental approach to their craft. The tracks on A Collar Can Become A Noose share a certain witching-hour vibe, but are quite varied at the same time: there's the title-track with its scratchy, wire-scrub guitars, krautrock groove and sax blasts; the shadowy electronics of 'Ted Maul Tango'; the ambient spoken-word piece 'Entropy'; and the slowly undulating sine waves of 'Repeat Brake', which is similar to Gerard Duffy's School Tour material.

5 - Laura Sheeran - Music For The Deep Woods

Supremely creepy and atmospheric, there's shades of 'The Carny'-mode Nick Cave or the eerie, supernaturally-tinged sounds of Grouper or Fever Ray on Music For The Deep Woods. An uneasy sense of dread and menace pervades tracks like 'Lupine Rot' and 'Suspension Belt', bowed saw and warped-sounding electronics creating a haunting, impressionistic sound, with all manner of unnerving background sound effects.

Lupine Rot by Laura Sheeran

6 - Hunter-Gatherer - Fingerprint Series

Bending the rules slightly here, this isn't an EP, but a series of tracks given away free throughout the year by the enigmatic and ever-prolific Hunter-Gatherer. If widely-acclaimed 2009 album I Dreamed I Was A Footstep In The Trail Of A Murderer was something of a shadowy mood-piece, the Fingerprint Series saw him experimenting with different forms and tones, from the chiming, airy 'Peace Shrine (Marian Year)' to the menacing digital shimmers of 'Community Alert' and the filmic, dreamy, piano-led vibes of concluding tracks 'Hide and Seek' and 'Show and Tell'. Plenty more to come from this guy, too.

7 - Sacred Animals - Welcome Home

There's a wintry, evocative quality to the Welcome Home EP. Grizzly Bear, Thom Yorke, Bon Iver and Midlake are reference points, but Sacred Animals' sound has its own unique aura. With immaculate attention-to-detail and subtle instrumental flourishes, these songs are superbly crafted: 'Chosen Seed' is a quietly addictive, lingering tune, while the title track features dramatic, swelling strings and hypnotising glockenspiel melodies.

8 - Milan Jay - To The Sea And Swim

"Opening with fuzzy, wall-of-sound guitars and crashing drums, the intro of ‘With The River Flow’ is certainly far from mellow, but it segues neatly into a kaleidoscopic, shimmering slice of off-kilter pop that calls to mind The Beta Band or the Super Furry Animals. The title track follows, a swelling, superbly layered track lent a pastoral touch by strings and piano. ‘Jupiter Falls’ is a hypnotic, supremely chilled tune, its gently pulsing loops producing a floating ambience. ‘We Believe’, meanwhile, previously released as a single, ups the tempo with lively synths and treated, buoyant vocals; towards the end, it verges on being a full-on electronic rave-up." - (State)

9 - Adultrock - Adultrock EP

One of two 'solo-project' EP's released by Super Extra Bonus Party guitarist Gavin Elsted in 2010 (not to mention his wildly successful mash-ups), Adultrock is the electronic alternative to We Are Losers' fuzz-rock. This is pretty faultless stuff, expansive in scope and characterised by pulsing mid-tempo rhythms. The space-themed artwork was a pretty appropriate visual association: there's a sci-fi soundtrack feel to tracks like the excellent 'Adventures Part 2' and 'I Can't Tell You Why', while 'Hermione' lays down a shimmering, chunky-but-mellow groove.

10 - Niamh De Barra - Cusp

Layering her incantation-like vocal loops, cello and shadowy electronics to create ominous-sounding mood-pieces, De Barra shares a number of sonic similarities with Laura Sheeran, not least the eerie visual associations this music puts in your mind or the voodoo-like chill that pervades it. Hypnotic, compelling stuff.

11 - Visionair - Autumn/A Vision

Recently the subject of some glowing write-ups by Altered Zones and XLR8R, Richie Egan and Niall Byrne of The Redneck Manifesto dropped two EPs in quick succession that were characterised by sleek edges, robotic Kraftwerk-like grooves, and vintage synth tones. This music may be looking back - with shades of Tangerine Dream and Can - but only in order to push forward. 'HYPNOM', from the second EP A Vision, is a particular standout, climaxing in a flurry of flickering synths and a New Order-like central hook.

03 HYPNOM by VisionAir

12 - The Gorgeous Colours - The Creatures Down Below

Varied and absorbing, The Creatures Down Below begins with the title track, a deceptive little number with all manner of off-kilter harmonies, hooks and backing vocals that play off each other. It's intricate stuff, calling to mind the vintage pop-craft of the Super Furry Animals among others. Elsewhere there's 'Animal', an enchanting folk number with warm harmonies reminiscent of Fleet Foxes, as well as the galloping rhythms of the sweeping, skiffle-tinged 'No Man's Land'.

13 - Solar Bears - Inner Sunshine

Kaleidoscopic, cinematic synthscapes that were in much the same vein as the full-length She Was Coloured In (which Inner Sunshine preceded), there's also perhaps a heavier post-rock influence at play on the tracks 'Photo Negative Living' and 'Kill On'. Letherette and Lone provided some nifty re-interpretations of 'Crystalline' and 'Twin Stars' respectively, with the latter having more than a touch of 808 State's 'Pacific State' about it.

Crystaline (Leatherette remix) - Solar Bears by fresh_air

14 - The Holy Roman Army - Desecrations

A covers EP, Desecrations sees the brother-and-sister duo bring their dreamy, textured sound to bear on songs by Pavement, Bon Iver and more. Two tracks in particular stand out: 'Wave Of Mutilation' replaces the kinetic energy of the original with a delightfully gliding arrangement, while a spine-tingling take on Rollerskate Skinny's classic 'Speed To My Side' unearths hidden reserves of melancholy.

15 - My Pilot - Spiders

Ranging from the infectious shuffle of 'Self-Medication Blues' to the mellow, Americana-tinged 'Paddy Sez' (with harmonious vocals reiniscent of Iron & Wine's Sam Beam) and the beguiling melancholy of closing track 'Spiders', this was a delightful EP from the Dublin four-piece.

Honourable Mentions

I wanted to leave this at a neat 15, if 15 is neat (is it?), but the following shouldn't go without mention:

The Ambience Affair - Patterns

We Are Losers - We Are Losers

O Emperor - Reverie

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