Monday, April 22, 2013

video - Sean Mac Erlaine & Donal Dineen

A few weeks back, musician/composer Sean Mac Erlaine and DJ/broadcaster Donal Dineen held a collaborative gig in Galway's Nuns Island Theatre. A 'circular dialogue' between Mac Erlaine's improvised woodwind and electronics and Dineen's similarly experimental visuals, it was an absorbing and immersive performance from a duo who have built up an obvious rapport.

Nuns Island is a small, unfortunately under-utilised venue (Ten Past Seven & Laura Sheeran being the last gig I can recall attending in there) that lends itself to an attentive, music-as-art-as-opposed-to-drinking-soundtrack environment. On the night, there was an informal vibe to proceedings, with Dineen and Mac Erlaine alternating between their engaging soundscapes and visuals on the one hand, and periods of discussion/informal chat on the other (with audience questions encouraged). Dineen explained this all-round approach as (roughly paraphrasing here) a way of presenting a radio-type format within a new context. It was interesting to hear the duo hold forth on a range of topics, explaining the significance of their recent Sligo show - as the nearby scenery had inspired much of Mac Erlaine's most recent album Long After The Music Is Gone.

Mac Erlaine's clarinet playing was spare and measured, expressive at times but at other times stepping back to allow burbling electronics and hypnotic music-box motifs set the mood. One piece had a subaquatic feel, textural waves lapping back and forth. Mac Erlaine would later discuss his predilection for improv, but the natural, intuitive tone of his compositions would have spoken for him regardless.

The video above isn't taken from the Galway show, but from a set in and around the same time period, in Dublin's Smock Alley Theatre; 'Recorded March 17th for Saint Patrick's Festival 2013'.

Sean Mac Erlaine's Long After The Music Is Gone was released last year and is recommended.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rural Savage / Edward Jecky

Donegal/Galway trio Rural Savage's raucous garage racket is infused with a surreal oddball streak that's reminiscent of Irish eccentrics like Jinx Lennon or Sultans Of Ping. It's not so much the music - which ranges from punk pop (with the emphasis on punk) to frenetic hardcore-tinged numbers to weird little vignettes - but more the parochial lyrical asides and general air of snotty outsider irreverence. "Sniggering dullards adrift on tides of their own psychic sewage", as the bio goes.

Debut album I Fell In The Bog And Saw God was released last year and went some way - if not all the way - towards capturing the wild, feral energy of their live shows. Tracks like 'College Drop Out' and 'Alcohol' crackle with livewire energy;  fuzz-guitar riffs and unhinged punk vocals backed by a deceptively tight rhythm section. The trio covered some range as well: lowering the tempo on the sneering psych-garage mongrel 'Donegal Acid' and the carnival waltz of 'Righteous Hand of Critical Fury', pushing it right back up with the blistering one-two of 'Dada Taranta' and 'Straight To Hell'.

The odd misstep came with tracks that resembled bland indie-by-numbers ('Skrag Heap') or experiments gone awry ('Male Pattern Blandness'); on the other hand a couple of tracks (including 'Skrag Heap' if my memory isn't letting me down) don't really do justice to their live incarnations: most recently the band played a superb set at Squarehead and So Cow's pre-SXSW Galway gig, one that included some impressive-sounding new material.
Frontman Farren (or Edward Jecky as his moniker may well be) clearly puts thought into his lyrical approach (see this very interesting interview-type article) and it's evident in tracks like the closing number 'Irish Childhood Hex', a sort of gonzo culchie confessional.

Farren has also recently released a solo album of sorts under the aforementioned Edward Jecky moniker, Relax Lads It's Alright. Not a million miles from Rural Savage aesthetic-wise; there are still elements of punk, surf and garage in the mix but a fair few of the tracks feel a bit more sketch-like and rough-around-the-edges. Indeed a couple see him singing in ragged style over blatantly familiar riffs ('Save Me Lord', 'Bad Man Race Car'). As such it feels like more of a mixtape vibe, with the songwriter throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. The more velcro-like highlights include 'Back to the Aztecs' and 'Saturday Night Fever', the latter of which is a surprisingly pensive number with unnamed female backing vocals. 'Send Me To My Grave', meanwhile, has a sort of spacey, spaghetti-western vibe to it, and 'Tender Terry Feckless' is 'Good Morning, Captain' for bogmen.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

recommended: Keysound Recordings presents...This Is How We Roll

Dusk & Blackdown's monthly Rinsefm show has been in a class of its own of late. Reflecting the tastes and enthusiasms of the titular production duo (one of whom, Martin Clark, used to write a dubstep column for Pitchfork and is prone to the odd insightful thinkpiece), it's become a vital nexus for a fertile movement-of-sorts that's characterised by 130bpm tempos and a deep, dark mutation of elements from grime, dubstep and UK funky.  In recent months, the duo's Keysound label have released a couple of superb EP's in Wen's Commotion and Beneath's Illusions, while the Dusk & Blackdown Christmas special showcased a number of affiliated and/or kindred spirit producers.

As a compilation, This Is How We Roll does a pretty thrilling job of pulling the various Keysound strands together. 'New Wave' is an entirely appropriate opener: a joint effort between Visionist, Wen and Beneath, it was actually composed especially for the radio show that's bigged them up for the last year or so. Beneath's own 'PVO' combines throbbing, punishing sub-bass with the kind of busy percussion that characterised Cooly G's recent album; Wen's 'Commotion VIP' and Epoch's 'The Steppenwolf' both point to an audible grime influence, the former all cavernous low-end and clipped vocal snatches, the latter alternating bass wobble with an insidious string-like hook. The LHF crew (who supplied last year's Keepers Of The Light album as well as sundry pirate-radio-influenced mixes over the last few years) are represented by the murky, intricate and streetwise rhythms of Double Helix's 'LDN VIP', while Mumdance and Logos' pulsating backwards track 'In Reverse' hits on a compelling midway point between motion and stasis.

The brighter, more garage-y side of Dusk & Blackdown/Keysound is repped by the duo's 'Lonely Moon (Android Heartbreak Drumz remix)', while E.m.m.a.'s 'Peridot' recalls the off-kilter, off-colour synths of Ikonika, albeit more ornate (or baroque even).

The whole vibe around Keysound at the moment is inspiring. The label may have been around for a few years now but it's got an unmistakeable sense of purpose and vitality about it right now, one that reflects its owners' insatiable appetite for new sounds and new hybrids.