Wednesday, October 9, 2013

recommended: Ruairi O'Baoighill - Walpurgis

'Tis the season. Galway-based Ruairi O'Baoighill has been producing Sound Art and 'dark ambient' pieces for the last few years, as well as helming and curating a radio show - The Hidden Sounds - dedicated to Circuit Bending in the medium of Sound Art. So far he's released two albums, Walpurgis and -87 - both of which are available on a name-your-price basis from Bandcamp. His work on a third album was hindered by a burglary, but recent track 'Shadows' hints at what's yet to come from him.

  O'Baoighill's music makes for an intense and frequently uncomfortable listening experience. Horror film aficionados will tell you that sound design is often half the battle - or at the very least a crucial element - in classics of the genre, and the pieces that make up Walpurgis reflect that kind of sensibility. 'Part I' combines solemn-sounding chanting with deep, guttural drones that are somewhat reminiscent of Tibetan throat singing. The effect is ominous, as if you've stumbled upon a ritual in a dark wood, the crescendo of which you fear sticking around for. 'Part II' is underpinned by gut-churning low-end as a high-pitched metallic scraping (recalling Raime's skin-crawling tones of dread) is counterbalanced by the sporadic echo of disembodied, distorted voices.

More recent tracks feature on his Soundcloud as well. 'Killing Ground' wades through a miasmic sludge; the track itself feels like it's about to melt away at any moment through radioactive exposure. 'Shadows' comes across like a sequel of sorts to Walpurgis' 'Part I', except it's more disorientating and formless still; as if we've gone beyond the ritual and entered a frightening purgatory.

Friday, October 4, 2013

recommended: Abandon Reason - Pouring God Into God

From its beginnings as a radio show (on Curious Broadcast) of unique archived recordings from an underground car park, it's been a joy to watch Abandon Reason grow and crystallise into something bigger and more tangible: now a record label, so far in 2013 it's given us a superlative compilation ("I'm In The Abyss!" - reviewed for The Quietus here), a second cassette release from harmonium-drone/wordless-vocal trio Gorges and some beautiful artwork to go along with those releases (courtesy of musicians already involved in the label or its recordings, such as Brigid Power-Ryce and Kaiser Caimo). There's an aesthetic coherence to the project and a loving attention to detail, evident in titles and literary references as well as in the sound palette or musical approach: the name of Gorges' tape - Our Throats, Like Valleys - sounds like it could be included in an Abandon Reason version of 'Oblique Strategies', while its track titles "take inspiration from early 19th century deep-sea explorations which led to the discovery of thousands of new specimens of florae and faunae, disproving the notion of an azoic sea-bed and establishing oceanographic practice". Fertile thematic ground, and somewhat appropriate considering how much of a role the sound (or even suggestion) of water - dripping on dank surfaces or being pumped through machinery - plays in the label's car-park recordings. The idea of deep-sea explorations and oceanography is also a neat parallel to the way the recordings on I'm In The Abyss and Our Throats, Like Valleys sonically map out the unique nuances and character of the cavernous, 4-stories-deep space they were recorded in.

It remains to be seen where Abandon Reason will take things in the future, as the beloved recording space in question has apparently been sealed off by the po-po. The final (or possibly only) straw was the launch 'gig' for the Abyss... compilation back in January, an all-day improv affair that saw a host of musicians/sound artists making their mark on the space (or letting the space make its mark on them). Recordings from that day have been uploaded to the Abandon Reason Bandcamp under the title Pouring God Into God (a nod to JD Salinger). It's an ongoing project (with the plan to make the collection freely downloadable 'once everything is up'), but for now there's eight recordings to immerse yourself in. There's a real sense of alchemy at play throughout; an air of mystery and otherworldliness hangs to the recordings, with the kind of natural reverb and resonances that no plugin or production technique could hope to match. The recording
space seems to be acting as conductor, the musicians merely responding to its acoustics.

'Guitar, Voice, Violin, Melodica' is a mournful sounding number, with eerie keyboard tones and expressive melodica commingling with wordless vocals that seem to emanate from a dark corner or passageway, at the edges of your perception but compelling nonetheless. 'Banjo, Keyboard, Voice, Balloon' is performed by just Aaron Coyne (Yawning Chasm) and Declan Q Kelly, but the sound they create is simultaneously minimal and vast enough to fill the space around them. The banjo in particular is an instrument that interacts magically with the acoustics of the car park, not just here but on the Abyss... compilation as well: it takes on a looping, soothing, serene and somewhat spiritual quality. Possibly the most impressive and gripping track, meanwhile, is (deep breath) 'Saxophone, guitar, viola, laptop, drums, trombone, flute, nefar', on which alternately dissonant and rich blasts of sax rebound off the walls while ominous viola tones provide dramatic tension.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Julie Hawk - 'Narc' (Interpol cover)

It's always a good sign when a singer/songwriter can take a well-known track and push something to the fore that was previously hidden, and so it proves with this Interpol cover by Galway-born London-based Julie Hawk. Indeed if you were to choose a song by the NYC quartet that was begging for an acoustic version, 'Narc' - from their classic album Antics - probably wouldn't be at the top of the list: excellent as it is, it's more about the interplay between those piercing guitar lines and the top-of-its-game rhythm section; not to mention that exquisite breakdown and outro.

Hawk's version, however, emphasises a melodic strength to the song that wasn't always so obvious, and redirects the focus on to a lyric that's one of Paul Banks' less cryptic/daft (delete as appropriate) ones. She even pulls off the switch-up towards the end with aplomb.

Hawk's 'Take Off Your Suit'/'The Postcard' is available as a name-your-price download from Bandcamp. The impressive, restless range of her vocals drive songs that can have a dramatic and tense sweep to them (the former) or a wistful and regretful air (the latter).

She plays the Roisin Dubh in Galway this Thursday night with Come On Live Long.

Thundercat & The Roots - 'Heartbreaks and Setbacks' live on Jimmy Fallon

Forget snore-fests like Jools Holland or...whatever else is on TV?, Jimmy Fallon is seemingly where it's at these days for must-see music performances. Just recently we had Drake's stunning performance of 'Too Much' (ft. Sampha) from new album Nothing Was The Same. Now there's this, as Fallon's house band The Roots join Brainfeeder virtuoso Thundercat for an outstanding run-through of probably his best track, 'Heartbreaks and Setbacks'. It's taken from this year's Apocalypse album, but to be honest I'm probably going to struggle to listen to the album version again after seeing this. Magic.

The aforementioned Drake performance: