Sunday, 22 July 2018

Album of the Month: Elephant - '88

Elephant - '88 - Album Review

Info: In his notes for sophomore album '88, Shane Clarke, aka Elephant, invites us to enjoy his expression of nostalgia and hopes that "it plays like a movie in your head". For him it's a cathartic reflection of hurt and loss, a soundtrack to his childhood and young adult life, but he's at pains to encourage you, the listener, to let '88 become whatever it is that your imagination desires.

'Summer' starts off the timeline of our journey, and in some ways it feels like a wave goodbye to the folk roots of his debut album HyperGiant, it's a gently morose and wistful piece, but then, the door opens, and the bright lights of '88 lay inside. You imagine Clarke being sucked through a cosmic tunnel and being dropped unceremoniously onto a new and strange landscape.

After 'On Bended Knee''s opening monologue, both hands reach deep inside my head and heart and lift every feeling inside me to a heavenly plain. I am desperately fond of, and in love with, the retro synths and grandiose guitar moments here, and this will be repeated throughout the album, shaping different types of feeling and acute moments of elation.

Elephant - 'Waiting Game'

Single 'Waiting Game' was by far one of my favourite tracks of last year, it, long with it's companion 'Waiting Game II', indulged my inner love for Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music without sparing a single drop. With 'Waiting Game' it seems not so much that a logical next step has occurred, but a grand swoop, head-first into the middle of an ocean of creativity. I'd previously reflected in a review; "Here we have a complete gem of a track, an outstanding Irish single that will echo far beyond 2017. Yes it has the pace and mood of 80's Bowie, and the guitars hint at the more glam moments of Prince's repertoire, but ultimately, this is an Elephant track in every sense, this magic was always going to arrive from him." 

If that single was gratifying, the most recent one 'Happy' feat. Just Mustard's KT Ball somehow went deeper, and put the 80's electric guitar riffs and neon synths right up to the front. Ball's vocal lending the neon in spades, Kavinksy's 'Nightcall', Beach House's Teen Dream, Fever Ray's 'If I Had a Heart' spring to mind, but this is so much brighter than any of them. Another kaleidoscopic electro rush from the mind of Clarke, here's to '88.

Elephant's fragility is never more exposed for all to see than on 'Lie Fallow', it's sincere, authentic and his vocal powerfully delivers a sadness and emotion that registers with me, all accentuated by that ponderous and weeping sax line. It also concludes with an unsettling macabre march to the end. In contrast next track 'Mirrors' vibrates with shuddering movement, it didn't click with me the first time I heard it, but the industrial electro-grind and drum-beat from the 3rd to 4th minute of the track momentarily recalled a sliver of something you might have come across on The Prodigy's Music for the Jilted Generation, and how about that War of the Worlds outro!?

Vulnerability looms large once again on 'Human', it also has that celestial feel that the closing of 'Summer' had, and it's another example of how Elephant has pushed his vocal, as required, to a place very far from his past music. A huge highlight on '88 arrives in the shape of the aforementioned 'Waiting Game II', it's wildly visual and goes big on retro atmospherics. The feeling I had upon the singles release remains steadfast; "..this is a most luxurious velvet cloth of 80's-inspired new romanticism. Bryan Ferry is standing outside in the dark with his ear pressed against the window as Clarke pulls this one out of the bag on the inside."

Elephant - 'Stay With Me'

A warm and fulsome keyboard progression opens up 'Stay With Me', Clarke's vocal is more to the foreground here than on much of the albums other tracks, giving it a more direct and personal connection between artist and listener. The lyrics are lucid; "The book about an old man high up in the tree, and he's looking for his old hat, he finds it in the densest thicket of the branches, extends his arm in reach, buried under kingdoms and more than one opinion, what sense is there in stories? The old man and his glory had time enough to teach."

The fervour is whipped up on 'Time Will Tell', the video for which featured contributions from over 20 local artists from his hometown of Dundalk via a visual-lyric medium. It's a rare heavy rock moment on the LP, peppered with cinematic breaks, both brooding and euphoric. Elephant provides us with one last opportunity to switch off, drop out and submit ourselves to a final escapist resting place on 'All These Dragons', the man carves beauty and tenderness out of every second of the song.

'88 is like a novel, and the words on the pages will change with every listen, where you're taken with your first listen, you may never return to again, because every time you put on this record, Elephant will change the course of the story. It is also an album that will serve its purpose for many moods, you can be happy, sad, indifferent, and it will resonate with whatever colour you are feeling at a given moment. An Irish masterpiece on so many levels.

'88 is available on 180g vinyl double LP, and all major streaming platforms via Pizza Pizza Records or directly through Elephant's Bandcamp page below here

Elephant - '88 - Album Review - Remy Connolly

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Interview: The Stasi

The Stasi - Interview - Dublin Quays Festival

Info: In our final interview here on REMY before the Dublin Quays Festival kicks off (in an hour!), we speak to Dublin duo The Stasi, who will be taking to the main stage at The Grand Social tomorrow night, 20th of July at 10:15pm.

REMY: First off, and it’s a question I usually avoid asking, but as a history lover I’m intrigued! Your band name conjures up images of grey concrete sprawl, flashbacks to scenes from 2006's Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) and general Orwellian terror (which I’m sure is not the intention), how did you settle on The Stasi as your moniker?

The Stasi: We would love to be able to say it wasn’t just because of a trenchcoat. Although as children of the 80's we do have a certain nostalgia for Soviet chic. Ironically we have had a couple of people cry offence on social media, which Stewart Lee once described as "a Stasi run by gullible volunteers." We offered to take them for dinner in Mao's to apologise.

REMY: I believe you were both heavily involved in music in some shape or form for quite some time before you formed The Stasi in 2016, was the current band set up of deep down and dirty rock something both of you had always wanted to dip your toes into at some stage or did it just happen?

The Stasi: I think we always knew we wanted to make music with a bit of swagger. If you’re gonna do that then you probably need a few pretty guitars. The idea was to marry that with a smokey, sardonic female vocal - thus adding to the overall sense of swag.

The Stasi - 'Struggle Up' (Live)

REMY: Listening to your latest EP Screaming at the Void which you released in May, it instantly struck me that your music is pushed straight up against the glass across all three tracks. Drums and guitar in particular are right up the front and sounding sharp, no flighty build-ups or winding arches here, just bang! Is that the kind of impact punters can expect from one of your live shows? 

The Stasi: We definitely wanted the first three tracks to feel like a bunch of mule kicks. But we do have a softer side. One of our mellower offerings tells the true story of Marlon Brando, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor taking a road trip out of New York on the morning of 9/11. Another is an acoustic re-imagining of the Stagger Lee trope in the voice of one of his girls.  We also end the show with a stately Sinatra-esque Orbinsonathon.

REMY: Your lyrics, themes and even release titles, such as forthcoming album Love in the Age of Narcissism suggest a strong interest in literature, would that be a fair assumption? And if so, what works would you say have most formed your thoughts when you are engaged in song-writing, either directly or indirectly?

The Stasi: The lyrics came about fairly organically, though there are direct nods to Rupert Sheldrake, Adam Curtis, Colonel Gaddafi and Noah Yuval Hari. What we really wanted was to write songs with a bit of intrigue - ideas and allegories that bear a second listen. To that extent they probably owe more to Dylan and Cohen than any books we could name.

REMY: Tell us a little bit about the new LP, what plans do you have regarding the release and have you chosen a rough date yet?

The Stasi: Much like Danny Ocean we have found the magic number to be eleven, and are now tasked with curating their various personalities. First and foremost we wrote these songs to be a live show so whatever recording we do will have the real feel of a room. As for any release date, we are endeavouring to hit the stocking filler deadline.

REMY: As a relatively new band (albeit experienced in your craft), can it be a bit daunting stepping out into the current Irish music scene and carving a path through the large volume of bands and acts that are all competing for space, or are you just concerned with doing your own thing and nothing else?

The Stasi: You only ever have your own career. There’s no point comparing yourselves to other people.

REMY: Finally, aside from the new album, and your upcoming show at Dublin Quays Festival in The Grand Social on Friday, what other plans might you have afoot for the future?!

The Stasi: Nothing’s set in stone, but we hope to have had a couple more festival appearances and our first TV performance by the end of the year and then drive it like we stole it in 2019.

The Stasi play at The Grand Social on Friday, 20th July as part of Dublin Quays Festival. ALL events are FREE entry. 

Check for full lineup.

Dublin Quays Festival 2018 Line Up

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Interview: PowPig

PowPig Interview - Dublin Quays Festival

Info: Ahead of their headline performance at The Workman's Club this Friday for the Dublin Quays Festival, REMY caught up with the fresh lo-fi rockers PowPig to talk current happenings, that's happening on the music trail in their home city of Limerick and current plans.

REMY: I’m very curious about the music scene in your home city of Limerick, as we don’t often hear about it. There are some great local bands and artists such as whenyoung, Zombie Picnic, Proper Micro NV (Rory Hall), Slow Riot to name but a few, and also the iconic Dolan’s venue. What insights can you give us on the health of the local scene and have you any tips for upcoming Limerick acts we should be keeping tabs on?

PowPig: The Limerick music scene is very much alive and well with really talented bands and artists; we’re extremely lucky to be part of it.
The support we have received from everyone within the scene over the past year has been huge and we’re very grateful for everyone who has helped us, from everyone to DIY LK to Music Generation. 

DIY LK are a Limerick based music collective that has breathed new life into the scene organising and promoting gigs with local bands as well as acts from around the country. The support and encouragement from everyone in DIY LK has been really great. One of our first ~proper~ gigs was with Thomond Sessions, which is run by Marty from Anna’s Anchor from DIY LK. They’ve helped us and so many other local bands reach a local audience, which is so important!!

There are loads of bands from limerick to keep a tabs on, but some of our favourites are Cruiser, King Palace, Inner City Radio, Anna’s Anchor, and an amazing ~ "rap group" ~ called Same D who formed through Music Generation like us. 

REMY: PowPig are together for just over a year now and you already have two EP’s under your belts, Denture Adventure which was released last August and Buzz Buzz which just came out in May. Tell us how the four of you got together and what are your shared interests in terms of musical styles which influence you?

PowPig: For us, Music Generation was our starting point. Music Gen. is a programme that gets young musicians to meet and write music. Three of us had been doing our own things for a while until we started collaborating to make some MAJOR CHUNEzzzz. Ok not really. Up until then we’d been quite indie-acoustic-y sounding, which is an element I think we still have on some songs, but after a while we began to experiment a little with different sounds. 

But really we were just messing around, and never thought that anything would come from it. Nearing summer we somehow convinced our drummer to join despite the fact that she was the only one who could actually play her instrument properly. From then on our songs got a little louder, obviously, with 'Birds of Paradise' being written a few weeks into playing as a four piece. The drums are now such a vital part of our songs it’s hard to remember what it was like without it!

In regards to our ~ musical influences ~ we just kind of take in everything we listen to, no matter the genre. Our music tastes do blend at times but we have our own separate artists we listen to. Artists like Mitski, Slaves, Weezer, PJ Harvey, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, the Nova Twins, Warpaint, Mac DeMarco, Pavement, Tyler the Creater, windings and Pillow Queens are some of our frequents listens. 

PowPig - 'Birds of Paradise'

REMY: Listening to both EP’s I was really struck by the very broad spectrum of sounds. From the debut for example, ‘Blue Man Child’ has a tongue-in-cheek grunge feel, and then ‘Rosalee’ is a beautifully dreamy old world folk tune. Whereas on Buzz Buzz ‘Weed’ is quite post-punk, and ‘I for an Eye’ has strong elements of psych-garage. That’s quite a melting pot! Would I be right in saying that all four of you contribute directly to the song-writing process?

Powpig: You’re right, we pretty much all contribute to our songs and what sounds we create. We don’t really have a “song writing process” as it generally just flows naturally. Sometimes someone brings in a fully written song and we add ourselves into it; other times someone will just bring a small idea and we build the song around that. 

We all have our own styles I guess, and you can see that within the two EP’s because our songs don’t all fit into one genre. Whenever we really try and buckle down to write a song it doesn’t usually go well because we spend half the time just talking about nothing, and then the other half we’re so focused on making it ‘good’ that we just kind of forget that the whole idea of writing music is about making what we want, and not what is ‘good’ by other people’s standards or expectations. 

REMY: For a band who are together a relatively short amount of time you’ve gained some really good traction so far, most recently being name Artist of the Week in the Irish times last month and also playing Body & Soul festival, next up, this Friday night you headline the #IrishMusicParty stage in The Workman’s Club for the Dublin Quays Festival. What has been the highlight for the four of you as a band since starting out?

PowPig: Everything has been such a positive experience so far, and everyone we’ve played with or for have been so kind. Getting artist of the week was a huge honour and very surreal. When we started we didn’t expect anything to come from this. We thought our first gig with Thomond Sessions would happen a few years after we’d been together, but it happened only a couple of weeks after we decided on our name. Everything after that has been even more amazing and crazy. One of the nicest unexpected things was the opportunities we’ve had to meet other artists like Pillow Queens and Paddy Hanna and whenyoung, musicians who we are all huge fans of. 
And then we got to support them! 

But, that being said, the highlight has definitely got to be our EP launch. DIY LK were kind enough to organise it for us. We were so worried it would be our parents and 5 other people as it was our very first headline. But it actually all went fantastically, and we were seriously very shocked and very thankful to everyone who came that night, as we really weren’t expecting that many people!! It just proves how crazy supportive the Limerick music scene is. 

PowPig - Buzz Buzz EP (2018)

REMY: What have been your experiences so far in dealing with traditional and non-traditional media outlets?

PowPig: So far we have not had too many encounters with ~the media~ but any time we do it’s always been a really good experience. It’s a really cool thing for us to see what we do being mentioned anywhere, and are genuinely surprised that people are nice enough to take the time to talk or write about what we do. People who write or talk about us in blogs, newspapers, podcasts, radios and magazines have so far been incredibly encouraging and really kind. We are all really grateful for that. Our encounters with media also, in a way, reassure us that what we are doing is worth the time and effort that we put in.  Obviously, it’s great just to be making the music in the first place, and we do it primarily because we want to, but it’s nice to know that people other than our close relatives and friends might actually like our music, y'know??

REMY: Your live performances have also received a very positive reaction for being a little wild and full of high-energy, which one stands out most in your minds to date, and describe what PowPig’s dream gig would look like!

PowPig: Body and Soul was a huge deal for us, it being our first festival; we were nervous that not many people would come to our tent as there were so many other amazing acts on, and we had just watched KneeCap play a stellar set in a full tent. But we were shocked when people showed up specifically and that passer bys walked in to hear us. The energy was amazing and it proved to be one of our best gigs yet!

There, we’d also been asked to play at The Irish Times Women’s Podcast post-referendum talk, which, apart from being interesting, was where we met Leo Varadkar. It was very odd and cool and weird. He is very tall?!

But then again, every gig we’ve done has been so much fun. All the people we’ve come in contact with, whether they were just doing sound or organising the venue or just watching, have been so kind and lovely and helpful, and has made every gig special. 

Our first gig outside of Limerick was in Whelans for the Strypes’ Christmas matinee show. Up until then the biggest stage we’d played was the Kasbah club, which is tiny in comparison, and it was very stressful trying to prepare. We practised for two or three weeks in advance and had to really think about our sound in terms of pedals, as in we had to buy pedals, as before we just used the pre set sounds on our amps. We didn’t even have tuners, and I remember we had to rehearse using them in our practise because stepping on them was so foreign to us. 

The reason that stands out is because while I wouldn’t say it was our best gig ever it definitely taught us a lot about playing live. We’d never really thought about how we play, it was just us being thrown up onto the stage, but in worrying about that gig and then watching The Strypes, we realised how far we had to come (and still have to go). It really improved our live performances.

PowPig Interview - Remy Connolly

REMY: Finally, it’s only been 2 months since Buzz Buzz was released, but once festival season dies down, have you any early plans to record new material?

PowPig: We’re always writing new stuff, and seeing that we’re on our summer holidays from school at the moment we have plans to record some stuff ourselves soon. The only song we’ve released that we fully recorded ourselves is “Sticky Teeth” which was intended to be very lo-fi, so we’ll see how the other songs turn out.

We have a few gigs coming up over the summer so between that and recording we’ll be fairly busy in the next month or two. These next few gigs will likely be our last for a while as this September, three of us are heading into our sixth year of secondary school. 

That will unfortunately be our main focus. However we do plan on playing gigs on any day we can sacrifice from study, and once the leaving cert is over we’ll be playing as much as possible before our fourth member then heads in for her own final year.

After that who knows? We’re not trying to cement our lives in stone yet. We’re still very young. All that we know going forward is that we want music to be a part of our lives, and we want to stay friends, whether we’re touring Europe or texting from college. 

PowPig play at The Workman's Club on Friday, 20th July as part of Dublin Quays Festival. ALL events are free. Check for full lineup.

Dublin Quay's Festival 2018 Line Up

Additional upcoming dates:

2nd August: Róisín Dubh, Galway.
11th August: Seoda Shows Summer Party, Dolans, Limerick. 
25th August: Dott album launch, Whelans. 

23rd September: Clonakility Guitar Festival, Co. Cork.