Saturday, 24 August 2013

New Irish Talent

 Myles Manley, Whelan's, 23rd Aug. 2013

The Vincent(s), Whelan's, 23rd Aug. 2013

Liza Flume

In my college days I would have frequented Dublin's smaller music venues regularly such as The Temple Bar Music Centre (now The Button Factory), The Mean Fiddler (now The Village), Whelan's on Wexford Street and a handful of pubs as well. While this wasn't a long time ago (about 15 years), it was still at a time when venues were filled with cigarette smoke, half of your friends didn't have a mobile phone and we thought dial-up internet was propelling us headlong into the high-tech age. I saw many good bands back then, The Frames in arguably their heyday, Mic Christopher's amazing band The Mary Janes, Kells band Turn. At some stage the music scene seemed to really dry up in Dublin and Ireland, around 2001-2002, and it became saturated with singer-songwriters and crooners. While some were undoubtedly talented, it was as though the scene had gone stale, there were no groups with cult followings, no must see small acts and so, reluctantly, I stopped keeping an eye out for who was playing at these small venues and instead concentrated on going to see established acts, but I think that might be about to change, and I find it quite exciting.

Two weeks ago a friend asked me would I be interested in going to see part of The Jack of Diamonds Festival in Whelan's, it was free in and there were 9 acts playing over three floors of the venue, admittedly he said he knew none of the bands but thought it would be worth checking out. So off I went on a Friday night and met him and his wife and we sat down upstairs by the bar before moving in to the Upper Room. The first act we saw was a very shy young girl with an acoustic guitar and I thought to myself, wow, nothing has changed since 2001-2002, my prejudice was woefully ill-founded. By the end of her opening song the hairs were standing on the back of my neck and my friend turned to me and simply said; 'That was fucking brilliant', I couldn't have agreed more. This was Liza Flume, an Australian Dublin-based songwriter whose painful shyness and almost apologetic presence on the stage belies an incredibly strong voice. What I found most interesting was her use of a loop pedal, a device where the singer records live her singing and then plays it back while singing harmonies to the recording, literally, with herself. Liza played a short 6 song set leaving me wanting more, I will be attending future gigs of hers based on this performance.

One week later and I find myself inadvertently in Whelan's again, after meeting a very dear friend who I'm not talking to today after he threw a pint of beer over me for his own entertainment. Looking for adventure after a few pints in a local pub we headed into town and made our way upstairs where yet again, unexpectedly there were more live shows on. The first act was a young guy from Sligo called Myles Manley (normally plays with his band The Little People) whose upbeat songs remind me very much of Bombay Bicycle Club (when I mentioned this to him after the show he had never heard of them) but it was his melancholic songs that really caught me. I arrived in Whelan's in a very good mood but after two of Manley's songs I felt terribly sad, and I suppose that's what good music is all about, ability to grab you inside and affect you instantly. He also comes across as a very interesting character, and struck me as quite the libertine if he wouldn't mind me saying so, and he was an amiable chap to talk to, he even kindly allowed me buy one of his albums off him and a book of poetry that I don't remember enquiring about.

After Manley came glum Cork rockers The Vincent(s), the bastard child of The Pixies and Sonic Youth. Heavy bass, crashing drums, rip-roaring lead guitar and....a saxophone player all combined to give a great live drone sound, but it was clean, it wasn't unintelligible distortion and noise for the sake of it. I found them very different to what you'd expect from a young Irish group and as they say themselves on their page; 'We, as a band, want to bring something completely new to the Irish music scene, something a bit darker than we are used to.' I have to say I enjoyed their live set, but Manley stole the night for me. 

Three very different acts, all very talented and a far cry from my memories of the small venue music scene from 10 years ago when it seemed like someone had poured water on Damien Rice after midnight and given birth to hundred's of singer-songwriter gremlins that swamped every stage available. It has changed my attitude to up and coming musicians and I now intend to go to a lot more gigs, why wouldn't I considering they're free, but I think I'll stick to the orange juice from now on. Below is a track from each of the aforementioned acts for your aural pleasure.

Liza Flume, 'What We Called Love'

Myles Manley & The Little People, 'Easter Morning'

The Vincent(s), 'Asked Her To Dance'

Friday, 23 August 2013

1977 The Alan Parsons Project - I Robot

The Alan Parsons Project, 'I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You', 1977

Info: The Alan Parsons Project consisted mainly of the man himself and keyboardist Eric Woolfsoon, but usually had a number of musicians in tow such as David Paton on bass, and John Miles with Colin Blunstone on background vocals. The group performed between 1975 and 1990 and were a prog-rock band, made distinctive by their plentiful use of vocoders and synthesisers. Parsons and Woolfson's music relationship was formed at the famous Abbey Road studios after a chance meeting in the canteen there in 1974, where Parson's talent as an engineer had seen him work on The Beatles' albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be as well as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Woolfson himself had a very imaginative streak and had a strong desire to work on concept albums, and with both having a background in production, he was determined to do in music, what contemporaries Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick were doing in film, that is, highlight the leading role of the producers rather than the musicians.Coming from the greater London area, The Alan Parsons Project seemed to enjoy more success in North America than in the U.K., but this still helped propel them into the popular sphere from the mid-seventies to the eighties. 

1977's I, Robot was the follow up to the wonderful debut record in 1975, Tales of Mystery and Imagination (highly recommended) and is arguably the Project's best album, heavily influenced by Isaac Asimov's sci-fi series of books of the same title, indeed, Woolfson consulted Asimov in advance and the Russian-born author was very excited at the proposed piece of work. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from, describes it as an album which 'explores many of the philosophies regarding artificial intelligence - will it overtake man, what does it mean to be man, what responsibilities do mechanical beings have to their creators....'. This brings to mind Spielberg's A.I. in a modern sense, a robot boy who longs for the affection of his human mother, or at the time of the album, Bowie's turn as an android in The Man Who Fell To Earth. 

The theme of the album is very appealing to me, I really enjoy the thick spread of vocoder throughout the album and always find the, maybe slightly naive, futuristic album art fun to examine. The electronic and I suppose, robotic, feel starts straight away with the intro to opening title track 'I Robot' lasting two minutes before we get some nice bass lines and drum beats followed by electric rhythm guitar, this instrumental track sets the tone for the album and is really chilled out. Following on from that is the amazing (and most successful single) 'I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You', a disco joy, it could easily be the intro to a 1970's San Francisco based cop show. Here we may be hearing the robot's perspective as the lyrics read; 'If I had a mind to, I wouldn't want to think like you, and if I had the time to, I wouldn't want to talk to you', with the robot saying, 'Yes, you may be smarter, but from what I've observed, I would not want to be human like you'. 

The next track, 'Some Other Time' really reminds me of a weird Pink Floyd / Thin Lizzy mash-up but it's very enjoyable. 'Breakdown' has a really good heavy bass-line and then seems to turn into something very Fleetwood Mac Rumours era. The sixth track, 'The Voice' is a wonderful white funk celebration, really mellow disco sound. The final track which I find really interesting on this album is 'Nucleus', it's really far ahead of it's time and sounds very like something you would expect from Groove Armada at their peak. I really can't fault any of the songs on this album, it has everything in my view, disco, electronica, funk, rock and lashings of weirdness, I, Robot can get endless listens without getting bored of it, it's surprisingly accessible and is definitely in my top 10 seventies albums.

Track Listing:

1. I Robot
2. I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You
3. Some Other Time
4. Breakdown
5. Don't Let It Show
6. The Voice
7. Nucleus
8. Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)
9. Total Eclipse
10. Genesis Ch.1 Vs.32

Monday, 12 August 2013

2013 Irish Blog Awards

After just over a year of the blog I was delighted to find out today I've made the Long List for the Music category in the Irish Blog Awards, 2013, this category is sponsored by Orchestrate Marketing & PR  a communications company who specialise in music, arts and entertainment. Orchestrate count artists such as Primal Scream, The Stereophonics, and Irish acts Julie Feeney, Mundy and Duke Special among their clients. Visit their web page here, So fingers and toes crossed for the short-listing on the 8th of September, but in the meantime, more music reviews are on the way, I'll be continuing my album reviews from artists for 1950-2013, next year up is 1977, the year of Star Wars, watch this space, and thanks for your nominations!