Tuesday 28 April 2015

The Secret Diary of Adrian Fitz-Simon: 'The Reviews That Weren't There....'

Adrian Fitz-Simon, 'Five Stars'

Info: Being a music reviewer can be a strange business, personally, while very grateful, it doesn't sit easy with me being thanked by bands or musicians for writing a good review of their music, after all, they're the ones that wrote it, they're the ones that did all of the hard work, and I'm just describing it. 90% of the time I only write about music I like, because I'm passionate about music, and if it doesn't tickle my fancy, I can't motivate myself to write something positive about something I don't feel positively about. That's been said to me a couple of times, 'Why aren't you more critical about the music you review, you only ever write positive reviews'. There's a couple of reasons, firstly, as I've already said, I don't have the motivation, if I don't like it I'm not going to review it, secondly, I don't see the point in ripping a band starting out, or any band for that matter, apart and sharing it with people, it's not my cup of tea, fair enough, it will be someone else's. 

That said. I do at times review music I'm not completely crazy about, or unsure if it sits with the general theme of the blog, but I did learn a very important lesson earlier this year from a band who I told I wouldn't be reviewing their new single because I thought they were already well on their way to success and didn't need me writing kind words to help them along, I also didn't think it was a good fit for the blog and I said that too. I got a short but passionate response saying that every band, particularly in Ireland, irrespective of where they sat on the 'success spectrum' were struggling to make it in some way or another, and all of them were fighting the same battle to get recognition. Truth be told I quite liked their video and the song was good, but I felt uneasy about it, but that short email gave me some perspective, you also should write about music you think other people might like because at the end of the day you're sharing something people might not have the opportunity to hear through the normal channels, and you shouldn't over-think about these things.

Adrian Fitz-Simons The Band That Wasn't There

Anyway, enough of that, here's an artist whose album, The Band That Wasn't There, I did really enjoy, and reviewed in January, Adrian Fitz-Simons, who took on a unique approach to coming up against many silent walls when it came to trying to get his album out into the ether. It was something we discussed when I had the pleasure of meeting him outside HMV (rock n'roll) on Grafton Street earlier this year to pick up a vinyl copy of his album, a must for my collection both for the music and the amazing cover sleeve (above). I was initially filled with a sense of 'Good man Adrian' when I finally saw the album getting rave reviews in The Irish Times and NME, and then thinking 'Wow, that happened quickly' when he made it into Rolling Stone, or did he?! Fitz-Simons posted stellar reviews of The Band That Wasn't There on social media, and they were all written so well, I must point out at this stage that some reviews were actually genuine, such as this one from GoldenPlec and another in The Sunday Times, but I should have spotted the ruse when he threw in rave reviews from The Tokyo Journal and The Kerryman. Either way I doff my cap to him, the whole process was the inspiration for the above song and video, 'Five Stars', using another talent to highlight his frustrations, which I shall now pass over to the man himself, do check out what The Sydney Morning Herald had to say below also.....;

5 Stars in Rolling Stone, where do you go from here?
The words are coming out all weird....

'The idea was born from frustration at the low hit-rate after a massive effort soliciting for reviews. Hundreds of emails, letters, digital and physical copies sent out. This is the norm of course, though I had neither a PR company working for me, nor a profile to pique interest. I was merely one of thousands hoping for the best. And your review was one of just four that were eventually published - just one press review in the Sunday Times and three Irish blog reviews. It felt like the project was coming to a rather downbeat end and obviously I wasn't happy with that after three years of writing, recording, mixing, mastering, designing artwork, making videos, doing the whole crowd funding thing, distributing the music, putting a huge effort into the live show... and it just wasn't fun anymore.'

Adrian Fitz-Simon, Album Preview

'So I decided to have fun again and write my own reviews. I wrote a four star for the Irish Independent and a 2/10 for Hot Press, art directed them as though they'd been published in those titles and posted them on Facebook. 
People were very happy for me (in the case of the Indo) and very angry for me (Hot Press). So I kept going. Most of the reviews were good with a few negative points thrown in. And really they were all aspects of how I felt about the record. In my own mind it is a good album but it has its flaws! So it was quite a cathartic process being so objective about it all.

I was nervous people would check the sources, but thankfully, everyone was convinced enough not to do so. Obviously fake blog reviews wouldn't have been as easy to achieve!
The song 'Five Stars' and the video came about as I thought I had to both reveal the truth in an interesting way, and also reward those who'd been duped for the eight weeks of the hoax. The Nixon idea seemed like a natural fit - my own private Watergate! 
That's it really. Frustratingly, it's been equally hard getting noticed for this as it was for the album itself, the papers and blogs have been ignoring it so far, but I believe Today FM are going to put it on their website... we'll see.'

If anything, the lesson is this, for both reviewers and musicians, don't take yourself too seriously, because you're just another cat on a keyboard, the only difference is, some of us tap it, and some us play it. 

Here are some choice quotes from the music bourgeoisie on The Band That Wasn't There ;

'The art of song has not been forgotten' - 'NME'

'As carefully crafted at vomit-inducing 70's carpet, this album is as pretentious as the hyphen in his surname.' - 'Hot Press'

'It's a pity someone else didn't sing these songs' - 'The Sydney Morning Herald

'Beguiling and majestic debut that refuses to be pinned down' - 'Rolling Stone'

'A suspect Queen obsession lingers like an unwelcome guest' - 'The Music'

'In Adrian Fitz-Simon's world the music died in 1979. And we're not talking about the demise of punk.' - 'The Irish Independent'

'Not quite hip enough for the Fumbally' - 'The Irish Times'

'私たちを愛していることは、非常にクールなレコード' - 'The Tokyo Journal'


Monday 27 April 2015

Single: The Danes - 'The Ultimate Tool'

The Danes The Ultimate Tool

The Danes. 'The Ultimate Tool'

Info: The Danes are a four piece from L.A. who have just released the first single, 'The Ultimate Tool', from their forthcoming E.P. which is due out this summer. I found the track instantly appealing on first listen, the power and personality of singer Dana Hobson's voice, the really cool low harmonies among the rest of the band members and the punchy lyrics. Musically the piano loops provide calm in the background of the song and I really enjoyed the slow-winding guitar riff at the beginning of the final third of the song. The Danes also strike a nice balance between not taking themselves too seriously but not shying away from calculated bluntness in their message. I'm quite looking forward to hearing the rest of the E.P., in the meantime you might also like their older track 'Weho' which I really enjoyed (below).

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The Danes, 'Weho'

Remix: Mail Order Messiahs - 'Genetic' (Eomac Remix)

Photo: Katie Farrell

Mail Order Messiahs, 'Genetic' (Eomac Remix)

Info: Here's a really nice remix by Eomac aka Dubliner Ian McDonnell of Mail Order Messiah's super track 'Genetic' from last years album Practical. Eomac's remix is bundled as a bonus track on the Bandcamp version which also comes with 2 other great bonus remixes; by Sunken Foal and a second remix by Eomac. The video for the remix, is also a remix of the Standish Lawder film Necrology (1971).

Mike himself is a big fan of Eomac's work and explains; 'Eomac is a very talented musician/producer/DJ/and bloody nice bloke from Dublin. His debut album Spectre (Killekill) was one of the best releases of 2014 and, unsurprisingly, his music has gained plaudits and support from the likes of Thom Yorke and Aphex Twin. I’ve been a great admirer of his work for a long time so I was delighted when, after only 4 days of captivity inside the boot of my Focus, he happily agreed to remix not one, but two tracks from Practical.'

To listen to more Mail Order Messiahs and indeed Eomac, follow the links here https://mailordermessiahs.bandcamp.com/ & http://www.eomac.net/

Eomac Genetic Remix Mail Order Messiahs

Sunday 26 April 2015

Single: Amano - 'Skies'

Amano, 'Skies'

Info: From Killarney, Co. Kerry comes young singer song-writer Amano Miura, who has just released her debut single, 'Skies', this week. She started out in music by posting videos of herself singing on YouTube before finally deciding to write her own music and pick up the guitar, since then she has played many live shows around the country and opened for the likes of Mundy and SOAK and has already featured in Hot Press despite being only 19 years of age.

The video for 'Skies' was directed by film-maker Andrew Jordan and features dancers Eliza Belward and Tamsin Greene. It's a beautiful track and video, there are early signs of potentially great lyric writing, the opening lines of 'I've been mixing colours, mixing them blind, to recreate that contemplative sky...' and Amano certainly has a strong and harmonious voice. There are also some nice subtle touches in the video with the synchronicity of the dancers, such as when the camera angle joins one of the dancers thumbs with the others little finger at the end of the video. A close comparison might be Gemma Hayes, but no doubt Amano will fully strike out on her own before long, definitely one to watch, let's hope her studies in Trinity College don't distract her from her music.

Photo: Ciarán O'Brien

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Marriage Referendum, 22nd of May, 2015

Marriage Equality Referendum Ireland Gay
Photo: Remy Connolly

Info: First off, I have to say that I have had some form of what is to follow thrashing around in my head almost endlessly for well over a year, almost daily. I don't know why marriage equality, which has zero affect on me one way or the other, exercises my emotions so much, on a high level, I suppose I dislike seeing people being treated differently for reasons beyond their control, i.e. how they are born, appear etc. It's as farcical as someone discriminating against me because my eyes are blue instead of brown (I have nothing against brown-eyed people by the way, I know some very nice brown-eyed people and they're sound). I had no say in the colour of my eyes and they are the colour they are through a complex (to the simple human mind) sequence, yet straight-forward biological process. In hindsight, if I was given a choice as to my eye colour I would definitely stick with the ones I was given, sadly for some of my fellow citizens, the natural traits they were born with are used by some to box them off into a separate category of person, and it's not a very nice one to say the least.

With regard to the upcoming Marriage Referendum, it feels strange that I'm going to be casting a vote to decide if a minority in our Republic can have the same privileges as I enjoy. To put it another way, how would straight people feel if gay people had the deciding vote on whether they could marry each other or not? To my mind people I work with, friends, someone in the queue in the supermarket, at my bus-stop not being able to get married undermines my own straight, heterosexual marriage. Funnily the opposite is argued by opponents of Same-sex marriage, but we'll get to that later. I currently enjoy a 'privilege' that some of my fellow citizens are denied, so how can I be 100% happy knowing that others, through no 'fault', cannot enjoy something I can (depends on the pew) because of a simple, natural, biological state of being. 

Photo: Remy Connolly

Like any stance I take on anything, I think it's important to be self-correcting, it's a fundamental part of becoming a better person to acknowledge that a previously (or current) held view that you hold might be wrong. No matter how strong you feel about something, you have to be ready to admit that you may be wrong. Bearing that in mind you have to be receptive to opposing views and the arguments made against your stance, and to consider them, something I've been weak at in the past but would like to think I've improved upon, circular arguments melt my brain, and I'm sure those of others! So I come to the top cited reasons which are put forth by opponents of marriage by two people of the same sex (or people as I like to call them), and I tread cautiously here, while at the same time concluding I've never come away and thought 'You know what, that's a convincing argument.' 

Before I do though, I'd like to point something out, I don't think all people who are not in favour of the Marriage Referendum, or No voters, are bigots or homophobes, that's too sweeping a statement. Some people, particularly the older generation, have had long held views stretching back decades and I don't expect them to suddenly switch off those views, it's a big cognitive leap to make in the space of 2 years. I do however, and I have no problem admitting it, hold special ire for those who actively disseminate lies, make this vote about something it is not and unashamedly use the age-old tactic of scaremongering, I will provide examples of their hypocrisy below. It's a debate I've been following closely for the last couple of years and I've read a lot on it, so I'm going to try my best to give a concise breakdown of the key points, bear in mind I'm in slightly unfamiliar territory writing about topics that are not music related!

Here's the list of reasons why some of your fellow Irishwomen and Irishmen should NOT be allowed to marry (in the eyes of the State).

1) 'Marriage has always been between a Man and a Woman for thousands of years'.

This is an appeal to tradition, in an Irish context, our Christian tradition, it's an argument that is fundamental to those advocating a No vote, but it doesn't stand up as a reason to deny same-sex couples marriage equality. Firstly, if we are going to talk about tradition, what could be more traditional than going back to our pre-Christian definition of marriage on this island? Some fantasists like to argue 'Sure what next? Polygamy? Marrying your sister?!' What they don't acknowledge is that under our ancient Brehon Laws, which were in situ before the establishment of Christianity on this island, polygamy was not only permitted under law, but it was commonplace, but I'm not going to expand on this line of thinking because it has nothing to do with the Referendum on the 22nd of May. To address the other nonsense in one sentence, there is no demand for siblings to marry each other and no, people won't be looking to marry their pets because dogs and cats cannot consent to marriage, because they can't actually talk. The traditional definition of marriage initially arose from economic and tribal arrangements, selling your daughter for a dowry to ensure there were no more attacks on your village from a rival, ensuring maintenance of regional power, in the last few centuries, more recently, it's become more about love, not always, and call me a dreamer but I think it's a much better reason to get married, if you want to.

2) 'The ideal environment for children to be raised in is a heterosexual marriage with a mother and a father'

Aside from the fact that this has nothing to do with the upcoming referendum whatsoever, although opponents think it's the only thing it's about, I'll point out why I think this is a weak argument. Firstly, how anyone can argue that the ideal environment for children to grow up in isn't a loving, caring and secure home, irrespective of who is doing the raising and irrespective of sexual orientation, is beyond me. I'm not using this as a scientific example, and I admit it's anecdotal, something that I avoid in the most part, but I regularly see heterosexual couples off their face on drugs and alcohol, walking down an extremely busy road where I live, with a toddler in tow, 20 feet ahead of them, and wandering dangerously onto the road, tell me that despite this irresponsibility, the most important thing is that this couple is straight, and the child is in the best environment. Conversely, homosexual couples can be bad parents also, because they are also human beings. Nobody is arguing that gay parents are better than straight parents, the crux of the issue is that what children need is good parents, and I'm sorry, but your sexual orientation does not determine your ability to be a good parent. Needless to say how offensive this statement is to single parents, widows / widowers, and those who saw fit to remove unmarried mothers and their children from their biological families and put them in homes run exclusively by multiple women with not a man in sight. Children need good parents, that is the simple optimum environment.

How did this young chap turn out after being raised by two lesbian mothers?

3) 'If we let the gays marry, society will crumble'

Whoops, your logical fallacy is.....

Click image to enlarge

What's the central concern contained within this argument or viewpoint? It's two-fold, gay marriage is an attack on heterosexual marriage, and if we allow same-sex marriage, our utopian Golden Age of Western Civilisation will surely come to an end, do you remember that Golden Age? No, neither do I, but I think it alludes to a time when disease, famine, poverty were rife and most of us were living in squalor, good times I'm sure. 

The first thing that springs to my mind is that if you think same-sex marriage will undermine your heterosexual marriage, it's probably time you went to marriage counselling, because it sounds like your relationship is a bit insecure and already on shaky ground. How two men or two women you've never met, and probably never will, registering their civil marriage in Boyle, Co. Roscommon affects your marriage in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, is beyond me, and quite frankly absurd. 

Let's have a look at some statistics here as well, in 2013 there were 338 civil partnerships in Ireland, 208 male unions and 130 female unions (CSO), let's play along with the slippery slope fallacy for a minute and imagine that number was multiplied by 100 after same-sex marriage was provided for in the Constitution. That would leave us with 33,800 couples and let's give them all 2 children each shall we?! This equates to 0.75% of our population being in same-sex marriages, and 1.5% of children being raised in same-sex marriages, how in god's name will all of us heterosexual couples be able to go around our daily business without tripping over these couples and their children in their pink buggies?

It's worth bearing in mind as well that these type of 'the sky will fall on our heads' arguments were also used to oppose racially mixed marriages decades ago, because it wasn't natural, and how will people treat their children?

4) 'Their children will be bullied in school, how will they explain that they don't have a 'mommy' or a 'daddy'?'

Again, this referendum has nothing to do with children, it's about two adults, human beings I might add, registering their marriage in the eyes of the State and the Law, as David Norris said recently; 'Nobody gets down on one knee and asks 'Will you have my children?', the intent to get married and the intent to have children are separate, it may surprise some that you can have children without being married, and it may also surprise these same people that gay couples have been raising children for over 15 years in Ireland, so that ship has sailed. 

To go back to the attitudes and being made feel different or kids being bullied in school, rather than deny gay people the right to marriage in case their kids get bullied in the school yard, how about you raise your own children in your ideal, traditional marriage, not to be bigots? This is a faux concern argument, the people who use this argument are not concerned about children, they are concerned with denying gay couples the chance to get married.

Marriage Equality Advert

5) 'Shut up gays, and be happy with your Civil Partnership, you're lucky we gave it to you in the first place, marriage belongs to us'

Up until the passing of the The Children & Family Relationships Bill, 2014 recently, there were over 160 statutory differences between Civil Marriage and Civil Partnership, this has been reduced significantly since the passing of the bill but many differences still remain, creating a two-tier system that discriminates against those in civil partnerships, these differences will only be eliminated by the passing of the Marriage Referendum, if it does not pass this two-tiered system will remain in place. So when someone says, 'Sure they already have their partnerships, why can't they just be happy, why do they want to redefine marriage, can they not call it another name, they're both the same', no they are not, evidently, this is a lie.

Interestingly, whilst taking a break from crying about being denied the right to discriminate against gay people, Breda O'Brien, Patron of the Iona Institute, was exposed (again) for her hypocrisy. In a recent interview on Newstalk with Chris O'Donoghue O'Brien said that gay people had fought long and hard for the right to Civil Partnership and that; 'I think that there is the right to gay people to respect for their relationships. I think there is the right of gay people to stand up in front of their friends and neighbours and to say ‘I do’ as they do already in civil partnerships.” That's funny Breda, because yourself and the Iona Institute campaigned vigorously against the Civil Partnership Bill back in 2009, but now it's okay? Did the sky fall on our heads?

Click image to enlarge

6) Surrogacy, AHR (Assisted Human Reproduction) & Adoption

Whilst surrogacy is a recent phenomenon and a debate that is ongoing, it has nothing to do with the Marriage Referendum, and the same goes for AHR and adoption. Again the No campaign (as distinct to those who may or will vote No) conflates the issue with topics which have nothing to do with the upcoming referendum and are not being legislated for currently. While surrogacy was initially intended to come under the The Children & Family Relationships Bill, Minister Leo Varadkar felt it was not correct to include it under it's terms and it should be legislated for with a separate bill, that seems logical to me, but it also highlights the fact that it is entirely separate to this referendum, despite what those posters that have been plastered around the country would say. Surrogacy, AHR and adoption are issues that affect heterosexual and homosexual couples, and not one without the other. 

It seems to me that infertile heterosexual couples and single parents should be equally offended by the statements on the posters that say 'Surrogacy? She Needs Her Mother for Life, Not Just 9 Months', imagine a child who is being raised by her father because the mother passed away seeing that poster and wondering? 'Am I different because I don't have a mum?'. Surrogacy and AHR are not homosexual issues, and have nothing to do with the referendum. Funnily enough, if not surprising, the chief spokesperson of Mothers & Fathers Matter, Keith Mills, who happens to be gay, which is irrelevant, has admitted in an exchange on Twitter with Colm O'Gorman that surrogacy has nothing to do with the referendum, yet he has organised the placing of these posters around the country. What's going on here? Why are there individuals scaremongering on the one hand, whilst admitting elsewhere that the message on the posters is wrong?

Keith Mills Colm O'Gorman
Click image to enlarge

I also find it quite ironic that the only organisation in the history of the Irish Republic to forcibly remove children from their natural biological parents, and sell them to couples who could not naturally conceive, for financial gain, were the Catholic Church, an inconvenient truth you never hear the Iona Institute or Mothers & Fathers Matter discuss. I mention these two organisations as if they are separate, but they are not, Mothers & Fathers Matter are a front so the Iona Institute can pretend it is not involving itself in the referendum campaign so it doesn't have to divulge the source of their income, something they have refused to do repeatedly despite multiple requests from SIPO (Standards in Public Office). To avoid such scrutiny Iona members claim they are only working in a personal capacity when they are discussing the referendum (which is their right) and that the organisation is not getting involved in the campaign, except for maybe, these....

And on their website the most commonly discussed topic by an organisation registered as a religious charity is, you've guessed it, a civil matter....

Anyway, these guys require an article in itself so I'm going to park the bus with them there, if you want to find out more I recommend the following sites http://www.broadsheet.ie/tag/iona-institute/http://bocktherobber.com/2013/06/what-exactly-is-the-iona-institute/

I would also add that unlike owning a dog, where you are legally required to have a licence, you do not require a licence to have a child. When it comes to adoption in Ireland, it is a laborious process that can take years, summed up well in this article from The Irish Independent about the obstacles faced by a straight, married couple who cannot have children. The fact of the matter is that straight or gay couples looking to adopt have to go through an arduous process, and rightly so, outlining their personal attributes which would make them good parents, with testimonies from others, their education, their financial status, Garda vetting, and many other criteria before they are even considered as suitable for adoption. So if a gay couple make it through all of those checks and balances, you can be damn sure they are going to be able to provide an excellent home and upbringing for any child. Here I am justifying something that is already happening because opponents of the Referendum want to derail and obfuscate the real issue at hand.


I know I've left out a lot of the things that I wanted to say on this topic because I can't remember half of them, should have written them down probably, and while I think it's important to highlight what we are voting on and what we are not voting on, a big motivation for me was to ensure that people actually do go and vote. The age-group of 18-35 are, for the most part, big on equality, big on civil marriage, big on creating a society where there is no discrimination, but one thing we're not big on is actually registering to vote and going to the polling station, we like to talk the talk but for some reason, as has been shown in countless general elections and previous referenda, we have the lowest turnout of any demographic. That's a big issue in terms of getting the Marriage Referendum passed, the polls still show a strong Yes vote, but it is eroding, it's one thing telling a survey caller on the phone you're in favour of Same-Sex Marriage but it's an entirely different matter to actually physically casting your vote, that's where the referendum will be won or lost, depending on your viewpoint of course. 

As a straight, married man, it genuinely upsets me that my gay brothers and sisters in the country I was born and live in, do not have an equal status to me, people say it's not about equality, it is about equality, it's about two people getting married in a civil ceremony and being recognised as the same as every other couple irrespective of sexual orientation. I have not heard one argument that made me step back and think, 'You know what, that's a valid point and I never really considered it or thought of it that way', I've been hoovering up both sides of the debate almost every day for the last 2 years. They said marriage would be undermined in 2009, was it? Has your marriage been undermined by civil partnership? They're saying it will be undermined again, and that the uppity gays will destroy our centuries old society, well do you know what, grand claims require grand evidence, and I've not seen a shred of it, so I'm voting Yes. We're all going to die some day, some people need to stop spending their live's trying to oppress other people and just live and let live. If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading, and normal service will be resumed shortly! I'll sign off with a John Grant song and video that I hope will make me smile for a change when the results come in on the 23rd of May.

John Grant, 'Glacier'


Are you registered to Vote? Check the electoral register here https://www.checktheregister.ie/PublicPages/Default.aspx?uiLang=

The deadline for registering is Tuesday, 5th of May.

Referendum Commission website: http://refcom2015.ie/

Saturday 25 April 2015

Live Show: The Shades @ The Mercantile

The Shades Dublin

The Shades, 'Boom, Boom, Boom'

Info: If you're in Dublin city centre tonight you should head along to The Mercantile and check out Dublin's old style rock n'roll band The Shades. Made up of five hardworking, accomplished musicians and taking inspiration from artists such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Chuck Berry and The Yardbirds, The Shades are on their way to bringing this raw rock'n'roll sound to the mainstream. The band already have a tour of the UK & Ireland under their belt and performed at Body & Soul year, doors are at 7.30pm and it's only €3 in. To listen to more tunes from the band head over to their Soundcloud page here.


E.P. Review: Robocobra Quartet - 'BOMBER'

Robocobra Quartet BOMBER

Robocobra Quartet, ''80-'88'

Info: Robocobra Quartet are a Belfast four-piece who have just released their new E.P., BOMBER, a contemporary spoken-word jazz recording that adds elements of experimental hip-hop and (in a good way) sleazy 70's sounds. In their own words; 'Robocobra Quartet's BOMBER EP features four songs tied together musically and lyrically, based around a fictional character involved in a failed assassination attempt. Inspired by the stories of figures such as John Hinckley Jr. & Samuel Byck, the EP references a number of real-world events, related literature and social phenomena.'

Listening to this E.P. I was struck by a few key elements which form the foundations of it's appeal, firstly, Chris Ryan's spoken vocals are probably what every teacher hoped their pupils would sound like when they were reading poetry in the classroom, 'try and express the meaning the poet is trying to convey' they said to us, and, much to their frustration, we read Yeats in monotone wondering had our parents packed us plain red cheddar sandwiches for the 3,467th time in 10 years. Secondly I really, really enjoyed the two saxophones on this E.P., tiny pings of Steve McQueen ripping around San Francisco in Bullet, but also a hair-raising forthrightness that pulls you into their sound, see the whirlwind jazz explosion that is ''80-'88' above, which has an amazing finale. 

Robocobra Quartet, 'Wicker Bar'

Robocobra Quartet's sounds for me is tied up in contemporary acts, somewhere in between New York artist El-P and Toronto act BADBADNOTGOOD's 'Earl' whilst also retaining roots of the masters such as Rollins, Davis and Mingus for example. This is particularly evident on 'Wicker Bar' above, a wistful track which features additional choral background vocals from singers Patrick Gardiner and Sean Joseph. 'Flickering Blinds', which closes the E.P., immerses itself more in the hip-hop side of proceedings and sees the band go fully off the leash, the sax is again powerful here and the drumming is perfect. I haven't even mentioned the opener ''98-'01' which naturally was the first song I listened to and immediately caught my attention, it's a proper beaut and in some ways BOMBER feels like one long 13 minute track that steps into each of it's four phases subtly without losing it's train of thought. It's different, it's enjoyable and it's pretty brilliant.

Look / Like & Listen:

Upcoming Shows:

02/05 - Twisted Pepper, Dublin, IE
10/07 - Swell Festival, Donegal, IE
24/07 - Knockanstockan Festival, Wicklow, IE
01/08 - Sunflower Festival, Hillsborough, UK

04/09 -  Electric Picnic Festival, Co. Laois, IE

Album Review: Waterstrider - 'Nowhere Now'

Waterstrider Nowhere Now

Waterstrider, 'Nowhere Now' single

Info: Oakland band Waterstrider released their second album, Nowhere Now, earlier this month, the title track and first single of which was reviewed in March here, and for which I received a lot of positive feedback from Irish bands since, and rightly so. 'Nowhere Now' (above) is a perfect alternative indie rock song which is highly addictive and showcases front man Nate Salman's distinct vocal range and sound very well.

What of the other tracks? Like those who enjoyed the single I was curious as to what the whole album would sound like, so it was great to get stuck into it so soon afterwards. Opening with the melodic and restrained 'White Light', the tone is set for an up and down mood, bouncing persistently between lo-fi and then self-described afro-beats producing a collection of songs that perk your ears stand out. Straight after you get the picture with 'Redwood' which trundles determinedly like a steam engine through it's percussion with the congas keeping everything tightly together. 

Waterstrider, 'Soundless Sea'

A rather emotive track comes in the form of 'Soundless Sea' (above), vocally an absolute joy to listen to, the soft intro accentuated by the gentle single note bass playing which leads to an almost forlorn guitar riff, a close runner for best track behind 'Nowhere Now'. The second single on the album comes in the form of 'Passing Ships', the music ripples on this one with the lyrics touching on human relationships, happiness and taking stock of life. It's the last time I'll mention the vocals because I can't bring them up for every time but on 'Just a Taste' they are soaring, at times filtered to good effect, it's like Chris Isaak and Stevie Nicks doing a duet, but with only one voice, it also delves into a darker arena, and the guitar playing fits the mood perfectly. 

Of the remaining tracks 'Calliope' is like a lo-fi version of Cansei De Ser Sexy's (CSS) 'Let's Make Love & Listen To Death From Above' and closing track 'Black Blood' gets at the old heartstrings again, nods to Bon Iver, Band of Horses and Mercury Rev. Nowhere Now is like the album you used to buy before the Internet on CD, you go in dark, and hope for the best, because you've gone on recommendations and possibly heard none of the music, from memory that only paid of one in three times if you were lucky, this would have been one of the lucky times, it's a beautifully arranged album, and both rewarding and touching.

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/Waterstrider 

Album Review: High Elders - 'More Magick'

High Elders More Magick Auxiliary Phoenix Gentle Jones Album

High Elders, 'Dreams With Mephistopheles' (Auxiliary Phoenix Remix)

Info: The two members of transatlantic duo High Elders compliment each other perfectly again on their second album together, More Magick. Carlow mix-master Auxiliary Phoenix is probably the most exciting experimental hip-hop producer in the country at the moment and Delaware's Gentle Jones is an internationally acclaimed MC and DJ who has traversed many styles over his career including ska and punk. It's an interesting project, High Elders, which no doubt sees endless cyberspace travel between Ireland and the United States of mixes / vocals and samples. The album has already featured very favourably on Hot Press and like their previous work, has a lot of unique traits and oozes with originality.

Gentle Jones

More Magick features remixes of a number of the tracks from previously reviewed Forest of Pencils which was released late last year plus additional tracks to keep things fresh, but the best news is that it's completely free and you're only two clicks away from an mp3, FLAC or other format downloads via their Bandcamp page here. Personal favourites from the previous album, 'Surrounded By Lights' and 'Churches' (feat. Marchitect & Pooch) sound even better in their remixed versions. Of the new numbers 'Kingonashoestring' is fantastic, real old school hip-hop vibes and up tempo, it also features some great record scratching that is spattered throughout the album and brings you back to late-80's / early-90's effects, back when it was done properly. 

High Elders, More Magick

MC Marchitect features again on 'Scientology', a humorous look at one of the world's less extreme religious ideologies.....! and reminded me a bit of Killer Mike's excellent track 'Reagan'. 'I'm Back' is another highlight, melding funky soulful backdrops and beats to Jones' high velocity rhyming. More Magick ends strongly with Auxiliary Phoenix's experimental talents all over the excellent instrumental electro 'Mean World' which also featured on Forest of Pencils, and a hard-hitting remix of 'URL' from Simteks and 5ifty$ix before ending on the philosophical 'God Is Inside You' taken from Gentle Jones' own Murderkill Hundred album. All in all a great compilation of tracks once again from High Elders, a team who appear to be constantly moving toward the next phase with high output not reducing the quality of the music in any way, I can't wait to hear their next album already and probably won't have to wait that long thankfully. 

Auxiliary Phoenix

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Wednesday 22 April 2015

Album Review: Naoise Roo - 'Lilith'

Naoise Roo Lilith

Naoise Roo, 'Oh Son'

Info: Dublin-based rock chanteuse Naoise Roo and her band are certainly about to become one of the hottest tickets in town following the release of her debut album Lilith next week, on the 27th of April. At the single launch of 'For You' in March at The Workman's Club I went in having only heard that song but came away enjoying the entire set without exception, always a massive plus for me and it whets the appetite for what will be in store once you become more familiar with the rest of the music. Lilith has fast become one of my favourite albums this year for some quite straight-forward reasons, firstly the musical style is familiar in parts but feels like a brand new listening experience at the same time. I agree with the comparisons with the wonderful Anna Calvi, mostly from singles 'Desire' and 'Suzanne & I', but the contemporary is tempered by older sounds, especially live, there's a little bit of a Big Brother & The Holding Company with Joplin package going on with the entire band, I must point out that it's more Roo's on stage energy rather than vocals that conjure this comparison, which are somewhere closer to the jazzy Laura Nyro and Annie Lennox. 

Naoise Roo, 'For You'

Lilith itself spoils you as a listener, drifting between a tight selection of genres including alternative rock, blues and post-punk, Roo's vocals feel like black oil seeping slowly around an unsuspecting victim's head before getting inside and consuming you entirely, much like a fly who thinks he's too big to get stuck in this web, best exemplified on one of my favourite tracks on the album, 'Whore'. There's also a pained but confident darkness in the music and vocals at times, 'For You' ,for example, contains the despondent but thought-provoking line; 'I never pray for myself these days', something you might expect from balladeer Nick Cave. 

Another highlight is the catchy and swinging blues number 'Sheets', starting out like a 1920's cabaret performance it builds up to a bursting joyful operatic finale. 'Stand In Black' perhaps best captures what you might expect at a live performance from Roo and band, moody, deep down and dirty and soulful all at the same time, there are some nice subtle guitar effects providing the back drop to the grime here and it sounds cool and smooth the whole way through. Lilith finishes very strongly with a soul-baring performance on 'Tie Me Up - Tie Me Down', piano that wouldn't sound amiss on an early Nina Simone recording and beautifully controlled trembling vocals from Roo. I don't recall hearing an album like this by any Irish artist, female or male, I stand to be corrected, but I think this is perhaps the main reason Lilith has resonated with me in a way, it has new sounds that I can relate to, but old sounds that I love.

Naoise Roo Lilith Album Review
Design: Jamie Murphy

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Sunday 19 April 2015

E.P. Review: Gavin Prior - The Avalon Suite

Gavin Prior The Avalon Suite

Gavin Prior, The Avalon Suite E.P.

Info: Gavin Prior is a Dublin-based musician who currently plays with free jazz / metal trio Tarrachóir (tractor as Béarla) and acappelyptic vocal group, The Primal Barber Trio. Prior graduated from University of Limerick with an MA in Music Technology and has since improvised with many experimental musicians, has toured extensively across Europe, America and Asia and is also the co-founder of the Deserted Village record label.

In December he released The Avalon Suite E.P. (above), containing four short tracks that are cosmic and focus on ambience and feeling. Opening track 'Little Laurie' brings forth feelings of floating through space and has nice classical leanings. The dialogue from each of the tracks come from old English-teaching resource recordings which Prior explains more about below and on tracks like 'Little Laurie' and following number '롯데리아' ('Lottery') you are both hypnotised by the soundscape but not so removed that you aren't drawn to focus on the voice samples. The static and climactic '#COWSPIRACY' leads to the final piece of The Avalon Suite, an almost techno and more interstellar sound on 'Perfume', here stars become blurred lines as you are propelled at high speed, and the break-up and static of the voices seems to signify lost communication as a result of travelling so far into the distance, light-years perhaps! It's an almost therapeutic collection of tracks on this E.P. and certainly a whole rather than individual parts for the listener to absorb, all you really have to do is let go.

In Gavin Prior's own words on the background to the concept behind the E.P.;

"While teaching children English in a hagwon (for-profit evening academy) in Incheon, Korea I was often struck by the bizarre, stilted English in some of the dialogues on the CDs we used for listening classes. I left some choice audio on my hard drive knowing I'd find a use for it some day. The sample used in the first track 'Little Laurie" sounded to me like an inquisitive young Laurie Anderson learning the ways of the world."

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Website: https://gavinprior.wordpress.com/ (some great photography here)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/desertedvillage

Label: http://desertedvillage.com/

Bandcamp: https://desertedvillage.bandcamp.com/album/the-avalon-suite

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PriorGavin