Sunday, 16 October 2016

EP: Saramai - Magnetic North

Saramai Magnetic North
Photo: Remy Connolly

Saramai - Trees

Info: It's only been ten months since Saramai released debut EP Red Moon, a gentle yet powerfully beautiful opening salvo and emergence onto the Irish music scene. What has happened in the interim must have taken her and her band by surprise, not exactly what has happened, but more the pace of change. From multiple live shows, to an appearance on Other Voices on RTÉ, and most recently the video for latest single, 'Trees' (above), premiering over on Hot Press, that's a pretty impressive CV already. The show goes on, as next week see's the release of sophomore EP, Magnetic North with a headline launch show in Whelan's on the 19th of October.

Instantly with opening track 'Hanging Around' we're pulled back into the other-worldly little places Saramai created on her debut. For only a minute and a half we are reminded of Red Moon, and then the band come in, with O'Keeffe on guitar and Mallon on drums. This has been one of the key developments in the sound, both recorded and live, which has shown Saramai's desire to move notably forward, and provide us with a more wholesome listening experience. Also lyrically we are given wonderful lines with interpretive dexterity such as; "...And I've seen the devil / Looking at you / Better that you know he's there / Otherwise he's everywhere / Hiding in plain view."

Saramai - Hanging Around

Firstly to acknowledge the incredible animation in the video for 'Trees', which was created by London-based animator Aaron Brady. The second single, which was proudly premiered on these pages in July, rises and drowns any empty spaces. From that review; 'Trees' embraces the grandiose, it's opening piano bars and percussion rumble like a distant thunder before Saramai's powerful voice enters the fray. The three together are Elysian, lifting you high off the ground onto other plains. The combination should be unsettling given its force but is unexpectedly warm and comforting, an achievement in itself given the track was recorded live and in one take as mentioned above.

The overall impression left on the listener is a mix of fortitude and defiance, but also a tinge of sadness as 'Trees' progresses, regret is felt in the lyrics and vocals, and a particularly pleasing moment occurs at the beginning of the songs final third when O'Keeffe joins in harmony with the singer, whilst both are singing the same lines it feels like a conversation between two celestial beings.'

Third track 'Heavenly' starts with a superb echoed guitar riff with shades of Mark Knopfler, and Saramai's vocals have possibly never sounded so crystal clear and captivating, it's a stunning vocal performance which grabs you and then gently lets go half-way through before soaring away. One of the most glaring conclusions to be reached after listening to Magnetic North in it's entirety is that we have easily one of the finest vocalists in the country right now in Leech, and this is again reiterated on final track, 'Ships'. In between thundering piano progressions she enters Kate Bush territory, theatrically asking; 'Where is my map? Where is my anchor?'. It's on the one hand restive, but also an appropriately positioned track to close the E.P., and there's even time for some more energy via a spaghetti western guitar solo that would make Tarantino himself turn his head towards. 

When I initially reviewed this first single from the new E.P. back in May I concluded that I hoped 2016 would see the band's music elevated to a wider audience, that's well in train with almost three months to spare, and I can't help but wonder what Saramai will be reflecting on this time next year. If you can, make sure you get to the launch night on Wednesday (page info below), if you can't, keep an eye out for other live dates, you won't be disappointed.

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