Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: Spiritualized - Vicar St. Dublin

Slowly emerging from a hail of 'wha wha' feedback a beautifully bleak pulsating wall of sound peppered by strobe lighting and psychedelic visuals 'Hey Jane' lead single from forthcoming album Sweet Heart, Sweet Light commenced an evening of electro space jazz with Jason Pierce at the helm Hey Jane is a three-part Shoegaze epic clocking in at over 10 minutes. Part 1, is a Jesus and Marychain meets Sonic Youth stomper  In Part 2, a roadhouse blues bass line morphs into a blissed out psychedelic sound scape. where ephemeral backing vocals hook the listener in, as the music below becomes a droning mush of white noise. Part 3, bares a passing resemblance to 'Tender' by Blur. as the "Sweetheart..."  gospel vocals punch their way through the ever-increasing hail of white noise below.

Peirce acts as an omnipotent figure on stage.  Part classical conductor, part reluctant front man. It is clear from the off that Pierce, has no interest in giving a performance outside the realms of musicality.  There would be no jokes, no sidebars, no movement, just music. Any razzmatazz would be supplied via vivid psychedelic charcoal visuals, that simultaneously pulled you in and pushed you back. This would not be a conventional rock show, but then again why should it? Spiritualized will never be a conventional rock group. The traditional support act had been dispensed with in favour of 2 hour + performance, delivered with barely a pause between songs.

The evening flowed with a gentle relentlessness, through new and old material lovingly recreated, extended, and embellished upon by the current Spiritualized lineup of virtuoso musicians. Songs such as 'Oh Baby' and the Velvet-Iggy groove of 'She Kissed Me' stood out for their raw energy and emotion. But the crowd couldn't hide their excitement for material from 1997's seminal Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. The title track from that album was predictably well received, with backing vocals from two gospel Mamma's warranting special mention, for their Segway into "wise men say only fools rush in... " which delighted the crowd.

Despite the universal moments of unity such as the wonderful 'Come Together', and 'Electricity', Spiritualized, live, are not suitable for newcomers or casual listeners. Their live show is for the purists, who live for every drone and overtone as Pierce does. Anyone who expected to dance will have been disappointed, as the atmosphere in Vicar St. was one of quiet appreciation. Spiritualized unlike most bands, challenge the gig-goer to really listen to the music they are playing, and this can hardly be a bad thing. But the results will either leave the listener baffled and bewildered or mesmerised with little space between.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review: Jape- Farewell Show at Whelans

Whelans will always be the spiritual home of Irish musicians who cut their teeth in the 90's and naughties. So it was fitting that Jape bid farewell to Ireland to a sold out crowd in this venue, capping off an emotional week which saw the band win their second Choice Music Prize, for their fourth album 'Ocean of Frequency'. The joyous atmosphere in Whelans was palpable throughout the show, which acted as both victory parade and fond farewell for both band and crowd. Richie Egan and co did not disappoint delivering a phenomenal show, punctuated by moments of comedy, thanksgiving, and remembrance from a clearly emotional Egan.

Commencing with the feet-twitching beats of 'Hands of Fire' they embarked on an epic set of electro-rock at its finest. Egan, bounced about the stage swapping instruments at any opportunity like a one man Talking Heads minus the over sized suit. However, Jape, are by no means a one man show and bassist Glenn Keating, is as integral to the Jape sound as Egan is. The crowd lapped up the buoyant electro grooves of tracks liker 'I Am A Man' and 'Graveyard' before 'Floating' whipped them into 6th gear, via an extended intro.

The relentless pace of the show was outstanding as the band churned out electro grove, after electro groove, with barely a moments pause between songs "this is a new song" says Egan, introducing 'Ribbon, Ribbon, Ribbon' which offers hope to Jape fans that Egan's emigration to Sweden, does not mean the end of Jape, merely a well earned rest. The better known 'Christopher and Anthony' gets the crowd going once again before the highlight of the night so far. 'Please Don't Turn The Record Off'' is a perfect pop song and has every person in the room dancing By now the crowd is at Egan's, beck and call, and songs such as 'Too Many People' and 'The Oldest Mind' are gratefully received by the crowd

Jape, are joined by Davd Kitt, and Goodtime John, for the finale of 'To The Sea'Egan's attempts to instigate a poignant farewell, by asking the crowd to sing along to a quiet song, backfire, when a voice in the crowd cries "Here we go motherfuckers".  The resulting laughter on and off stage, is followed by several failed attempts ending in similar comedic fashion. Egan, is forced to give up in the end and "kick the fuck in". However, the outcome was probably better and more fitting than the ending Egan, had envisaged, as this was a time to celebrate, not to commiserate. Goodtime John, presented Egan, with a bottle of champagne, which he duly opened with his teeth. Drawing the last hurrah from an amazing crowd.  An early contender for gig of the year, even at mid March, this show will take some beating. Ireland's loss is very much Sweden's gain.

Review: The Shins - Port Of Morrow

Following the breakthrough success of 'Wincing The Night Away' James Mercer did what any self respecting musical despot would do, sack the band and start again. The results predictably are the same, only slightly different. Port of Morrow ticks all the boxes of the previous albums with lashings of happy/sad mock British cynicism and self-loathing set against bouncy bass riffs and breezy mid-tempo ballads. The Smiths, Belle & Sebastian, and Camera Obscura, remain the blueprint from which Mercer draws from. However there is a notable shift towards US folk storyteller style compositions which may divide listeners.

'The Riffle's Spiral' commences the album in a suitably wordy fashion as Mercer draws upon his seemingly endless vocabulary. The music however has a more bombastic electro dance-rock feel than previous offerings  First single 'Simple Song' is a more traditional Shins effort, showcasing Mercer's classic songwriting skills with shimmering guitars and silky bass lines weaving below his falsetto vocal. Most of the songs hinge on Mercer's vocal. His ability to move between falsetto and baritone is world class and most of the singalong moments come in the higher male register. 'Bait and Switch' delivers such a moment of high pitched wonderment "I'm just a simple man cursed with an honest heart". Would be single 'No Way Down' stands out because of its bouncy bass and guitar interplay and witty lyrics such as "Apologies to the sick and the young. Get used to the dust in your lungs"

The album has a more mature alt country feel on many of the tracks, which seem more retrospective than the angry in the now angst The Shins built their reputation upon. For this reason 'Port of Morrow' is less instant than the previous Shins albums and must be labelled with the ominous charge of being 'a grower'. 'For A Fool' is the best of these mid-tempo offerings. A beautiful song with a heavenly chorus of "Taken for a fool, yes I was because I was a fool"  There's a whiff of Steely Dan about "Fall of '82" which cements this move towards Americana, which may divide fans. Title track 'Port Of Morrow' a jazz fuelled mix of Portishead and Radiohead, closes the album in considerable style. The string arrangements combine wonderfully with Mercer as his gritty falsetto steals the last time.

Port of Morrow, doesn't reach the dizzying perfection of Wincing The Night Away, but this is by no means a bad way to follow up your masterpiece.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: The Walls - Stop The Lights

'Stop The Lights' is the latest chapter in the eventful lives of  The Walls. Following the split of the vehicle for their first brush with fame The Stunning, Joe and Steve Wall found themselves in major label limbo for several years. The label didn't like their name and tried to saddle them with pathetic alternatives. This led to a breakdown between the two parties and The Walls eventually returned to Ireland and their major label d├ębut never saw the light of day. 

Undeterred, The Walls started a fresh eventually releasing Hi-Lo in 2000 which spawned the hit 'Bone Deep'. Whilst a vanishing master tape led to "To The Bright and Shining Sun" being inescapable in the summer of 2002 via an extensive AIB advertising campaign. 2005's album 'New Dawn Breaking' divided fans and critics alike, such was the major change of direction from electro tinged bass-heavy pop, to more traditional folk rock material. Their new album 'Stop The Lights' sees them reach a happy medium between their two previous albums, whilst also progressing simultaneously in a new direction. The result is their best album to date.

The album opens with single 'Bird In A Cage' an autobiographical chronicle of The Wall's moving from Dublin to Galway in their youth. Their struggle to adapt and integrate into a rural setting, and how Galway then shaped their lives.  This track also seems like an unspoken ode to their parents.  Single 'Phantom Power' is a jaunty track which sees Joe Wall, deliver an impressive falsetto throughout the verses. His brother Steve Wall, has always had one of the most distinctive and instantly recognisable voices in Irish music, but his voice has never sounded as vital as it does on this album.

Lyrically the album centres on Irish life, past and present, with references to the famine, emigration, and in particular references to the current recession. The lyrics also use many colloquialisms such as the title track 'Stop The Lights'.  This track finds The Walls, in fan-friendly uptempo bass-heavy territory, with hummable radio friendly melodies combining slickly throughout.  'The Great Escape' is an unexpected atmospheric treat, built on a dark bed of orchestral sounds and Arcade Fire-esque drums. There's a hint of U2 about would be single 'It Goes Without Saying'. 'Dead Flowers' the rockiest track on the album, will no doubt be a live favourite for years to come, with its crunchy bass line and sing along chorus of "What goes around is gonna come around".

'Carrying The Fire' the first single to be taken from the album (way back in 2010) is yet another radio friendly gem. Unusually it's an emigration tale, based on the Irish flight from the famine to a better live in America. It's a timely reminder and testament to the Irish spirit, which will resonate with the new diaspora around the world.

'Stop The Lights' may have been seven years in the making but it was well worth the wait. The Wall's are back, and back with a bang.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Video: We Cut Corners - Toll Free

Yet another highly creative video from Ireland's premier musical duo We Cut Corners. 'Toll Free' sees the band utilising multi-camera face projections to create an unusual jagged visual experience. The song is one of the more raucous offerings from their debut album 'Today I realised I could Go Home Backwards'.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Video: Le Galaxie - Powers of Miami

Taken from 'Laserdisc Nights 2' one of the best albums not to win the Meteor Choice Music Prize 2012  "Powers of Miami" sees Le Galaxie unleash another electro dance bomb on the general public.

Le Galaxie - Powers Of Miami from Mark Duggan on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Video: The Ambience Affair - Fragile Things

"Fragile Things" is the latest single to be taken from The Ambience Affair's beautifully bleak debut album Burials. 2011 was a great year for the band. They released one of the finest Irish albums of the year and cemented their reputation for delivering intense and captivating live performances, with a successful nationwide tour. The band will be looking to crank up their momentum in 2012 with more touring and festival appearances. 

Upcoming live dates:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Electric Picnic 2012 lineup

The lineup for this years Electric Picnic has been released with acts such as The Cure, Sigur Ros, and Elbow standing out at first glance. Other standout acts include The Horrors, Grizzly Bear, Metronomy, and Baxter Dury. While it's great to see AIMR favourites and Irish dance stars Solar Bears, included in the lineup.

Tickets are €230 for a weekend pass, Family camping costs €230 per adult and two U12 kids are free, Sunday passes are €99.50 and Campervan tickets are €60. Tickets on sale Friday 2nd March.

Electric Picnic 2012 Lineup

The Cure, Orbital, Sigur Ros, Ed Sheeran, Grizzly Bear, The Roots, Hot Chip, The XX, Elbow, Bell X1, Christy Moore, Glen Hansard, Metronomy, The Horrors, Azealia Banks, Roots Manuva, Staff Benda Bilili, Milagres, Alabama Shakes, Cranes, Little Roy, Land Lovers, Baxter Dury, Jonathan Wilson, Solar Bears, Fatoumata Diawara, Willis Earl Beal, Lanterns on the Lake