The Thin Air Magazine: Issue 11

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16 for '16: Our Sixteen Irish Acts To Watch Out For In 2016 // Not Gospel: David Bowie Column: ASIWYFA in Japan // Feature: Accessibility in Live Music with Legless in Dublin ISSUE #011 | JAN/FEB 2016 | FREE

VerseChorusVerse & David Lyttle: Blues Brothers — U






M U S I C M U S I C & &






Foreword / Contents Editor Brian Coney @brianconey Deputy Editor/ Photo Editor Loreana Rushe Art Director Stuart Bell @stubell_ Reviews Editor Eoin Murray

Cover photo: Sara Marsden

Guide Editor Stevie Lennox @stevieisms Contributors: Brian Coney James Cunningham Abigail Denniston Mark Earley Cait Fahey Pedro Giaquinto Garrett Hargan John Harrild Aoife Herrity Ruth Kelly Derek Kennedy Liam Kielt Joe Laverty Stevie Lennox Joe Madsen Sara Marsden Cathal McBride Martin McGagh Mike McGrath Bryan Eoghain Meakin Melanie Mullan Brian Mulligan Will Murphy Eoin Murray Michael Pope Steven Rainey Loreana Rushe Conor Smyth Isabel Thomas Tara Thomas Jonathan Wallace Chris Wee

Ch-Ch-ChChanges (In More Ways Than One)


s I dust down and flick through a dog-eared copy of our first (and dare I say it, rather lovely) issue of last year, it’s immediately fascinating how things have changed in the worlds of many of its featured artists. One of the main “ones to watch” in our 15 for ’15 feature, Dublin trio Princess have called it a day whilst others, including Alana Henderson of Hozier, Belfast jazz-punk band Robocobra Quartet and Limerick’s Rusangano Family have made

varyingly incredible waves, both at home and further afield. Elsewhere, Richie Egan AKA Jape had a remarkable 2015 whilst Sinead O'Connor - whose last Vicar Street show was reviewed in said issue – has had a difficult few months in the public eye. It’s odd – yet oddly encouraging – to think that twelve months from now the following 37 pages will surely take on a whole new sense of import altogther, too. In the meantime, let's stay in the very exciting present. Brian Coney

Contents Photos of the Year ������������������ 4 Projection ����������������������������� 5 Insert Coin ���������������������������� 6 16 for '16 �������������������������������� 8 The First Time ���������������������� 17 Track Record ������������������������ 18 Feature: VCV & David Lyttle ��� 20

Feature: Access All Areas? ������ 24 Roving Eye: Bell X1 in London 28 Reviews: Releases ����������������� 32 Live: ASIWYFA in Japan ��������� 34 Not Gospel: David Bowie �������� 36 88mph: Elvis Costello ������������ 38 Agony Uncle ������������������������� 39 @the_thin_air

January/February 2016


2015 was incredibly strong for photography and our team went above and beyond to deliver some of the best live images from some of year's most memorable gigs,


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1 - Flying Lotus: Colm Moore, 2 - Grace Jones: Alan Maguire, 3 - Father John Misty: Colm Laverty, 4 - The Altered Hours: Melanie Mullan, 5 - Young Wonder by Sean McCormack, 6 - Young Fathers: Tara Thomas, 7 - Mutoid Man: Liam Kielt, 8 - Tess Parks: Aidan Kelly Murphy, 9 - Villagers: Brid O'Donovan, 10 - Deerhoof: Aidan Kelly Murphy

– Photos of the Year Photos of the Year 2015

spanning genres and counties. Here is just a small selection of TTA's photos of the year, as chosen by our photo/deputy editor Loreana Rushe.


Red Shell Award: Justin Kurzel and Michael Fassbender tore up the Highlands something fierce in the beautiful, strapping Macbeth and they’re teaming up for Assassin's Creed. A less promising gaming leap to the screen is Warcraft: director Duncan Jones is no amateur, but a trailer full of CGI ogres, knights and Dominic Cooper doesn't inspire confidence. Copy Editors' Nightmare Award: First-timer Robert Egger's The VVitch could be the horror movie of the year. Set in the demonic panic of 1620s New England, it's got a chillingly authentic approach to witchcraft, tone and period typography. Film Freak Award: Critic, film-maker and festival director Kent Jones brings his eye to one of the most famous tête-à-têtes in film history; Hitchcock/Truffaut looks at the meeting of Hollywood heavyweight and New Wave hotshot. An affectionate tribute featuring modern visionaries. The Team America Award for Outstanding Puppet Intimacy: Charlie Kaufman returns with painstaking Anomalisa, a typically Kaufian tale of loneliness, neurosis and mid-life disappointment, focused on the business trip mundanities of a stop-motion middle-aged depressive. Funs!

Highwire Act Award: Sebastian Schipper one-ups last year's Birdman with one-unbroken-shot gem Victoria, following a young girl's real-time late night Berlin adventure, recruited by some skeezy nightclubbers to be their bank heist getaway driver. Unlikiest The Office Reunion: Jim and Roy butted heads at Dunder Mifflin, but they've left Scranton behind for machine guns in Libya. Michael Bay takes on Fox News' favourite scandal, with John Krasinski, David Denman and other gruff, beared dudes protecting the US embassy from Benghazi militants. Welcome Back Award: It's a packed field: Linklater's Everybody Wants Some, Scorsese's Silence, the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, Malick’s Weightless (reuniting Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol fans!), Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, Herzog’s Salt and Fire, Winding Refn’s Neon Demon, Villeneuve’s sci-fi Story of Your Life, Cianfrance’s The Light Between the Oceans and Midnight Special, Damian Chazelle’s Ryan Gosling musical La La Land, Jeff Nichols’ Loving, Abdellatif Kechiche’s The Real Wound and Shane Black’s The Nice Guys. We’ll call it a tie! Mouthiest Merc Award: Marvel's Civil War is going to be a blast. But Deadpool is the year's superhero outlier, Ryan Reynold's sweary passion project and shot at fandom atonement. The Dead Horse Award: David Brent: Life on the Road. Conor Smyth @belfastfilmblog

– Projection

Ahead of the 88th Academy Awards in late February, Conor Smyth peers into the proverbial tea leaves for some 2016 pre-awards.

Projection The Oscars

January/February January/February 2016 2016


Insert Coin Mario Kart 64

What Rising? I’m Playing Mario Kart 64

– Insert Coin



his year, 2016, is a most important anniversary. It marks a time when men and women threw off the shackles and limitations of the past. When those who envisaged a brighter hereafter put it into action. This year we celebrate a revolution that put in context everything that preceded it and changed everything that followed. It changed lives, divided families, and created fierce comrades. The shockwaves can still be felt to this day. Simply put, it was the beginning of the future. Yes. This year is the 20th anniversary of Nintendo’s split-screen masterpiece Mario Kart 64. While some may find other historical interests to dig up this year, those in the know will remain indoors reliving the division, euphoria, freedom and uprising that only a shared screen dual can bring. For those that don’t know, Mario Kart 64 is a racing game where each player takes control of a Nintendo trademark character. The cute look and easy-to-pick-up playstyle belied a depth and engagement that players still tangle with today. The second in the game’s series, it was something of a launch title for the Nintendo 64, the console which The Time’s awarded as the 1996 Machine of the Year. Along with its platformer cousin Super Mario 64 it assured Nintendo’s pre-eminence in gaming and technology circles and ushered in a golden era which still largely sustains the company today. Built by the ingenious duo of Hideki Konno and Shigeru Miyamoto (who, between the two of them, have

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had a hand in every major Nintendo release) it was only a logical next step for the series, yet it’s widely regarded to be imbued with some magic that makes it a landmark title in the series and all of video game history. For that reason, and its long lasting influence on multiplayers in general, Mario Kart 64 remains a fan favourite. “Nothing else has given me such consistent over-enjoyment,” said Charlie Mooney, one time Dublin Mario Kart champion, “even the other games in the series, no one did it as good.” “Cult” does the games wide and varied fandom a disservice. All over the world players, clubs and competitions are choosing to reach back to a single moment in video game history. A consumer society spoilt by choice and processing power still choose to return because of one basic gaming tenant; fun. Screaming, chuckling, wild eyed fun. Nintendo may not still hold its privileged position in the industry but at that moment, as well as many others, it created a classic. The Nintendo 64 was a revolution and games like Mario Kart 64 made up the manifesto and ammunition of the popular uprising. Eoghain Meakin

February Fri 5th Sun 7th Sat 13th 17th-28th Thur 17th Fri 26th

Dom & Roland Flook Tease-O-Rama NI Science Festival Owen Jones Altered Hours, Documenta, Autumns

March Wed 23rd Mark Thomas May Wed 11th

Robin Ince

For tickets visit January/February 2016



hilst that often uneasy sense of hyperbole that accompanies even the most sincerely-presented nationwide “Ones to Watch� list or countdown is all but de rigueur these days, we present the following feature with every scintilla of conviction in our co-operative being. With every genre (sans perhaps polka and the like) accounted for,


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these sixteen Irish acts get us out of the cradle in the morning, climbing over our respective partners or lack thereof, foolishly fumbling for our over-charged phones in nigh on pantwettingly agog anticipation of new sounds and giddy activity across the country. Hyperbole, us? Never. Turn the page and immerse yourself yet more. At least one of these acts may change your life.



Joni: Brian Mulligan, Paddy Hanna: Mark Earley

rime, garage and bass music in the broadest sense are rarely thought of as being the most flourishing in Ireland. This however was seen to be a less than accurate view following Dublin’s very successful first Boiler Room event in May 2015 which showcased some of the best that Ireland had to offer in the underground scene. While Bray vocalist Joni was not involved in that seminal event, her low end, tripping garage is similarly representative of a quietly thriving scene that will, if there is any justice, see an increased bubbling over into the mainstream in 2016. What makes Joni’s take on a sound that is most often defined as being urban and embedded in the cityscape is that her airy vocal work adds something organic to that. A peripheral pastoral, a wide-open sense of space that occupies the otherwise dark mechanics that give grime its appeal. Eoin Murray

Paddy Hanna


ollowing his 2014 debut album Leafy Stilleto on Popical Island and a pair of strong 2015 singles, Dublin’s Paddy Hanna is on an upward trajectory that shows no sign of faltering any time soon. A string of Irish support dates with Girl Band last year with his backing band, including No Monster Club’s Bobby Aherne, has only helped to raise his profile further. Swapping his old band Grand Pocket Orchestra’s lo-fi art pop for fulsome crooning and an increasingly polished sound that’s garnered comparisons to Elvis Costello and Richard Hawley, Hanna’s lyrics are easily one of his strongest suits, taking in subjects as wide ranging as crippling depression on ‘Camaraderie’ and small town characters on ‘Rosslare Tapes’ (“Why does every small town have a weirdo in a yellow sports car?”) With 2016 hopefully seeing another album release, you can expect to be seeing a lot more of him. Cathal McBride

January/February 2016


– 16 for ‘16 –

16 for ‘16 Joni / Paddy Hanna

16 for ‘16 A Bad Cavalier / Naoise Roo

A Bad Cavalier: Joe Laverty, Naoise Roo: Pedro Giaquinto

A Bad Cavalier


– 16 for ‘16 –

hen he’s not trotting the globe with North Coast post-rock maestros And So I Watch You From Afar, ex-Panama Kings main man Niall Kennedy is honing his wares at the helm of A Bad Cavalier. Whilst certainly echoing the triumphant stupor of the aforementioned outfits, the effortlessly tight alt-pop of ABC single ‘Moving On’ and ‘I’m a Wreck’ revealing an artist more than competent in carving out his own sonic path. Backed up by members of More Than Conquerors, the Wonder Villains and Hornets on the live front, the aforementioned watertight conviction of A Bad Cavalier on their few shows to date have revealed an act finely balanced between heft and melody; attack and cunning persuasion. Tapping into hidden (or at least all too unspoken) spheres of addressing debility and the rapture of recovery, Kennedy’s tales thus far hint at some extremely auspicious things in the pipeline. Brian Coney


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Naoise Roo


ublin’s Naoise Roo is a rare talent who arrived seemingly fully-formed, arriving last year with her debut release in the form of the full band LP, Lilith, resulting in slots at Electric Picnic, Vantastival and Valentia Island. She’s fortunate enough to possess one of the most evocative and texturally-rich voices on the island, and skilled enough to match it with a knack for encapsulating entire self-contained worlds in 4 minutes or thereabouts. Like Radiohead or PJ Harvey, two of her most obvious sonic kin, she can do it all, from anthemic, stilted alt. rock dynamism (‘Oh Son’) to a sultry, Cave or Cohen-esque art-croon. The classic indie rock sensibility at its core is punctuated by extraneous influences from trip-hop, minimal electronica, burlesque platitudes of come-hithering and the Earth-like sparsity and desolation that invariably go hand-in-hand, all of which packs a panoramic atmospheric heft that warrants repeated listens to be fully revealed. Stevie Lennox



Apartments: Liam Kielt, I am Niamh: Isabel Thomas

ast-becoming the strongest single noun pluralisation-monikered emotional hardcore band on the island, Belfast duo Apartments released their six-track official debut EP, Rush, in October, following a promising 2014 demo. Their sound is rooted in the kind of math-rock-tinged American Midwestern sound that’s been gestating in Ireland for the last couple of years, channelling, loosely, American Football, Cap’n Jazz and a ferocious sense of regret present in all the spaces between. The pair supplement their lack of bass or vocal finetuning with enough raw power to pack an equivalent punch to the heart. Like any great punk band, though, they’re best experienced live, where their chaotic sincerity best thrives, like a tanker of atomic waste speeding perilously up a narrow, precarious mountain pass, that always threatens to destroy nigh on everything in the vicinity, but just about manages to stay on-track, every time. Stevie Lennox

I am Niamh


lassically-trained vocalist Niamh Parkinson spent 2015 finishing and unveiling her debut full-length, Wonderland, a study in musical curiosity that sees her utilise her voice over loop-driven piano and ambitious cellos. Balancing her boundless musical ability with her own thematic explorations, the result is one of Ireland’s most promising young composers stepping into her own. ‘Hang On!’, released a few months back, marks a turn into beatsy electro-pop, with blushes of post-rock keys and Grimesean feats of vocal range hidden in its considerable ether, leading on from previous, more immersive musical flights of fantasy and into something approaching appropriation of fantasy and escape, a muse for more barebones work. A potent brew of her classical roots, alternative and avant-garde tendencies and the sights, sounds and thoughts that draw her forward, I Am Niamh most certainly looks to be a star in the ascendant. Keep an eye out. Mike McGrath Bryan

January/February 2016


– 16 for ‘16 –

16 for ‘16 Apartments / I am Niamh

16 for ‘16 Owensie / Margie Jean Lewis

R Owensie

– 16 for ‘16 –


ith his sublime third album, Dramamine, having very deservedly ranked at number two in our Top 50 Irish Releases of 2015 at the tail-end of last year, Dublin songsmith Michael Owens AKA Owensie effortlessly taps into a introspective realm betraying the hallmarks of a real master in the making. Released via the consistently solid Out on a Limb records in November, his latest release is a conquest of the heart and soul that demands your attention from the get-go, conjuring the likes of Department of Eagles, Sun Kil Moon circa Admiral Fell Promises and Kill Rock Stars-era Elliott Smith. Recorded in various indoor and outdoor locations across the country, using natural acoustics to create an instantly resonant sonic sojourn, there is a cunningly considered glory to Dramamine, one that merges deeply solipsistic ruminations with semi-mystical invocations that aim straight for the psychic jugular. Seek it out. Brian Coney


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iding a reputation as an infrequent but exhilarating performer, Margie Jean Lewis is set to drop her debut EP this year, marking a formal foray into the land of recorded artistry. The Australian-born musician – boasts a lovely voice with bewildering compositions to match – has developed quite the mystique in the Irish electronic circuit, eschewing big-name gigs and festivals in favour of more exclusive appearances that have left her fans agog and buzzing thereafter. An online browse through her scant material confirms her ethereal qualities, harnessing both an Enya-like voice and a strong command over modern alt tastes. With a crew of converts now in hand, now seems the young composer’s moment to cast a wider net of influence with a thoughtful collective of material and convert herself from a Soundcloud demo artist into a tangible musical act. Joe Madsen

Owensie: Tara Thomas, Margie Jean Lewis: Aoife Herrity

Margie Jean Lewis

Exploding Eyes

H Shrug Life

Shrug Life: Abi Denniston, Exploding Eyes: Derek Kennedy


hrug Life have done something unquestionably right: their choice of moniker. It’s one of those annoyed-at-yourself-for-not-creating kind of names that’s memorable and neatly summarizes what the band does well. On their excellent 2015 EP, The Grand Stretch, the trio offered four delightful nuggets of frenetic, pop rock imbued with profound sense of ennui. Not in a faux “my parents don’t get me” way, but a genuine sense of being shafted by a world of double dip recessions and the education bubble; the kind of life where indifference and detachment is a viable solution. Somehow though, they make this bearable and almost fun. Danny Carroll’s lyrics are some of the smartest, wittiest that the country has to offer, managing to capture existential dread and confinement while never dragging the listener into Billy Corgan town. There is a wry smile buried within every moment, helping cut through the bullshit that surrounds you. Will Murphy

aving released their wonderfully urgent, blues-soaked new single 'We Need Love' just last month, Dublin heavy psych trio Exploding Eyes tip their decidedly fuzzed-put hat to a gamut of garage-rock luminaries ranging from Mountain and Blue Cheer to Andromeda and Thee Oh Sees. Throwing both back and very much forward, their latest effort evokes the likes of Jon Spencer and the Doors at their most resounding to give us a breakneck insight into what to expect from their self-titled debut album, which is expected to drop via Buffalo, New York-based independent imprint Big Beck Records in the Summer. Establishing an instantly recognisable brand of cosmically-inclined rock (or purely “progressive rock n’ roll” as the band favour) amongst a squall of middling imitators in 2016 is no mean feat, but if our money is one Irish act to give it a go, it’s assuredly placed on these guys. Brian Coney

January/February 2016


– 16 for ‘16 –

16 for ‘16 Shrug Life / Exploding Eyes

16 for ‘16 Cian Nugent / exmagician

Cian Nugent: Cait Fahey, exmagician: Ruth Kelly

Cian Nugent

– 16 for ‘16 –


ian Nugent has undergone a profound and constant evolution since debut album, Doubles, arrived in 2011. From acoustic explorations, through drone and psychedelia, Nugent arrives at Night Fiction, showcasing new sounds and a newfound focus on songcraft and simplicity. In his debut as a singer-songwriter, his voice is an honest, almost conversational baritone with a singalong lilt, whose earnestness is almost alarming, but also adds a new dimension to Nugent’s music. Said transition never feels like an intrepid venture into bold new territory, though: Nugent’s nature is of complete confidence in his work and in his abilities, at once just as challenging as ever, and yet, easily accessible. Nugent’s band The Cosmos have joined him on tracks here, so never fear, but Nugent lashes into his solo material with hitherto unseen vigour, taking in folk-rock confessionals and punk’s fringes and beginnings, while maintaining his trademark virtuosity. Mike McGrath Bryan


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ising from the ashes of Cashier No.9, that band’s primary forces Danny Todd and James Smith have put their old project to bed and reinvented themselves as exmagician. The sunny sound of Cashier’s To The Death Of Fun has now been traded for something slightly darker, and although acoustic guitars are still a dominant force, it’s less folksy this time out, with a greater leaning on electronic sounds instead, nodding back towards the folktronica of their old band’s early 7” singles, while still taking a few cues from David Holmes’ lush, airy production on the later material. Having made their live debut and released the Kiss That Wealth Goodbye EP at the tail end of 2015, debut album Scan The Blue is due out in March on esteemed British label Bella Union. On the strength of the EP and new single ‘Job Done’, we’re expecting great things. Cathal McBride


Anna Mieke: Pedro Giaquinto, Planet Parade: Brian Mulligan


lowly emerging as a new-age rustic folkstress, Wicklow musician Anna-Mieke plays an enchanting set that's delighted small crowds since her first shows in 2013. A flexible talent on vocals, guitar, and cello, Anna-Mieke blends styles to craft a product that's all her own, supplying wistful finger-picking like Paul Simon and subdued jazzy pitch like Regina Spektor. She's an artist who appreciates the past while generating anew, a true observer and creator. Anna-Mieke's lyrics, too, match the sincerity of her arrangements without evincing the sound of middle-class jaded which plagues so many. The question now, as it inevitably falls, is 'what next?' Currently, she performs with two others who provide banjo (Brían Mac Gloinn) and backing vocals (Naomi Murphy), playing at gigs around the country like Homebeat, Sofar Sounds, and Grand Social's Get Folked last November. Stages like these have paired Anna-Mieke with the right settings and crowds for her style. With new material and more tenacity in web presence she’s certain to build on this promise in 2016. Joe Madsen

Planet Parade Striking a shrewd balance between the blither side of Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend and Mac Demarco, Maynooth duo Michael Hopkins and Andrew Lloyd AKA Planet Parade admittedly caught us napping back in August with the release of their impossibly earworming single ‘Blue Sky’. Something of a should-have-been late Summer classic, its chilled and billowing quasi-tropical indie groove laid bare the pair’s ever-assured command of pattern and texture, not least via its slinky guitar shapes and perfectly restrained, subtly shifting rhythms. Having played in bands together since childhood – and eventually forming in their current nominal guise back in the halcyon days of 2006 – whilst Planet Parade are by no means a new-fangled, fledgling proposition, with a new album written, recorded and said to be set for release in the coming months, it’s safe to anticipate much bigger and better things for the Kildare duo throughout 2016 and far beyond. Brian Coney

January/February 2016


– 16 for ‘16 –

16 for ‘16 Anna-Mieke / Planet Parade

16 for ‘16 SlowPlaceLikeHome / Strength


SlowPlace LikeHome

– 16 for ‘16 –


or several years, Donegal’s Keith Mannion has been crafting breezy music that channels the sensations of experiencing a coastal storm from behind a window; a fireplace warming your back, protecting you from the chaos outside. Moving from a style that closely resembled Boards of Canada, Solar Bears and Air on his Post Hoc EP in 2013 to a more live focus on 2015’s debut LP Romola, Mannion maintained the hypnotic haze and dreaminess that has come to define the SlowPlaceLikeHome oeuvre. Tracks from the album like ‘She Comes in Colour Stereo’ and ‘Dear Diary’ doll up that sound with shoegazey vocals and indie-rock’s melancholic uplift while other moments such as ‘Autumn’s Children’ and ‘Cesare’s Principle’ recreate the feeling you get at the tail end of a beach party, when you have just become aware of how cold it has gotten but don’t want to leave just yet. Eoin Murray


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rguably one of the bolder, more idiosyncratic propositions to emerge in the North over the last while, Derry’s Strength were formed from the smouldering embers of sadly-departed psychobilly art-rockers Red Organ Serpent Sound. With the release of the former’s bugged-out new single, ‘Northern Ireland Yes’ (their attempt to “embrace the cultural psyche of the North and send it back out through our own channel…”) the Rory Moore-fronted quartet wilfully shirk the itch of convention in favour of a playful, nigh on theatrical craft, one that has become synonymous with their increasingly captivating live show. Moore’s own admission that he “imagined [himself] making the first pop songs in the world again – songs that would connect with people after the disaster…” spells out their modus operandi loud and clear: once it’s all seemingly been said and done, it’s high time to re-formulate and rally for the would-be blueprint. Brian Coney

SlowPlaceLikeHome: Martin McGagh, Strength: James Cunningham


The First Time Hannah McPhillimy

– Hannah McPhillimy – First album you bought? 

 The first album I paid good money for was Britney Spears’ Baby, One More Time. First single you bought?

 ‘Oops, I Did It Again’ by Britney Spears. What can I say? The girl had great sneakers. First live concert/gig? 

 Keane, in the Ulster hall. This column is doing nothing for my street cred.

 First album you properly loved? 

 I’m going to say Live at Blues Alley by Eva Cassidy – it was my portal into the world of Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, which was entirely alien to me at the time and helped me find true happiness. First artist/band to change your music-listening/making life? An American lodger introduced me to Feist's Let it Die album at the age of 16. I

love Feist because she manages to be light and deep at the same time, creates these beautiful, unusual melodies & embraces a slightly chaotic, rough around the edges approach. That is my only approach so I warmed to her on first listen and she remains a big idol of mine. First instrument you learnt to play? 

 If we’re discounting the mickey-mouse clarinet melodica – at which I was second to none, by the way - then, the piano. First original song you wrote? 

 The first song I showed to another soul was when I was in Lower 6th and it was called ‘Twenty More Years’; it imagined a spurned lover doing time in a jail cell for throwing her significant other off a cliff. And that’s all I have to say about that.

 Hannah McPhillimy will release a new EP, Wind Machine, in 2016.

January/February January/February 20162016 17 17

– The First Time

Photographer Joe Laverty shoots and delves into the musicmaking, listening and loving firsts of Belfast singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Hannah McPhillimy.

– Paul G Smyth – Dublin pianist and Jimmy Cake member Paul G Smyth handpicks a selection of records that have left an indelible imprint on his music and life.

Derek Bailey Improvisations My son's middle name is Bailey, which may give you some idea of the impact that this man's music made on me. I could have picked any of his solo output from around this time, really, but this is a beautiful recording, and would be a pretty solid introduction for the uninitiated.

Gerry Rafferty Night Owl An album I was inexplicably drawn to during some of the darkest days of my life


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a few years ago. The more I listened to it, the more I knew why. And I listened to it a lot. It's a stunning piece of work that carries more unspoken pain than the MOR daytime radio image belies

Talk Talk Laughing Stock A desert island disc for me, if ever there was one. I've read stories about the recording of this album that suggest that they might have been losing their marbles altogether. Sessions in the dark that seemed to go on for days or weeks, without anyone really at the helm. Musicians

Track Record Paul G Smyth

would be brought in at different times, and no-one might even speak to them. They might play and leave without a word. The tape running day and night. A lot of folk cite Spirit of Eden as their masterpiece, but for me this, their last ever album, goes much deeper again.

Taj Mahal Travellers August 1974 Like you threw Pink Floyd's Ummagumma down an endless black corridor in the Twilight Zone and innumerable reverb-soaked aeons later this appeared in your hands. As genuinely psychedelic a record as I've ever heard, with echoes (literally) you can hear in the likes of Grouper or more so with the short-lived but pretty great Double Leopards.

Albert Ayler Trio Spiritual Unity As often as not, any record that gets described as "cathartic" can just as easily mean "punishing", but this just holds you in its arms. Childlike sing-song melodies pour down into a deep, deep cry, as if a thousand years of history are drawn out from the centre of Ayler's heart. Such a true and honest voice can be overwhelming, like having a staring contest

with someone you're in love with, but it's exhilarating and beautiful.

Tangerine Dream Phaedra As weird as your granny knitting you a jumper that changed the way you moved through space and time, and just as unexpected. Epic aerial travels through synthesizer landscapes at once alien and familiar.

The Human League Dare Flat-out best pop record of the last 40 years? There. I said it. A reliable studio source tells me that the notes in every chord you hear had to be recorded one-by-one on separate tracks, since they just didn't have any polysynths at their disposal. Mental.

Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway A masterpiece, not just for its cinematic sense of scale, but also how each track over this double-length "concept" album is a standalone gem in its own right. If this was released now by some young hip band, the critics would be falling over themselves in waterfalls of their own drool.

January/February 2016


Feature VerseChorusVerse & David Lyttle

Words Brian Coney | Photos Sara Marsden


here’s inspired, seemingly pre-destined collaborations, then there’s North Coast singer-songwriter Tony Wright AKA VerseChorusVerse pairing up with MOBO-nominated drummer extraordinaire David Lyttle to make a genre-warping release. Recorded via 2 channels over a total of 14 hours. Say & Do is an impassioned, nine-track tour de force, revealing both ex-And So I Watch You From Afar founding guitarist Wright and jazz maestro Lytle’s instinctive creative kinship in the vast realms of folk, blues and jazz. A keen fan of their craft, Brian Coney chats to the pair with the hope of unravelling the almost touchable spirit and mettle that informs the record. First thing’s first: how did the project first come about? Did you guys know each other well before pairing up musically?


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Tony Wright: “I was in Derry because, well, why the hell not? I dropped in to The Nerve Centre to say hello. The one and only Mr Marty Magill, formerly of Lukic and the sensational Little Hooks started to tell me about their new Musician in Residence, none other than Mr David Lyttle. I'd heard about David and knew he was a magnificently talented swine, and I loved how DIY he was. His ethic was and is hugely admirable and inspirational. Marty suggested we collaborate on a song and immediately I thought of a track that hadn't worked during my last recording sessions. It just didn't feel right and it was a real live favourite, and, if I do say so myself, a really, really great song (‘Yet to Break’ is the song in question). So I didn’t want to lose it or forget about it.”“Marty introduced us through email, I sent David a version I had recorded on my phone. Thank-

Feature VerseChorusVerse & David Lyttle

fully, he dug it. We liaised soon after and just hit it off. We laughed our asses off and got down to business. It all came together so well. A few days later I was at home, thinking how easy and fun the whole experience had been, I called him and suggested doing an album. David was enthused instantly, suggesting we do it on just the two mics, like we had done with the other track (except it has the wonderful bass stylings of Mr Herb Magee on it too, himself a genius). We’d talked so much about those great sounding vintage albums, with no fancy studio trickery. When we hooked up again, 14 hours later we had an album, with David only hearing half the songs that day.” At first glance – despite your respective diversity – you come rather disparate fields musically. But what was the common ground you found between yourselves that made you know the project was going to work? Tony: “We're both writers, so that was a connection before we'd even met. When we got together that first time, we bonded over all sorts of music, literature, movies and comedians. From Hip Hop to classic songwriters, old blues and jazz players. I think that our passion for music as an art form and outlet, regardless of genre, was the main tie that bonded us. I could've been, I dunno, a Reggae player and Da-

“I’ve never been fond of being bound by genre. I'll go in a box when I'm dead, not before.”

vid a classical conductor and I'm fairly sure that we still would've clicked since we both would care as deeply about the form. What do you say, David? A Classical Reggae record next?” David Lyttle: “Probably. The common ground is in what Tony mentioned but I found it weird that people seemed surprised we were collaborating. We're both striving to be great artists and a great artist is always searching for something. You don't evolve by sticking with what you know. But at the same I understand. The industry has become so compartmentalised that it does initially seem odd to some people when a project like this happens.” Very true. At what point in the process did you both decide, “Ok, let’s make a record”? Tony: “As soon as I'd heard the results of the first track we worked on, I was eager to get back into a room and make some music with him. We really had a lot of fun, and it was so natural. Its always refreshing to perform or write with someone who is outside of your normal field, as it were. I generally live outside my comfort zone, for better or worse. This time, certainly for the better.” David: “It was all Tony's idea. I can't take any blame or glory. When Tony asked me about it I was into it right away. My only reservation was that I'd just released my own record and was mid-publicity. The idea of promoting another album so soon wasn't no appealing so we agreed we just do a sort of rush release on it and bi-pass the usual avenues you go down when you release an album.” You recorded the album live with two mics, something that really adds to immediacy, authentic nature of the music. Was there nerves or many takes to get everything exactly as you wanted or did you throw caution to the wind and decide to keep slight imperfections in here and there? Tony: “I don't think we did too many takes of

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21 21

Feature VerseChorusVerse & David Lyttle

any of the tracks. Or am I remembering wrong? Initially we laid done a cover of ‘I Wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free’ by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas (made famous by Ms Nina Simone of course), just to get in the mood. After that we would play each song a few times through before hitting record. There’s a few fluffs on there. I think that was important to keeping the album as honest as possible. We didn’t want it to sound flawless, because musicians/humans very rarely play perfectly. Well, except David!” David: “Don't flatter me, Tony. We didn't do many takes and as Tony says there are imperfections. On our first meeting we talked about the albums we still listen to decades after they were made —Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young. There are flaws when it comes to the performance and the production but albums nowadays sound perfect yet we don't talk about them the same way one year later, never mind decades later. It's the vibe, the song and the intention that really matters. It's bold to put something out these days that isn't pristine. I can't speak for Tony but I'm not trying to be a pop star.” Did you find yourselves discussing mutual influences or inspiration when writing and finishing material? Tony: “We knew we had something great if we

started impersonating Larry David. That was the litmus test! I honestly just remember smiling and laughing the majority of the time.” David: “Most of the takes end in a Larry David quote actually!” What strikes me about the release it feels so varied despite being so stripped back. Did you both hope for that to come across? Tony: “I suppose the concern, with the bulk of the album being vocals, guitar and percussion, was to keep it dynamically interesting. That’s where this gent took the songs to the next level. I experimented with what I could do with my voice a lot more than I ever had before. I used to do that with effects pedals on guitar, on an acoustic that option isn't really there. It was time to unleash my inner Screamin' Jay Hawkins, with a hint of Max Cavelera on some songs. Another song (‘Generational Eclipse’) had a skiffle feel to it that separated it from the more ballady ones and lamentful blues tracks. To all out stompers. ‘Seek and Ye Shall Find Blues’ has a killer HipHop inflected beat. There’s a little of everything in there, call it musical ADHD, or jack of all styles, master of none. I’ve never been fond of being bound by genre. I'll go in a box when I'm dead, not before. “Tony has a lot of variation in his voice and a big guitar sound. I tried to play the drums in

“It's the vibe, the song and the intention that really matters. It's bold to put something out these days that isn't pristine. I can't speak for Tony but I'm not trying to be a pop star.” 22

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Feature VerseChorusVerse & David Lyttle

Tony: “Immensely so! We jam on the songs a lot more live, since they were still so fresh and embryonic when we recorded them. There’s a few breakdowns, intros and outros that we just feel out when we're playing live. No show or session is ever the same, that’s where, I think, the real fun and magic lies.” David: “Yeah, just taking a more open approach to the songs but still keeping them solid and like the album is what we've gone for. I've enjoyed playing duo on stage. As a drummer trio is the smallest I can usually get.”

a way that was more involved than would be typical in this setting. I was aware that a duo like this would work well live easily enough but recorded it needed to be feel full. That said, there isn't really a benchmark. Looking back it was bold but at the time it seemed perfectly normal.”

For such an open-ended project, one suspects there might plans to play more shows throughout 2016 and that you’ll be collaborating on more material? Tony: “We’re play Dublin’s Workman’s Club on February 20. There’s definitely more to come from both of us, we've had way too much fun doing this and people seem to really dig it, almost as much as we do! To paraphrase Arnie, “Get to the chopper”. Wait, I mean, “We'll be back”.” David: “More shows and we're going into the writing room this month. After that we're going to open a chain of fast food restaurants.”

Do you feel there’s any overarching themes or concepts that tie the songs together? Tony: “I couldn't possibly say. That’s for the listener to decide, I'd hate to take that fun away from the listener. Plus, hopefully then they can tell me! It’s definitely not confessional, I'm playing characters throughout. Well, mainly. There’s love. loss, anger, levity, frustration and optimism in there. Just your average day really!” You’ve been playing various live shows to promote the material. How have they been and was it fun replicating the recording process in front of an audience?

January/February January/February 2016 2016



2016 live music

– Access All Areas? –

– Primer



eople come to music for different reasons; for some it’s that hour wind down after work. For others it’s the pumped gym playlist, the ‘let’s get it on’ dinner mixtape, the ‘when I was young’ NOFX compilation, or the ‘I am still young’ hip hop hits of 2015 (handpicked by VEVO). It permeates into our entire lives. It’s a comfort, a refuge and a challenge and inspiration. It doesn’t exist just in a moment but as a continuous soundtrack to our lives. For many music is a social glue, creating scenes and sub cultures that bring different people together. How many people found their life time friends bonding over an album? How

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many people have felt part of something just by walking into a dank, sweaty basement rumbling with electric guitars? Yet for all of the music scenes capacity for inclusivity it can still leave some people simply unable to breach the threshold. Literally. Because though music may be for everyone, music venues currently are not. Though there’s been a massive shift in the cultural awareness of people with physical disabilities and our efforts at accessibility, there’s still a huge amount of work to be done. Luckily we have people like Louise Bruton. A self-avowed muso she’s keenly aware of the occasional mismatch

Photo: Melanie Mullan

Eoghain Meakin weighs up the occasional mismatch between music love and accessibility in venues, festivals and beyond.

Feature Access All Areas?

“I'm proud to say I'm disabled because it's given me such a different perspective on people.”

between music love and accessibility. Living in Dublin since 2006 she’s “proud to say I am disabled because it’s given me such a different perspective on people.” Yet she’s had her share of troubles, which culminated in a gig in The Village (now The Opium Rooms). “I forgot that they didn’t have a lift and I couldn’t make it up the three or so flight of stairs without getting very tired. I was really under physical pressure and I felt embarrassed because it was quite obvious that I was struggling. When I got up there, there was nowhere that I could sit and watch the gig comfortably. That really pissed me off.” Though difficult for her it was to the benefit of everyone else, because it was this very experience that led to the birth of Legless in Dublin; a home for accessibility-minded reviews of pubs, venues and locales around the city. “I started Legless because I was sick of the lack of access information online for bars, venues and restaurants. I knew that if I was annoyed with doing this huge amount of research before meeting someone for lunch, others were feeling this way too. I just started writing up reviews so my friends would know which places suited me and luckily other people wanted to read the reviews too.” Legless In Dublin has garnered attention outside of its core audience and become a crucial, and contemporary, voice in the wider conversation. It’s also led Louise, in her capacity as a journalist, to come at the subject

from different angles writing for several top tier websites and publications. Yet it’s clear that she’s concerned with more than just words, “I’m glad that my writing has struck a nerve with so many people but I hope that it actually gives people a kick up the arse to make their venues and businesses accessible and to be more inclusive of disabled people.” It’s not just an issue for customers but for those looking to work as well. Our own photographer Sara Marsden struggled in Belfast after an injury left her relying on a wheelchair to get around. Her story is not dissimilar to Louise’s. “I didn’t have the strength for crutches at the time but the venue had no lift, so I had no choice. After beginning up the stair case, I nearly fainted trying to muster the strength – I couldn’t do it, meaning I had to crawl hands and knees up this sticky staircase, not my finest hour.” Getting around was difficult but shooting gigs was simply out of the question, “I feel that the gig venues in Belfast aren’t very easy to manage for people with mobility issues, there are platforms in some which would solve the issue of being packed in with other gig goers and better visuals but they have stairs up to them!” It’s an issue in and of itself that the onus is on the person with the disability, rather than the venue or business, to worry about accessibility. Yet Louise is quick to point out that many people make it easier, “I find with most venues, if the place is inaccessible, the helpfulness of the staff almost makes up for it. Bouncers, security, bar staff and ushers are incredible in the majority of venues and they go above and beyond to help out.” Which leads on to the other strand of Legless In Dublin is doing. As well as her writing she has set up a consultancy to help venues and festivals improve themselves. “I realised that writing blog posts wasn’t enough to get festivals to improve things. I want to get stuck in with festivals from the moment they start planning and show them what they have to do

January/February 2016


“I think if you change mental attitudes first, the rest will naturally follow.”

to make disabled gig goers feel welcome and part of the action. I’m offering festivals a unique perspective as a disabled festival fanatic. I love the music and will be slap bang in the middle of it all. And I can very clearly show them what they need to do. This includes what facilities they need in the disabled campsite, where to have accessible portaloos and where’s a good place for a viewing platform.” It’s crucial work, but for Louise it’s only one


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part of the battle, perceptions need to change too; “I think if you change mental attitudes first, the rest will naturally follow. I’m working hard on that. Once people cop on to the fact that disabled people deserve to go out wherever they like, then we’ll see some proper change.” It’s necessary and overdue change and hopefully it will come faster as the influence of Legless… increases. “I’m working on my access proposals for a lot of music festivals so come January” says Bruton. “I should have a few definites in the bag. I’ll also be taking part in an arts and disability panel discussion in January with the Arts Council so that will be exciting. I’m working very hard with Legless at the moment and I’ll keep up my regular freelance writing work but I hope 2016 is the year that Legless makes its mark on the music scene.” Eoghain Meakin Keep up with Louise’s reviews and work at

Below: Sara Marsden, photo: Liam Kielt

Feature Access All Areas?
















January/February 2016


Roving Eye Bell X1 In London

– Bell X1 in London –

– Roving Eye

With pen and camera in tow, Tara Thomas captures Dublin’s Bell X1 at London’s Union Chapel



couldn’t stay away from London, and particularly Islington, for too long before being drawn back to the entertainment hotbed on another Roving Eye. This time around I was destined for Union Chapel, one of the most alluring venues in the city. Founded in 1799, the architecture has acoustics at its core and provides a glorious platform for the human voice. Tonight, after sixteen sold out dates, Bell X1 conclude their tour in what is arguably the perfect backdrop for their show. I arrive into the warmth of the chapel as Dom, Paul, and Dave take to the stage for their sound check. Renowned engineer Phil Hayes runs through the dynamics, his quiet calm confidence mirrored by the band. Paul and Dave alternate

TheMagazine Thin Air Magazine The28 Thin Air

between drums and piano neither entirely content with the sounds produced. Dave removes the piano front board in an effort to create more resonance, meanwhile Paul uses a towel to muffle the bass drum. One final tweak as Paul adjusts the angle of the piano in order to increase audience inclusiveness before they are relatively satisfied. This attention to detail unequivocally highlights the band’s commitment to their patron’s pleasure. In the short window of time between the end of sound check and stage call we wander into Islington centre in search of food to satisfy the varied palettes and cravings. The group divides as some opt for Mexican and others something a little less spicy. I keep Paul company on a Google Map wild goose chase to find his

Roving Eye Bell X1 In London

“After years of touring there is a sense of ease, routine and maturity. I doubt much could faze them.”

crowd has gathered braving plummeting temperatures. Since the venue is a house of worship alcohol is not allowed, so steaming cups of hot chocolate and other beverages are on offer to ease the chill. Soon every pew space has been occupied and the chapel buzzes with expectancy. Meanwhile in the green room Dom snoozes on a sofa, Dave chats with his brother and Paul tinkles on the piano. After years of touring there is a sense of ease, routine and maturity. I doubt much could faze them. A hush waves over the audience as the band walks onto the stage and under the stain glass rose window of musical angels. Always an admirer of their witty lyrics, since my own arse is the perfect height for kicking, I am in rapture along with the audience as they regale us with a set list of classics interspersed with new tracks. A hair on end inducing performance of ‘The End Is Nigh’ is tastefully

– Roving Eye

hotel. It’s bitterly cold but I do my best to match his loping strides as we discuss the charms of Islington. Once checked in we re-join the others in Five Guys restaurant, a favourite fast food chain of Paul’s. He insists I try the salted peanuts, I do, they are mega lush. We stroll back to the venue and arrive just as the doors open to the public. A

January/February January/February2016 2016


Roving Eye BellX1 In London

dedicated to the victims of the terror attacks in Paris the previous week. As a finale the three members step up to the edge of the stage. Dom’s deep timbre comes to the fore as they harmonise Chaka Chan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’. The audience is enchanted; not wanting the evening to end, the applause rebounds around the oratory. A short post performance analysis ensues backstage, issues are minor, the band are relatively content. Back out in the chapel all but the very patient few have filtered out. These fans are rewarded when Dave, Paul and Dom return to spend time chatting, signing autographs and posing for photographs with no hint of eagerness to finish work. Once the last audience member leaves only then does the band truly relax, the tour has reached its conclusion, time for a pint. Tara Thomas


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Reviews Releases

– Reviews

Sea Pinks Soft Days With five Sea Pinks albums in little over five years, Neil Brogan’s work ethic is admirable. The second to be recorded in a studio and to feature the now established three-piece lineup, Soft Days continues the trend of gradually improved production quality with each release, the early lo-fi rattle now replaced with lush swirling layers of guitar and increased use of effects, with more variation from their trademark jangle-pop sound than ever before. While there’s been a gradual career transition so far from the summer sun of debut Youth Is Wasted to Dreaming Tracks’ autumnal melancholy, this album never quite sits still. While much of it reflects the drizzly ‘soft days’ of the title, the most immediate tracks


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here are the sunniest, like ‘Yr Horoscope’ the infectious singalong chorus of ‘Cold Reading’ , while there’s more than a touch of The Chills’ ‘Pink Frost’ on wintery lead single ‘Depth Of Field’. It’s another reliably solid effort, easily their most confident work to date and worth the price for ‘Down Dog’ alone, its soaring, defiant vocals marking it out immediately as a career highlight. We’re already looking forward to album six. Cathal McBride

Cian Nugent Night Fiction Cian Nugent's sound tips its hat to African music and with one of the continent’s great musical exports, Ali Farka Touré being a good reference point, his songs

often have a hypnotic/psych quality which allows you to lose yourself in the craft. He also tends to blend a bit of traditional Irish musicianship. On ‘Lost Your Way’ guitar lines dance along whilst Nugent's voice crackles with warmth. Vocals are drenched in reverb and sung with a self-assured swagger on ‘First Run’ (“Call me your monkey-boy, call me the breeze/Call me the everlasting son, call me weak at the knees.") Elsewhere, ‘Things Don't Change That Fast’ and ‘Night Life’ take you on a journey; the kind of songs that cradle you after a night of excess ("Watching the stars fading, from my position where I lay/ give me some time, ‘cause I need to feel revived, give me a moment today.") Ireland's answer to Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’ comes in the form of ‘Year of the Snake’, its slow build leads to an exhilarating collision of instruments with each player daring the other to keep pace - an ultimate setcloser. When playing with The Cosmos grand compositions were built upon layers of instrumentation; on Night Fiction certain songs have been scaled-down yet lose none of their majesty. Garrett Hargan

Reviews Releases

The Altered Hours In Heat Not Sorry About 20 seconds into In Heat/Not Sorry, it dawns on you that you're in for something else entirely. For a band that's drawn with such fearless and bold strokes in previous singles and EPs, opener 'Who's Saving Who?' awes with its restraint and confidence, setting the tone. What we have here is the sound of a band coming into itself, the Cork psych-rock outfit arriving at a destination of sorts after years of exploration. Feral yet considered and focused, the album hits its stride as its opening gambit of mid-paced movers comes to a halt with 'Silver Leather', a sparse rumination on our generation's grievances, pockmarked with feedback

and fine harmonies. The pace continues to crawl with 'Birds', a plaintive build that brings to the fore vocalist Elaine Howley's charisma and strength, as much a spell-binding piece of oratory as a vocal performance. In creating an entirely new, coherent, and laser-focused debut long-player that doesn't trade in any of their early rawness or feral feel in the process, they've raised the bar for themselves, and for psychedelia in Ireland once again. Mike McGrath Bryan

Gascan Ruckus Narrow Defeats and Bitter Victories

 Gascan Ruckus are long overdue their time in the sun

having spent the better part of a decade honing their skills and carving out their identity. Operating in the same range as Fighting With Wire, Twin Atlantic or Dinosaur Pile-Up, the group has long been teetering on the brink of mainstream acceptance and with their debut album, Narrow Defeats and Bitter Victories, they’re primed and ready for the spotlight. Among the record’s stronger cuts are songs such as the gigantic PigsAsPeople-like ‘Goodbye’ and the mammoth riffage of ‘Swimming’ and ‘Down The Line’. But it’s in the late album ‘Fuck This’ that the band shines brightest. The track has this youthful verve in the form of the Foo Fighters inspired musicality and howled gang vocals which one can easily imagine sending crowds into a flurry. Where the album falls down, however is in it’s variety; over its eleven tracks, no song ever ventures from the loud-quiet-loud formula which can be tiring. While their debut may not be the sledgehammer needed to smash into the Radio One charts, it still acts a solid introduction to the group. Will Murphy

January/February 2016


Live ASIWYFA In Japan

Photo: Joe Laverty

And So I Watch — You From Afar — In Japan


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Live ASIWYFA In Japan

Chris Wee from the North Coast post-rock machine reports from their recent stint in the Nihon lights of the Far East.

Photos: Aine O'Hara £


ith paper cup of coffee in hand I sat, knees wedged toward my chest in the first passenger row of our boxy Hiace van, the intrepid road warrior of many an Asian motorway. The whole thing shook and bumped at every contour of the Tomei Expressway connecting our last city of Nagoya to Tokyo. 

 There are not too many certainties in life, but in terms of ASIWYFA, whether it was the 1000mile stretch from Edmonton to Salt Lake City, hammering down the autobahn or right at that moment passing Mt Fuji on our way to Tokyo, we were crammed into a van with backline packed to the ceiling. Being the first shows of the year, we were extremely fortunate to be playing them in Japan, the tour made possible by the guys from Lite, who are no short of legendary in these parts and in much of the world. Anyone I’ve talked to about them all have the same awe-filled stories of how insanely tight a band they were, and as a witness I can safely say how true that is. Not only that but they were true gentlemen for bringing us all the way over here. It was a long time for us getting to Japan and it was especially poignant for us as our two bands have shared a similar path with our music, playing for over 10 years and slowly climbing up through the touring in a fairly underground manner. With only five days on Japanese soil it was a bit of a whirlwind of a tour and we had to fight off the merciless claws of jet lag in order to absorb as much of the experience as possible. Rory (Friers, ASIWYFA guitarist) threw ninja stars in Osaka, we got drawn into manga characters in Nagoya, and did the whole awestruck Scarlett Johansson in Lost In Translation thing around Shibuya. Japan really is unlike anywhere else on earth and you can get that

sensation of total immersion in the place in just a matter of days. From the dazzle and glow of endless billboards and signs to the gentlest of interactions and pleasantries you witness from the locals you certainly know you’re standing in a place that took 24hours of travel to get to. And oh the food! I feel it essential to mention the food in Japan in an entirely separate section to do it proper justice as it was for me, the most consistently outstanding cuisine in every environment and situation that we’ve ever encountered on tour. When going to a new country for the first time, discovering the local cuisine is always a must for us although it mostly involves stumbling through menus we can’t read. To our delight, this trip consisted of a wonderful cacophony of sushi, sashimi, ramen and of some things we’re still not exactly sure. Each night after the shows, the Lite guys would take us for food which was just as much a bonding time for the bands as it was feeding our weary mouths. These meals began quite orderly and quiet but descended into lengthy and roaring evenings as we got to know each other better. Lite especially enjoyed making us try dishes less palatable for us Westerners, the star attraction being one truly horrific encounter with what was described to us as ‘rotten pieces of squid in a sauce of its own whizzed up guts’. I will never be able to un-taste that thing, but it certainly drew some laughs at the time. The last night in Tokyo had the usual end of tour vibes but with the added twist of the guys from Lite’s unique farewells, Japanese grace through and through helped along by some local Saki courtesy of our promoter. I was off the booze so my toasts were made with a coke, and as we laughed and joked over those drinks may it be noted that it is comically difficult to explain the cultural intricacies of the ‘Dry January’ to a load of Japanese guys. Over and out! Chris Wee

January/February 2016


Not Gospel Needing David Bowie

– Not Gospel



n 1993, David Bowie appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, performing his take on ‘Nite Flights’ by The Walker Brothers. Bowie is doffing his cap to one of his all-time inspirations, but he looks uncertain. He’s technically promoting Black Tie, White Noise, the first album to be released under the name ‘David Bowie’ in six years, but there’s more at stake; Bowie is testing the water to see if the world still needs David Bowie. Black Tie, White Noise would take the top spot in the UK charts (‘Nite Flights’ would not be so lucky, and anyone interested in the song is strongly recommended to stick with the Walker Brothers original), but somehow this chameleonic reinvention of Bowie manages to make a No1 album somehow seem precarious. Over the course of the 90s, and the early 21st century, Bowie’s music would become increasingly self-referential, at times almost straining to proudly display its very ‘Bowie-ness’, other times, pushing too far in the other direction with deeply uneven results. After the release of Reality in 2003, and with health problems looming on the horizon, David Bowie disappeared from view.

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Waking up on January the 11th 2016, the world realised just how much it needed Bowie. What’s been startling to me, as a life-long fan of his music, is that feeling of shared grief, the personal mixing with the universal. ‘My’ Bowie is the one who embraced soul music in 1975, and sneered at his own persona in 1980. That run of albums is jaw-dropping, and it’s all I need from him. So imagine my surprise as I encountered people who were equally devastated who cared little for any of the music made in that period, having loved the Glam Rock era of Ziggy and Aladdin Sane, the pop funk glory days of the 80s, or even those uncertain days in the late 90s as Bowie rediscovered himself. There are very few people who could secure the position of global icons, and mean that much to so many different people, in so many different ways. I wish I could go back in time to that performance in 1993 on the Tonight Show and reassure David Bowie that he need not worry about his place in the grand scheme of things. The world will always need David Bowie, and thanks to the incredible body of work he has left behind, we’ll always have him. Steven Rainey

Illustration: John Harrild

– Cracked Actor: Needing David Bowie

January/February 2016


Elvis Costello and the Attractions Trust

(NOVEMBER, 1974)

– 88mph

Elvis Costello and the Attractions Trust (JANUARY, 1981)


rust may have heralded the end of his tenure in the pop charts but this dovetailed neatly into a decade of albums that (excusing one misstep) has few rivals. Costello's maturation came in the form of startlingly honed song craft, a peak of the band's stylistic eclecticism, and more direct and personal lyrical turns. Despite his iconic glasses, knack for a tune, and notorious, often controversial attitude, Elvis' words had always been his true calling card. Smart but short of smartass, they had always displayed credible meaning yet enough ambiguity to afford the listener their own take. Nevertheless, he wouldn't let pure coherence get in the way of an unusual rhyme or particularly idiosyncratic piece of wordplay. Trust though saw him revealing his feelings more than before. Problems in his marriage and his "contemptment" with the state of his native land ("Millions murdered for a kiss me quick hat") made themselves apparent. Trust isn't all about Costello though. By this time, it could be argued that The Attractions were the greatest backing band on the planet. The rhythm section of Bruce and Pete Thomas (no relation) had both tightness and groove;


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Bruce's bass casually assured and unrelentingly melodic, Pete infinitely inventive with knowing feel. The skill and creativity of Steve Nieve's keyboards showed no limit and all three intuitively served the song with the perfect context. On new wave foundations, all four dip into their broad musical upbringings to imbue Trust with a vast swathe of styles. Their collective chops and deftness of touch provide convincing takes on rockabilly ('Luxembourg'), Bo Diddly beat ('Lovers Walk'), country ('Different Finger'), and even hints of tango, musical, flamenco and jazz. Rarely did they feel it necessary to break the 3 minute mark, even with enough ideas for 3 songs in every one. That all this was achieved under a blanket of alcohol and substance abuse beggars belief. Costello's songwriting prowess had already yielded upwards of 60 songs and 4 albums in as many years. Hell, Trust's predecessor (Get Happy!!) alone had boosted his repertoire by 20 tunes and here he was, merely 11 months on, adding 14 more. For all that, there hadn't once been a let up in quality, and The Man was only getting started. Jonathan Wallace

Agony Uncle Football

Agony Uncle Agonising? Le Galaxie's Michael Pope is here to help.

otball This Month...Fo Olé, Olé, Olé! Olé, Olé! Olé, Olé, Olé! Olé, Olé! Would Le Galaxie ever cover ‘Put Em Under Pressure’ or is that blasphemy? Fearghal, Limerick. We couldn't even consider it until they clone Jim Beglin and had a choir of Beglins singing the chorus and then afterwards we could hunt the clone Beglins for sport. The deadliest game of all... BEGLIN.

Illustration: Loreana Rushe

Which fellow Irish four-piece do you think Le Galaxie could easily hammer in a four-a-side, indoor football match? Shannon, Derry The Glen Hansard/Paddy Casey/Mundy/ Declan O'Rourke supergroup BOOTCUTS N' BLAZERS. Casey is surprisingly decent in the air and Hansard is a deadball specialist but we've paid off the referee BP Fallon. Which Footballer’s hairstyle would you most aspire to if you... had…. hair…? (sorry!) Grace, Sligo No offence taken, Grace! My ideal footballer's haircut would be either Alan Shearer, John Hartson, Zinedine Zidane, Fabien Barthez, Stephen Ireland or Marouane Fellaini. If you could dropkick someone Cantona style,

who would it be and why? Liam, Dublin. Cantona was a bellend. Can you describe your Italia ‘90 experience? Mick, Wicklow Ireland V England: Gary Lineker shit himself on the pitch. Seriously, look it up. Ireland V Egypt: Eamonn Dunphy threw his pen in anger and it pierced the soul of every true Irishman. Ireland V Holland: Grit your teeth, Packie! Ireland V Romania: Oh, I just decided I want Jack Charlton's hair. Ireland V Italy: We were the better team that day and should be 2-up before Toto Schillaci snuck one past us. This was not Our Dolmio day. Which Footballer has the most unfortunate name in history? Michelle, Wexford John Cunt For some reason unbeknownst to everyone but them, New Order want to perform World In Motion at your funeral. Do you let them? Brian, Belfast Only if John Barnes turned up and dropped his sick ‘World In Motion’ rap. It would further compound my recently bereaved (and staunch Republican) parents’ grief. Would you rather go on the lash with 1990s Maradona or 1980s George Best? Sarah, Derry Georgie Best. Too much 'cosmic salt' on Maradona's menu.


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