The Thin Air Magazine: Issue 17

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Vault Lines Featuring Ciaran Lavery // Track Record with The Urges’ Jim Walters Feature Magick and the Occult with Brian Conniffe // The First Time Ye Vagabonds ISSUE #017 | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 | FREE

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Foreword / Contents

Editor Brian Coney @brianconey Deputy/Photo Editor Loreana Rushe Art Director Stuart Bell Reviews Editor Eoin Murray Guide Editor Stevie Lennox Contributors: Aaron Drain Aidan Kelly-Murphy Brian Coney Brian Mulligan Cathal McBride Chris O’Neill Ciaran Lavery Colm Laverty Colum O’Dwyer Darren Keane Eoin Murray Jonathan Wallace Loreana Rushe Lucy Foster Mark Earley Meaghan Hyland Moira Reilly Niall O’Kelly Orla Conway Pedro Giaquinto Ruth Kelly Sara Marsden Seanán Kerr Steven Rainey Stevie Lennox Trev Moran Zara Hedderman Cover Photo: Ruth Kelly

Art Trumps All A Picture Will Last Longer


016 has been very strange indeed but the one positive we can all agree on is that art will never cease and never be silenced. Somewhere, someone is cre� ating right now. Our photog� raphers are out covering gigs, on photoshoots and planning their next assignment. It’s been two years since we forayed into print and throughout that time we’ve been fortuitous enough to have such a dedicated team of photographers, striving for and producing such exceptional work that we graciously get to

showcase in print. We wouldn’t exist without their talent and persistence when nearly every page, every issue, is adorned with the best this island has to offer in way of talent; by the folks both in front of and behind the lens. We will always place a local act proudly on the cover and we will continue to champion the profound artistry this country has to offer. Rarely do we need to look further and never has there been a better time to discover the abundance of culture surrounding us at home. Loreana Rushe

Contents Photo Of The Month ��������������� 4 Projection ����������������������������� 5 Inbound �������������������������������� 6 The First Time ���������������������� 10 Feature: Brian Conniffe ����������12 Feature: Enemies ������������������ 14 Vault Lines: Ciaran Lavery ������17 Track Record: Jim Walters ������ 18

Feature: Robocobra Quartet ��� 20 Feature: Lily Bailie ���������������� 24 Feature: Katie Kim ���������������� 26 Primer: Aoife Dooley ������������ 30 Reviews: Releases ����������������� 32 Reviews: Live ����������������������� 35 Not Gospel: The Love of Art ���� 36 88mph: XTC �������������������������� 38 @the_thin_air

November / December 2016


– Photo of the Month

Photo of the Month Brian Mulligan


Grace Jones Metropolis Festival, Dublin Image: Brian Mulligan


ach month our photo editor Loreana Rushe selects one stand-out gig image from our fantastic team of hard working pho� tographers. The photographer gets the opportunity to showcase their pic and share a few insights into how they captured it. Loreana: Grace was always going to be photo of the week, month and even year no matter what! I was very con� fident Brian would come back with a heap of amazing shots but this one in

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particular is magnificent. The raw pow� er she exudes is otherworldly. Brian: Grace Jones was on her third song of the evening and placed herself towards the front of the stage on a small, raised platform. In between lyrics she gnarled and played with the crowd as can be seen in the image. The photo pit was full but thankfully I managed to secure a sweet position to capture this and a few more. Shot on a Nikon D750, lens: 38mm on a 24-70mm, ISO 2500, 1/640sec

Little Joe Film Season at Triskel, Cork


oe Dallesandro was the rebel� lious male sex symbol, icon of gay subculture, and under� ground movie star of the late sixties and early seventies. He appeared in a film trilogy which were made by Paul Morrissey and produced by Andy Warhol. Flesh (1968), Trash (1970) and Heat (1972) were ground� breaking not only due to their casual depictions of drugs and hetero/homo/ bi-sexuality, but also for their naturalistic performanc� es, dark humour and, most impor� tantly, the casting of Dallesandro. In all three films Joe is the lead character who, in a reversal of the tra� ditional Hollywood gender roles, is the sex symbol everyone lusts after. The camerawork is ragged and the sound recording was serviceable but far from stellar, but what the films did possess which mainstream cinema couldn’t muster was their collection of unique and colourful personalities. Morrissey populated his movies with the extro� verts who hung out at Warhol’s Factory on Union Square West. These movies were never scripted, the actors were encouraged to improvise and their nat� urally strong personalities flourished on camera. But it was Joe Dallesandro who was at the heart of these movies and it was his brooding screen pres�

ence, commanding yet unassuming, that kept everything in check. Like the supporting characters in the movies, both male and female members of the public lusted after Joe. The trilogy was met with mixed responses in America, praised by some critics while others were wary of its underground status, but the films garnered a faithful following and decent box office. In Europe they were treated like legitimate mainstream movies and were a huge success, particularly in Ger� many. Meanwhile in Britain the trilogy won infamy after a London cinema was raided by the police for screening Flesh, but when the film was eventu� ally cleared of obscenity accu� sations its notoriety had the punters queueing around the block to see it (sadly, but hardly surprisingly, none of the movies were released in Irish cinemas back in the day). Ultimately, Joe Dallesandro was underground cinema’s first bonafide star to be widely recognised by popular culture, something only reinforced by a photo of his crotch in tight jeans being used as the cover of the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers record, Lou Reed refer� ring to him as ‘Little Joe’ in the song ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side’, and The Smiths using a film still of him for their debut album. Chris O’Neill Flesh, Trash and Heat screen as part of the Little Joe Film Season at Triskel Christchurch in Cork City from November 28-30

– Projection

Projection Little Joe Film Season

November November / December / December 2016 2016



esse Heffernan’s musical style has developed and matured natu� rally with each experience and in� fluence met by the Dublin singer song� writer throughout his varied trajectory. The laid back, atmospheric tendencies of his expanding catalogue draws from the modes of articulation perfected by classical figures (Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison and John Martyn) and spe� cific elements of contemporary musi� cians such as the lo-fi guitar reverb of King Krule’s early single, ‘Out Getting Ribs’, which is re-enacted on Heffer� nan’s ‘Electric Shoes’ This diversity gives density to his mellow melodies and soulful vocals which effortlessly lull you into a state of uninterrupted calm, a rarity amongst the prevalent noise of hefty guitar bands.Heffernan came to prominence as a vocalist with


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hip hop group, the Animators which saw a momentary pause the folk in� spired songs he had been writing. His tenure with the Animators, as well as working with ChoiceCuts and The Sug� ar Club enabled the young musician to obtain an unfettered view on both sides of performing. Venturing on a solo path, Heffer� nan’s tastes are evident in the musical� ity of the songs and lyrical expression. ‘Late Night Attention’ combines Vulf� peck inclined keys and drum arrange� ments merged with affectionate long� ing in a Sam Cooke fashion, “Your love it takes every bit of me.” Undoubtedly, Jesse Heffernan’s profile will continue to soar as he has prudently sought col� laborations with producer Brian Mur� phy and Michael Buckley, saxophonist with The Dap Kings. Zara Hedderman

Photo: £Lucy Foster

– Inbound –

Jesse Heffernan

Inbound Pale Rivers

Pale Rivers The track, along with a number of upcoming singles, was produced by Gavin Glass and mixed by Kieran Lynch whose previous work with the likes of U2, Elvis Costello and R.E.M. probably lends to its encompassing textures. The track is accompanied by a dazzlingly colourful and intensely flashing video directed by none other than Feel Good Lost’s Brendan Canty, complimenting its ardour perfectly. Following a string of successful shows such as this year’s Hard Work� ing Class Heroes and more recently in support of equally precocious and energised London outfit Pumarosa in Whelan’s on Halloween night, the group seem set for an exciting 2017 if the momentum continues. If the forthcoming releases are as promising as their debut then there should be no fear of that. Eoin Murray

November / December 2016


– Inbound –

Photo: Moira Reilly


ork’s Pale Rivers burst into life at the start of October with the track ‘August 6th’. And as far as debuts go, this came with an immedi� ate energy and purpose, straight away showcasing the band as a future force to be reckoned with. Built on big synths and rousing guitars it boldly leans to� ward a sound suited for a larger stage, the ambition oozing from every note. Eoin Hally’s vocals begin with a feeling of reservation but it’s not long before they become an uninhibited, visceral plea of sorts. The raw, honest lyricism allows the track to avoid the possible pitfalls that can come with the anthemic territory it treads. On the contrary, its candid structure and deliberate vivacity really turn it into a debut to be admired, reminiscent of early releases from Editors or even The Frames in parts.

Inbound Farah Elle

– Inbound –


urrently writing and re� cording her debut album at home, Libya-born Dublin singer-songwriter, pianist and BIMM graduate Farah Elle’s decision to drip-fed her ever-growing fanbase a series of previews over the last few months has certainly worked in her favour. Blending a slick melange of hip-hop and R&B influences – with the odd rumble of ska thrown in for good measure – she has carved out a sound that is defined both by her Arabic-influenced vocals and a knack for creating songs that feel perfectly


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laidback without sidestepping the emotive urgency that underpins it all. Having marked her arrival with ‘Silk’ last year – a simmering, full-band ear-wormer of a single that instantly calls for a repeat listen – Elle’s live repute is not to be sniffed at either: set to appear as part of the presti� gious Other Voices Music Trail in early December, we expect her name to crop up in all the right places come the tail-end of the year and into 2017. Keep an eye and two ears out for that debut album; we certainly will be. Brian Coney

Photo: Pedro Giaquinto

Farah Elle

Inbound Inbound Franklyn Hiva Oa

Photo:£Colm Laverty


espite having released a debut album and EP back in 2012 while based in Edin� burgh, Hiva Oa had gone pretty quiet until recently. As it turns out, a relo� cation back home to Ireland was on the cards for core members Stephen Houlihan and Christine Tubridy, not to mention a change in direction. Where that previous work traded on a sparse, minimal folk sound mainly built around guitar and cello with oc� casional forays into loops and effects, their aptly titled new EP mk2 (part 1) sees those electronics completely take over their sound, with single ‘A Great Height’ perfectly juxtaposing sinister stabbing synths with Hou� lihan’s voice, which still resembles Will Oldham just as much as the rest of their music once did. No less melancholy than before, they’ve swapped quiet beauty for an

unsettling tension that echoes the likes of Patrick Kelleher and No One Can Ever Know-era Twilight Sad, as they “turn their attentions to themes of fear, loneliness, abandonment and awakening”, according to the band themselves. Guitars take a support� ing role behind the analogue synths, while percussion varies between drum machine patter and often pummelling live drums – all in stark contrast to their tropical island namesake. At a time when, once again, a few too many bands have their synths permanently stuck on ‘80s pop sheen’, the dark, queasy menace of Hiva Oa’s feels like a perfect anti� dote, making their new incarnation one of the most exciting propositions in Belfast and indeed Ireland as a whole right now. The next chapter in their reinvention can’t come quick enough. Cathal McBride

November / December 2016


– Inbound –

Hiva Oa

The First Time Ye Vagabonds

– Ye Vagabonds – Photographer Joe Laverty shoots and delves into the musicmaking, listening and loving firsts of Brian and Diamuid Mac Gloinn of Dublin-based folk band Ye Vagabonds. First album you bought? Brian: Dustin the Turkey’s Greatest Hits

Song’ by Lisa O’ Neill definitely drew a few tears.

First single? Diarmuid: ‘The Great Beyond’ by R.E.M.

First time you knew you wanted to make music? We were making music before we thought about whether we wanted to. It was always just natural and necessary.

First album you properly loved? Led Zeppelin I or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. First artist to change your music-listening/making life? Sweeney’s Men. First local artist you got really into? Not quite local but Nathan Conway from Thomastown is near enough. First festival experience? Brían’s was seeing Roy Harper in Liss Ard 2012, Diarmuid’s was the first Spirit of Folk where he first saw Lisa O’Neill and Lynched. First favourite film soundtrack? Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks. First song to make you cry? ‘Neilly’s

10 10 TheThe Thin Thin Air Air Magazine Magazine

First instrument you learnt to play? Brían’s was fiddle and Diarmuid’s was guitar. First riff/song/piece you learnt from start to finish? ‘I’m a Rover’. It’s a ver� sion of ‘The Night Visiting Song’. First original song you wrote? Diar� muid: A song called ‘Man in the Sky’ when I was 11 or 12. First gig or performance of your own? Caffé Formenti in Carlow on Paddy’s Day 2009. First musical hero/idol you ever met? Andy Irvine last year on Inisbofin. First music magazine you ever bought? A copy of Uncut or Mojo with an article about Bert Jansch in it.

Photo: Joe Laverty

– The First Time

First live concert or gig? Diarmuid: Willie Nelson supported by Sharon Shannon and Damien Dempsey.

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November / December 2016


Feature Brian Conniffe

Brian Conniffe Brian Conniffe is a Dublin-based avant-garde experimental musician with a fondness for collaboration, such as with Patrick Kelleher and Catscars. He also has a keen interest in the occult and the practice of magick. Conniffe recently released a new album as part of Tenro online, with the album set to be being launched at Dublin’s Anseo on November 25. In September he also provided essays, artwork and live performance for ‘the Cabinet of the Solar Plexus’ in Gallery X, the first ever dedicated exhibition of esoteric art in Ireland. We sat with him to talk about his practice, art and the occult and how the two work together. Words Seanán Kerr Photo Lucy Foster


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There are varied views on the relationship between magick and art, how do you see it? Austin Osman Spare is a great example in that there is no separation between his art, his magick, and his life. When all the gears of one’s being are working the way one truly feels that they are supposed to, then there is no separation between these things. There’s an erroneous perception - which probably comes from fear - that those who are attracted to, or involved with, occultism are a dysfunctional or feeble-minded bunch: just a bunch of crazies, perverts and drug addicts. However, there many cases of individuals who excelled in their own fields and who were seriously involved in occult practice: Alan Moore in comics, W. B. Yeats in poetry, Maya Deren in cinema, Harry Smith in folk music archival, Jack Parsons in rocket science, the composer Erik Satie, amongst so many others. All of their work was magical, in many cases explicitly so. What would you attribute what appears to be an increase in interest in the likes of esoteric art and the occult in general? Things do seem to seem to be moving from the underground to the mainstream. The access to information online is a factor, so

Feature Brian Conniffe

“In primary school I was giving Tarot readings to classmates.”

there are teenagers and young adults the world over who finding their way into this stuff, those I meet are generally self-educated to an astonishing degree. It may be a reaction to a modernity which is more cynical than skeptical, and perhaps in a culture and society that is less liberated than it pretends to be. What are you thoughts on the connection between the occult and music as opposed to other art forms? Music has the ability to immediately alter one’s state of consciousness, it can cause instant emotional changes, and it can work on the body as well: the power to make people lose themselves in dance is a most potent one. The other thing is the focus on the performer of music. Charisma - at the heart of rock star appeal - is a factor that is uniquely magical. I’m thinking of the double meaning that the word ‘glamour’ has. Do you have a particular favourite example of the combination of the occult and music? The references to Hermes Trismegistus and Masonry - and all the 93s in the music video - of Missy Elliott and Pharrell Williams’ last single ‘WTF (Where They From)’ were very entertaining. This brings up the possibilities of what it might mean when we see pop and rock stars playing with this imagery: maybe they just use it because it looks cool, maybe they are genuinely practicing occultists, or maybe they are just using it to wind up the

conspiracy theory lunatics to get themselves talked about more! There are definitely some musicians who serious, who are initiates, and they do put indications in their work. Is there a particular relationship between Ireland and occult beliefs? Does Ireland have a soul and what condition is that soul in? There’s certainly a romanticism of an imagined Pagan past. Our rich folklore and the breathtakingly diverse beauty of our landscape, much of which can be numinous in its impact, is a part of this, I think. The passing of the seasons can be hugely dramatic as well. And there are revolutionary figures like Maud Gonne and George Russell who were also occultists. I don’t know that the Irish people are anymore inclined to the occult than anywhere else in the world particularly. The Pagan and Occult scene is very healthy in this country. There’s Wiccan covens, Ordo Templi Orientis, Pagan Life Rites, the Irish Order of Thelema, Golden Dawn: all very active with all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds involved. As for Ireland’s soul, we still have yet to recover from the damage done to us by the Catholic Church. Tell us a little about Tenro? Tenro is Marc Aubele (one half of Nanu Nanu, sometime BellX1 member, and Laura Sheeran’s husband) and myself. We knew each other for a while and decided to get together, have a few drinks, and improvise with some electronics, and so Tenro was born. Marc is similar to me, he mostly works with others, so it was nice for us to do something completely 50/50. A situation where we are free to try anything musically, no matter how bizarre or outlandish. It’s not for everyone but there’s something for everybody. It works really well.

November / December 2016


Feature Enemies

Enemies: Putting Friendship First Wicklow four-piece Enemies hit the ground running with their full-length debut We’ve Been Talking back in 2010, eschewing the hyperactivity or aggression of many of their Richter Collective labelmates to focus primarily on melody. After a follow up – 2013’s Embark, Embrace – and a change of drummer, they return with long awaited, but sadly final, third album Valuables in December. Ahead of its release and a final show in Dublin’s Vicar Street on December 18th, Cathal McBride speaks to guitarist Lewis Jackson.


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Words Cathal McBride Photos Niall O’Kelly

Feature Enemies

How difficult was the decision to end the band? Before the decision to end the band, there was a lot of trying to save it. I think the months of pushing to make the band work were a lot harder than the decision to finish it. Enemies is such a huge part of all our lives that it will obviously be difficult to say goodbye to it, but it was either that or we sacrifice our friendship for another year or so of music. How did the process of finishing the new album feel considering you had already made that decision? There was roughly a four or five-week period where the band had broken up and the album was sitting on a computer in our studio, untouched. I remember Mark was a serious driving force in wanting to finish the album, but the rest of us had reservations, given that our relationship was in such a bad way. We eventually all agreed to go back into the studio.

 That first day back immediately felt different. We could compromise so much more and not feel so attached to an idea, just because we had thought of it. We made better decisions, worked at a faster rate & didn’t fight as much. A lot of our bad habits had dissipated. I’m not sure the album would have gotten finished if that energy wasn’t in the room.

hundreds of times over the last two years, but because we thought the album might never get finished. In the last few weeks in the studio, that title started to mean more to us. Valuables is our bond, our friendship and our love for this band. 

 The tracks we’ve heard so far feature a more conventional use of vocals, compared to the mostly subtle vocal work on the last album. Having started out as an instrumental band, what prompted the introduction of vocals on the more recent work?
When we first started playing together, instrumental music was kind of like this uncharted territory. It was new and exciting and not many bands in Ireland were doing it. But as any band progresses through the years, we felt we were limited by the title ‘Instrumental’ and soon looked for new ways to make the music exciting. 

 With Valuables, we intended from the very beginning to create an album that wasn’t comfortable or easy to make, that wasn’t something we had made before and that wasn’t solely instrumental. Mark spent a lot of time working with vocal processors to make different sounds, Eoin would then run those vocals through a kaoss-pad to build layers and textures. 

 Vocals were a perfect way for us to escape from what we were used to. We had worked with vocals in our music in the past but nothing quite as substantial as what is on Valuables. In the past we would add vocals as an afterthought to the music, where for this album they took on a far more prominent role. We wrote a lot of the music with the vocals in mind.

“It will obviously be difficult to say goodbye.”

Is there any particular significance to the album’s title, Valuables?
When we started recording the album back in 2014, Valuables was the name of the Dropbox folder that we would save all the studio sessions in. It felt like an important title to us, not just because we had seen the name

November / December 2016


Feature Enemies

It seems like there’s a wave of Irish bands breaking up recently, with Solar Bears and Fight Like Apes calling it a day as well as yourselves. Do you think there’s any sort of connection?
I haven’t gotten to speak to MayKay or Rian about their respective bands breaking up so I’m not sure if there is a connection. I do know both of those bands have been going for quite some time, and like us, it grows increasingly more difficult to keep your band alive the longer you are together. Your final show in Vicar Street is also your biggest headline show to date. Any special plans to bow out?
Having our final show in a place like Vicar Street is a big deal to us. We owe it to ourselves and all the people who have been with us from the start to put on a real show. I can’t give anything away but December 18th is going to be a special night.


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What have been the highlights of your nine years as a band?
We have been very fortunate as a band so there are many highlights over the years. I think being able to create music for nearly a decade and share it with people all over the world is something special. We’ve toured the U.S, Asia and Europe, meeting so many amazing people along the way. It’s not something every band is afforded and we are very grateful for it. What’s next? Have any of you got anything new lined up yet, or is it time to take a break first?
I think all four of us will continue to make music in different ways. Micheál has always been playing in Meltybrains?, along with many other bands. Eoin makes electronic music under the guise ‘Mau’ and we’ll have to wait and see what comes out of both Mark and I. Enemies play their final show at Dublin’s Vicar Street on December 18

Vault Lines Ciaran Lavery

Ciaran Lavery on Sun Is Burning
 The Aghagallon artist reflects on his love of a lesser-known Luke Kelly gem

Ciaran Lavery photo: Ruth Kelly


’m somewhere between 14-16 years old and I’m standing in the kitchen of my house. Luke Kelly is playing. We grew up with some version of Luke Kelly and The Dubliners’ Greatest Hits or collection of songs to as far back as I can remember. I’m not sure if I understood the depth of the music or lyrics but I do know that I was immediately drawn to the iconic voice of Luke. ‘Dublin in the Rare Ol’ Times’, ‘The Old Triangle’, ‘Raglan Road’ – there are an endless list of huge songs that we grew up with but I was drawn to the lesser known ‘The Sun Is Rising.’ My brother is standing there in the kitchen and he lets the song play once, twice, three times on repeat. Suddenly I’m drawn into this world Luke Kelly is creating, I’m captivated by the imagery, my senses are alerted and I’m right there. My young mind exploded on this journey from the song’s beginning to end. Admittedly I was unaware of the history of the song itself, penned by Scottish songwriter Ian Campbell or that it was covered by those two Simon & Garfunkel – from the first definite bars of the piano, I was satisfied I didn’t need to know another

version beside the one I already know well. It was a strange time for my musical tastes. I was soaking in an abundance of sounds from Tupac, GZA & Dr Dre to Green Day, No FX and Blink 182 – the folk or songwriter world was one that was still a little fresh to my ears. But there was something about this song that grabbed me from the first bars to the first vocal line – “The sun is burning in the sky, strands of cloud go slowly drifting by…” It grabbed me by my gut and settled into my bones. There was an honesty in the delivery that almost knocked me off my feet; it still does. Though for all the wonderful imagery and mass amounts of romantic hopefulness, there is a dark undertone as the song comes to a close that sinks its fangs in and sends my sleepy head to bed every time – “Twisted, sightless wrecks of men go groping on their knees and cry in pain. And the sun has disappeared.” This is more than just a song, it is poetry. Ciaran Lavery’s second album, Let Bad In, is out now

November November // December December 2016 2016

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Track Record Jim Walters

– Jim Walters – The Urges frontman Jim Walters handpicks a selection of records that have left an indelible imprint on his music and life.

Hearing Count Five’s ‘Psychotic Reaction’ for the first time was a seminal event for me and the other lads in the band. As it opened up a world of nascent punk and psychedelia we had no idea existed, the Nuggets compilation became our bible. No more Beatles, no more Stones, from then on it was the sounds of the Electric Prunes, the Seeds, and the 13th Floor Elevators reverberating in our heads.

Gene Clark ...with the Gosdin Brothers Though I’d loved the Byrds, and Gene Clark had always been my favourite voice


The 18 Thin Air The Magazine Thin Air Magazine

among them, I never had any interest in his solo records. I think this may be because I (irrationally and wrongly) lumped him in with the countrified Gram Parsons Byrds and Flying Burrito Broth� ers whom I (irrationally and wrongly) disliked at the time. It’s an album of ex� traordinary depth and intricacy.

The Rolling Stones Exile on Main St. Truth be told, I could have picked any one of the four Stones’ LP releases between 68 and 72. Among my ever decreasing circle of friends, Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile are colloquially referred to as the “Fantastic Four”. I’ve selected the double album Exile mainly because

Photo: Colum O’Dwyer

Various Artists Nuggets

Track Record Jim Walters

of its comprehensiveness. It presents a distillation of everything that makes the Stones great and it book ends their best period in terms of long players.

13th Floor Elevators The Psychedelic Sounds Of… Droning riffs, terrifying yelps, pseudo-intellectual lyrics, quasi-religious horseshit about drug taking as a sacra� ment, every sound saturated and drowning in reverb, it even had a guy on ‘electric jug’. I loved it instantly and continue to do so.

Love Forever Changes A strong contender for my favourite album of all time. To my mind, Forever Changes is an album for all seasons, all contexts, and all moods. Summer or winter, happy or sad, it never fails to deliver.

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band Safe As Milk I first became aware of Cap� tain Beefheart through Rosco (Urges’ bass player) when he put the song ‘Plastic Factory’

on a compilation for me. I was big into playing the harmon� ica at the time and used to play along to it endlessly. The relative straightforwardness of that song didn’t prepare me for the rest of the album.

Serge Gainsbourg L’Histoire De Melodie Nelson I have a passing fondness for Serge Gainsbourg’s 60s yeye stuff and his singles with Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bar� dot but I never thought much of his albums of the period. I was more interested in Serge Gainsbourg ‘the character’ - the louche, pissed, woman� iser - until a friend of mine introduced me to the Melodie album. Having no idea what the lyrics meant (other than ‘Melodie’s hair was red, it was her natural colour’) I was blown away by the overall sound of the record.

The Pretty Things S.F. Sorrow This record was on heavy rotation while we were writ� ing and recording our new album. I never paid much attention to the ‘rock opera’ elements of it, but as a collec� tion of songs and a snapshot of a band at their psychedelic peak it’s peerless.

November / December 2016


Robocobra Quartet

Admission For One Art is defined by those who have achieved autarky in their process, and if drummer, vocalist, composer and producer Chris Ryan is the brain and beating heart of the idiosyncratic avant-punk collective Robocobra Quartet, he’s fully aware of the necessity of individual organs and limbs for its full functionality. With their debut album, Music For All Occasions, he’s put himself through a lot to get to this point.


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Words Stevie Lennox Photos Ruth Kelly

Feature Robocobra Quartet


ith nine songs clocking in at 25:30, Music For All Occasions is a short, yet broad-in-scope, genre-defying album that deftly veers from Dischord-recalling minimal post-hardcore jazz to spoken word and drone-based musique concrete it credits 13 contributors, ranging from assistant engineering, to oscillation, to the extensive brass section – so how were vision and membership kept in check, let alone distilled into a concise artistic statement, avoiding many of the possible pitfalls of D.I.Y. music?“ A lot of the time it’s the result of thinking about it and the actual doing it is quite simple,” says Ryan. “You think a lot about a song or a record, or not even creative outlets, you think a lot about a tour or how you’re going to do press or something, or you think about how it’s going to be recorded, and the actual process of recording it takes a minute. And as a result, a lot of what happens with this band comes from thinking about things a lot, and then it’s like ‘Who’s available to do the thing?’ And in some cases, a lot of things come about, whether it’s an idea for a video, microphone choice or song, it ultimately coalesces into the band.” It’s a case of joined-up thinking into a unified vision across the board, where everyone has a place and purpose. “For that reason, you could say that some people are more a part of the band,” Ryan continues. “For instance, Chris Brazier does sound for us, he’s been there for almost every recording session we’ve done recently, and will make suggestions. He’s never played on anything, but he’s such a significant part of the band and excellent moral support. Maybe Tom Tabori plays sax, but he’s

a busy man, maybe he’s not around for much of the preamble. He’s a massive part of the aural experience, but the number of hours he clocks in is significantly less. For that reason, it makes sense to just have things super-open. Some lyrics are from conversations I’ve had with people, so maybe they should get credit because they’ve had a significant input on the process. It’s like Messiaen being in the park listening to birds and then writing music from hearing it, and birds wrote that, basically. Maybe Messiaen should’ve registered birds on PRS for royalties.” “I think it’s really cool when you watch a band and it’s the same four dudes, say Fugazi, and if one of those four guys wasn’t there, they wouldn’t play. That’s a really cool idea as well, it’s just a different thing. For us it just makes sense to adapt. I can’t not do things under this framework we call punk, but D.I.Y. doesn’t mean ‘Do It By Yourself’, you know?” “There was this idea of isolation and individuality that I learned pretty early on from punk - that you’re the master of your own fate - and that changed my entire worldview. Everything just flipped and I

November November // December December 2016 2016

21 21

Feature Robocobra Quartet

thought, ‘Not only can I do all this stuff for myself, I have to do all this stuff for myself.’ “So, around the age of 15, Chris, inspired by Black Flag, self-booked a tour that took his Dubai-based band past the desert into India, where hundreds of people showed up “because there’s literally no subculture otherwise. The shows were all very weird and we were asked to stop playing a couple of times.” On a day off, he left his passport behind in an auto-rickshaw, leaving him stranded. “I called my parents, and because I normally just did my own thing, they were like ‘We don’t really know what to do, you just do your thing’. I was about 15 or 16, and I realised it’s just me here in this new place where I had no help; I need to sort this out. I called up embassies and got a replacement passport, signed by the police department. That was around the same time I realised that I’m galvanised. They’d galvanised me to know that it’s just me. Sometimes if you feel alone you’re like “Fuck, I’m alone” but for me, it’s “Ok, I’m alone. Ok, that’s my parameter, those are the cards, I’ll fucking do it.” The thing about independence is that it can be a lonely trip, and thematically, Music For All Occasions falls somewhere between a list of notes to self, and an expulsion of solipsism and isolation, a mood that weighs heavily on the album. Dipping from vivid memory to self-reflection, it leaves the listener with the feeling that one guy went through a tough year. Incidentally, some vocals are quite galling, his voice cracking all-too-authentically. “There were two parts on the record where I was actually crying, yeah” Chris laughs. “I was going through some shit during some of the vocal takes, and was not in a good place mentally, but I’m that much of a cunt that I’m like ‘that’s gonna make great art. I’m gonna record this.’ The thing is, shit like this has silver linings, and


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“This is the right time to get bummed out. These are not club bangers.”

the silver lining is that you get to make a bit of art out of it. Should you put yourself in shitty situations to make art? That question is open; I don’t want to say yes or no because I don’t want people going out and fucking themselves up to make good art. But the fact of the matter is, content impedes content. I think it’s a seasonal thing as well, I definitely knew that. I don’t like the idea of sitting out for a long time to work on an album but it kind of had to be that case because I wanted that shit to come out in winter, because this is the right time to get bummed out. These are not club bangers.” Chris is quick to decry any notion of being any kind of creative visionary: “What it is, is that I have no imagination; I honestly don’t. I just try things a lot, and that looks and tastes like that imaginative, creative process, but I’m just attempting numerous things and choosing one in terms of composition.” Drawing parallels with the band’s revolving line-up - by now renowned for their live show – he stresses the importance of giving each musician creative license, lest the band lose its essence: “It’s fucking management, that’s the bones of it. When Thibault or Tom play, I can tell the difference sometimes between whether they play melodies I’ve written and melodies they’ve improvised or come up with, and there’s a different level

Feature Robocobra Quartet

of vigour. In some cases, that suits, but if you want something that sounds raw and unbridled, you have to let that person create the energy that makes that.” Chris exudes maxims and fragments of his own lyrics in speech, and there’s a lyrical fixation on dates and time in general throughout his words – “You’re going to find me quoting my own lyrics, and it’s not because I quote my own lyrics, but it’s because it’s just my lyrics are just me talking. I spend a lot of time putting frameworks in place so I can operate. I’m actually not that focused but I spend a lot of time to try and make my shortfalls not limit me, to try and put safety nets in place. One of the things is that I have to live by a calendar, so I’m constantly thinking in terms of dates, looking at the clock, thinking in terms of that framework because if I don’t put that in place, then I just fucking fall apart - I’m not one of those people who can just wake up in the morning and just see how it goes.

So, I’d imagine probably subconsciously all those words come up, talking about days or months or years, because I’m just always thinking in terms of that.” “Because I’m so firmly framed in reality, a lot of the time I’ll write music and am kind of not even thinking about how we’ll do it live, I’m just writing. But I’m so fucking framed in reality that I realise that no, this is very real and I’m writing for people who I know will be able to play the instrument, writing within ranges of the instrument that I know will work, what room we’ll record that in, so even though I think I’m out pushing the boundaries, it’s just real.” So where is the line drawn between realism and creativity? “I always think of the Continuous Battle of Order thing, ‘We are all just pattern seekers’, because that’s exactly what humans are. Order is excellent, you know? Frameworks are so important, if for nothing than to then destroy them. It’s the frameworks that make you creative.”

November / December August 2016 2016


Feature Lily Bailie

One of many shining lights being championed by our friends at BeKreativ, we chat to Belfast costumer designer Lily Bailie about the overlap between music and visuals in her work.

 Hi Lily. First off, tell us about your earliest memories in taking an interest in costume design? As a child my mum always hand made my fancy dress cos� tumes. She used to be a fash� ion designer so could make me any costume I wanted, from a mermaid to a cat to a princess. I just loved getting creative and mak� ing everything by hand. Your graduate project was a wonderfully immersive video experience inspired by the music of Villagers. You spoke of your interest in the overlap between music, visual, art and design. Tell us more about your love of that cross-pollination, with particular reference to your project. I have always been interested in the overlap between mu� sic and visuals. I have synesthesia, a neu� rological condition in which two or more senses are connected and triggered together. When I hear music I experience a colour visualisation, so this has always lead me to explore ways in which I connect music, art, visuals and design. I focused on the music


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of Villagers for my graduate collection. I re� sponded to four songs, ‘Home’, ‘The Waves’, ‘Becoming a Jackal’ and ‘I Saw The Dead’ in order to design characters, costumes and set design. I concentrated on textiles, lighting and movement, reacting to Conor O’Brien’s rich world of lyrics and music. The project was all about the look, touch and the feel of the sound. You wanted the costumes used in the project to convey a message about the importance “religion still holds in Northern Ireland, and its impact on contemporary society”. How did you go about that? I once had a conversation with Conor about the meaning of the song ‘Home’. He has previously been rather reluctant to talk about the lyrics but he revealed it was the response from his childhood - a kid from the south, in the back of the parents’ car, wondering about events north of the border. The song is about being lost in Irish history, about mixed responses to religion and violence, Saint Patrick and paramili� taries. The costume I designed resembled a Virgin Mary figure, wearing gold adornment and intricate halo. From afar what seems like decadent pattern on closer inspection is revealed to be a soldier or loyalist fighter and a crown of golden guns. Religion pro� vides comfort, community and spirituality

Photo: Sara Marsden

Lily Bailie: Made To Measure

Feature Lily Bailie

for many people, but in Northern Ireland it has also been twisted to exclude and to incite hate. This paradox can be compared to the decadence of the Church, and how its violent past is concealed by beautiful gold plated cathedrals. I’ve spoken to Conor since my degree show and he likes it! He even retweeted some photos.

combine my love for design and music per� fectly. Even at art school it was clear music had a strong effect on my design work as I wrote my whole dissertation on MIA’s mu� sic video for ‘Bad Girls’ focusing on her use of fashion to open up a dialogue between two contrasting cultures - hip hop and Is� lamic dress codes.

In particular reference to music, can you trace how it has infected your own approach to design generally, not simply costume design? While living in Edin� burgh I was really involved in the music scene. I had a radio show for 3 years, with regular guests and interviews (including Villagers, The Emerald Armada and Terri Hooley), while also DJing at lots of different events. I was the Head of Design for Fresh Air, the student radio station, creating the branding and marketing, allowing me to

Finally, what are your plans over the next few months in terms of projects, possible collaborations and activity? I’m currently working on Season 7 of Game of Thrones in the costume department, which is an amazing experience (especially for my first graduate job). I also have a costume be� ing used at the minute in the Scottish high� lands for a music video! I’m then planning some exciting music collaborations. Ideally I would love to do some styling for a band and be taken on tour!

A costume design featured in Bailie’s Villagers-inspired graduate project

Be Kreativ is a support platform from Beck’s to give up-and-coming creatives an opportunity to showcase their talents in Ireland. Here, and on We’ll hero YOU, the creatives. So whether you’re a musician, painter, writer, sculptor, fashion designer, coder or beyond… All you have to do is #BeKreativ.

November November // December December 2016 2016

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Feature Katie Kim

Katie Kim: Worth Her Salt

Undeniably one of the finest Irish releases of the year, Salt has been widely eulogised for its intense depth of focus, as well as its distinctive compositional lure. Marking something of a promising reinvigoration for Katie Kim (aka Katie Sullivan) in terms of direction, we caught up with the Waterford native to talk about the writing and recording of the album, getting back up on the stage, and more. Words Aaron Drain Photos Brian Mulligan


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Feature Katie Kim

While Cover & Flood dealt with similar themes, there has been a monumental shift in terms of mood and atmosphere with Salt – was this an intentional or more organic progression? It was definitely more organic than contrived. I wanted to veer away from the more lo fidelity approaches I had taken previously and try my hand at some� thing a little more sophisticated, but it was really a case of seeing how it progressed as we (myself and John Murphy) went along. The music itself is so beautifully orchestral, shifting and growing all the time. Do you have a starting point for building arrangements, or is there an improvisational element to your composing? So this ties into my previous answer in so much as seeing how it develops over the recording process. I always have grandiose arrange� ments playing in my head when recording but it’s difficult to achieve when I’m record� ing alone with the software I have and in my particular surroundings. I knew I couldn’t afford an orchestra! But I sort of fell in love with the synthetic sound I was getting from the strings that I was playing on various synths or keyboards. They took on their own life and charm the more time I spent with them so I was almost happy that we didn’t have the luxury of real strings in the end. With vocals, it’s always difficult to tell myself when to stop because it’s the most enjoyable element of the recording process for me so I tend to overboard and then have to strip back. Or not in most cases. You’ve lent your hand to composing for film, is this a pursuit you keep separate to your personal projects? Or is crossover the nature of the beast? Whether I’m re� cording an album or working with someone else or composing something for film, it doesn’t make a difference to me, it’s all a

creative undertaking. I would love more than anything to do more soundtrack work. It’s just as cathartic as producing an album or personal piece of work, but for me the visual element adds depth to an idea you’re exper� imenting with. For instance, if I played three keys of the piano for 15 minutes on stage in front of an audience, it wouldn’t have quite the same effect if you were looking at an image on a screen to accompany those three notes and make of those three notes and images what you will. It was lots of fun and really fascinating when we were laying out initial ideas for La Coquille et le Clergyman. We would watch her film with various pieces of music over it. Electronic, Folk, Drone, Pop etc and it would completely alter your view of what the scene was saying. So we realised we had a part to play in this particular public viewing of the film and what story we want� ed to tell with our soundtrack. Can you tell us a little bit about your lyric writing process for Salt? Did you approach the album differently? On the surface, it feels much grander – almost philosophical at times. I don’t feel like I did. But my songwriting process has more of a stream of consciousness approach than anything else. I write music first, then lyrics, sometimes both at the same time, but it’s all nonsense until I have a finished song and then look back and make sense of what it eventually is. It’s the only way I know how to write and it’s actually decoded a lot of confusing things that have happened in my life. Also, I think I’m getting a bit older and darker times in your life gather more moss as you go forward, so maybe because of this my writing has become slightly more philo� sophical, I don’t really know. How do you feel about labels like alt-folk or alt-pop? Are you comfortable with

November / December 2016


Feature Katie Kim

generic terms like these applied to your music, or do you think that they miss the point of what you’re trying to get across? It makes absolutely no difference to me. Peo� ple can call it what they want. There have been a couple of shows since the album came out – do you find it difficult performing such carefully arranged compositions in environments that perhaps don’t cater to the baroque, somewhat theatrical nature of your recorded music? Before my show with The Crash Ensemble in Bandon, I hadn’t played live for a year. I had a bad show where technically things went wrong and I believed it was go� ing to be my final show for a long, long time. Then a year passed and I felt totally and utterly void. Things weren’t good at all and I realised that had a lot to do with me not

playing or writing. Things are still a bit sus� picious, but if not for writing and recording I wouldn’t have a chance. So I told myself to get up and give it another go when the al� bum was coming out. A friend talked to me about my occasional stage fright and gener� al distaste for all things live/audience based and he simply told me to keep it as simple as I possibly could. I thought this was the brightest advice anyone had ever given me up to this point, so that’s what I did and that’s what Im doing. I play live the way I’d play if I were writing at home on my piano in my bedroom and I hope that’s enough. Finally, looking back, if there was one thing you could change about the album, what would it be? It would have been nice not to have released it inde� pendently this time.

“My songwriting process has more of a stream of consciousness approach than anything else.”


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November / December 2016


Primer Aoife Dooley

Primer: Aoife Dooley


n this latest edition of Primer, Dublin artist Aoife Dooley chats to Mark Earley about her methods, inspiration and first book, How To Be Massive.

We heard some interesting stories about the launch including free spice bags. How did it go? Yep! There were free spicebags sponsored by Just Eat along with Penneys
vouchers for everyone on the guest list and also a hun flash mob which I took part in and learned how to twerk… it’s way harder than it looks. It was an amazing night. Describe the whole process of putting a book together. Is this something you’ve always wanted to do? If I was to explain the


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whole process I reckon we’d be here for awhile as it’s a long one! But it’s basically a mixture of illustration and writing and pretty much doing that I felt like on the day. It’s important to enjoy the process so there’s no point going page by page as I think you’d get drained easily. And yes, I made my first book when I was twelve called Aoife’s People. I’ve always wanted to have my own book published. The book is the culmination of a whirlwind year for you with interviews in a number of national broadsheets, on the radio and across lots of online publications. How are you coping with the new found fame? Has it changed anything? It’s mad. Sometimes I get in taxis and the driver would recognise my voice from the radio which is really random. I think it’s definitely given my work a push on a broader scale and with a new audience each time too which is

Photos: Mark Earley

Hello Aoife. Very recently you launched a book, How To Be Massive – congratulations. What’s the book about? The book is based on a character from the Northside called Nikita and she is basically giving you all the tips you need to be a massive stun hun. Anything from what too hide in your hun bun to how to know when a fella likes ye. It has a game at the end of most chapters along with horoscopes, drink� ing games and a dictionary so you can learn some Dublin slang.

Primer Aoife Dooley

great. I wouldn’t call it fame, though. I can still eat a burger in Burger King and no one knows who I am because I’m not in character! Tell us about how Your One Nikita first began and how she has developed as a character and idea. It’s really been developing since 2011 and it still is. It came from earwigging on the 17A coming home from college one day and then I started to focus on people I knew around me and people I grew up with and family and all things I thought were ‘Dublin’ so the character is a mixture of people I know but she is very much her own. You’ve worked with a wide range of clients – OFFSET, Brilliant!, Nialler9 and more – what do you enjoy about freelance design? And, what advice would you have for other up and coming designers? I love the freedom and con� nections you build up while working free� lance but there are both pros and cons. I loved it, the freedom, the not having to commute and no rush hour traffic and the comfort of working in your own home but found I was beginning to stop challenging myself and felt I wasn’t learning anything knew so I decided I needed a bit of a change so I am currently working as

a designer in Publicis. I am still working free� lance though and taking on commissions in my spare time. My advice would be to follow your gut – do what you feel is right for you. What’s next on your radar? Anything exciting in the pipeline that you can share? Maybe a few more videos. I think a first dates video could be on the cards very soon! You’ve included an illustration for us. Talk us through it and your design process - how something moves from an idea to a finished product for you. I don’t real� ly have a process as such as every piece is different! Some� times I’ll take days planning something and other times I’d just jump straight in and get to it. What other designers and illustrators are you following at the moment? I’m really liking Robin Eisenberg’s work at the moment and some other LA based illustrators. I love the style as it’s completely different to what I do. Lastly, what would be your dream commission? Oh, I’m not really sure what my dream commission would be. Maybe something for Nike or Adidas – that would be unreal!

November / December 2016


Reviews Releases

– Reviews

Meltybrains? Kiss Yourself Meltybrains? have been a staple on the live circuit in Ireland for a few years now, gaining a cult following through their Dadaist stage show and irreverent sense of humour. Marrying a post-rock base with a mix of styles on top hasn’t necessarily made for the most compelling of musical statements, but their latest EP Kiss Yourself looks to make amends and move the band forward artistically.

 Where opener ‘Know My Name’ opens with Auto-tuned vocals over synth before set� tling down into a post-rock jam at a plodding tempo, Cre� ola’ injects a bit more vigour, with driving drums and judi� cious use of the pitch wheel, calming into an atmospheric middle section before explod� ing again. ‘Step’ starts with a


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pretty piano figure and inten� sifies before suddenly ending; dissipating the energy it builds up. Elsewhere, ‘Unwar� ranted Laughter’ is a sub two minute metal-influenced rush and final track ‘Oh Earth’ is allowed to drift and gain mo� mentum before bringing the EP to a soaring finale.

 Kiss Yourself is a step in the right direction for Melty� brains?, widening their musi� cal horizons and building on previous efforts. Let’s hope that they build upon this sol� id effort. Darren Keane

Enemies Valuables

 It’s been a tough year seeing some of Ireland’s best-loved acts announce that they would be calling time on their current incarnations.

When Wicklow quartet En� emies announced in early October that they would be bowing out after the release of their third album Valu� ables it was a hard pill to swallow. Nonetheless, this is a record that sounds celebra� tory, liberated and full of joy. Enemies will be departing on their own terms, and they will be departing on a high. Singles ‘Itsallwaves’, ‘Leaves’ and ‘Play Fire’ show the band incorporating more vocals than ever before into the mix, sitting comfortably and effectively on the vibrant instrumentals that have always defined their sound. Come on Live Long’s Louise Gaffney performs a typically lush guest vocal throughout the soulful groove of ‘Glow’. On Valuables Enemies excitedly dabble with more styles than ever, ‘For Karla’ sounding like a Justin Vernon fronted dancehall track. But they never lose their own distinct punch. That creative freedom the band felt on this record permeates each track in the most refreshing way, making it a truly jubilant listen. Freed from pressure or the fear of failure, Enemies’ swansong is a soaring suc� cess. Eoin Murray

Reviews Releases

We Cut Corners The Cadences of Others On their third LP The Cadences of Others, Dublin’s We Cut Corners have pushed their boat out a bit. With more layers of instrumentation and texture than their previous ef� forts, they maintain a master� ful brevity and snappiness, the collection a rich and alto� gether triumphant one. ‘Middle Kids’ sets the al� bum’s determined tone from the off, all pounding drums, clamorous guitars and verbal twists - “If it’s a race to the bottom maybe better we set� tle for second place”. Of the album’s more del� icate moments, the penulti� mate ‘Traffic Island’ is one of the most fragile, honest cuts they have ever come out with. It is a quintessential ballad of heartbreak with strings and a

sparing use of percussion to accompany the pair as they deliver gut punch after gut punch with lines such as “It seems like every time I go out I end up outside your house. I confuse it for home”. While it may lack some of the immediacy that made their previous work so wel� coming, The Cadences of Others makes up for that with some of the We Cut Corners’ strongest lyrical moments to date, lush production and shedloads of heart. Eoin Murray

Robocobra Quartet Music For All Occasions

 Take some post-punk jazzy brass, heavy, anchored basslines, sporadic nuanced drum fills and the expressive

vocal stylings of a certain breed of slam poet and what you’re left with is a vaguely accurate depiction of Bel� fast’s Robocobra Quartet. Music for all Occasions is a fascinatingly fresh attack on the Irish music scene. The collection is refreshingly ambitious and entirely bold throughout, with wandering variations of song length, style, and approach. It comes across as a very com� plete record designed to be listened to and appreciated from beginning to end. Scatterings of shorter tracks such as ‘Our Very Own Version of November Rain’ seem expertly placed as respites among the oth� erwise controlled chaos, though never lacking an impassioned moment. ‘Correct’ opens the record, immediately setting the tone with the cleverly inquisitive line “I wondered why in� stead of calling me a critic, you called me critical.” This consistent introspective wit remains throughout, being swarmed and accentuated by saxophone hooks and gritty bass, and stands as a perfect example of what you’re let� ting yourself in for with this album. Trev Moran

November / December 2016


Hit the North CULTURE NIGHT, BELFAST Sara Marsden captures a selection of the best street art murals commissioned for Hit The North as part of Culture Night Belfast 2016. Above: Dermot McConaghy/DMC; Top right: Dan Kitchener, ‘Blurry Eyed’; Right: Visual Waste, ‘Yeezy Mural’; Below: Smug One.


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Live All Tvvins


Photos: Aidan Kelly Murphy


t’s good to be home” says Conor Adams, frontman of All Tvvins after playing their first song in The Olympia Theatre tonight, ‘Book’. And it seems that the feeling is mutual, the crowd could not be happier to have the band back on home turf after they have been away touring across Europe in support of their debut album IIVV for the last while. In tonight’s show All Tvvins show just why there has been so much talk about them, and this definitely feels like the beginning of something huge. From the moment they take to the stage they have the crowd in the palm of their hands. Obviously there are songs like ‘Resurrect Me’ which have gotten a lot of radio play and are clearly going to be favourites. That being said, the whole set is filled with exciting and feel good tracks, perfectly showcasing All Tvvins and what they do best. They treat the Dublin crowd to a new song, that they have never played before, and straight away it’s clear to see the song should be a hit, if

there’s any justice. Catchy and memorable, the song stands out straight away and although it fits in with the set, definitely shows a little flair and something new. All Tvvins are a joy to watch partly because of the energy they have on stage. As well as Adam’s talents vocally and his charisma, Lar Kaye’s stage presence is completely captivating and unwavering. Between the two of them they are totally in control of the stage and as such have everyone’s full and undivided attention. With sounds of the crowd’s ‘Ole’s resonating in the venue, as the confetti begins to settle, it’s clear that they are on to something special. Orla Conway

November November // December December 2016 2016

35 35

Not Gospel For The Love Of Art

– Not Gospel



here was a time when a person could have dreams of being creative, of writing that novel, recording that album, or starring in that movie that would make everything OK. And there was a time when those dreams might actually come true. But that seems like such a long way away from the current vantage point.

 Liberties Press have recently come under scrutiny after several of their authors have made allegations of business irregularity. Despite books being on the shelves, several writers have spoken out about not being paid, and a new policy of charging money for manuscript submissions has attracted anger and resentment from the publishing world.

 But whilst it’s difficult to see how this situation can easily resolve it� self, it’s not hard to view it as symp� tomatic of a problem that has affect� ed all of the creative arts. Put simply, artists need money to make art and live, and people are more reluctant than ever to hand over their cash.

 For the last few years, musicians have had to struggle with ever de� creasing income, that plateau of ‘making it’ and being successful seeming further and further away. Beside the Liberties Press controver� sy, it’s been common knowledge for a few years now that published writ� ers are earning less and less in an increasingly crowded market, and Northern Ireland has been rocked with serious arts funding cuts, se�

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riously jeopardising the viability of the thriving arts community here.

 Technology has made things easier to take, and consumers are becoming reluctant to give what’s owed. But it’s not just the fault of the people out there wanting product, as a per� ception has crept in on a number of fronts that regardless of whether there are funding cuts, or whether punters will still fork out money, that artists will carry on creating regardless. After all, it’s not like a regular job, is it?

 In so many respects, this isn’t entirely untrue. Artists don’t have to clock in. They don’t have to wear a uniform. They don’t have to trudge to the office every day. But they still have bills to pay, and lives to lead. Public perception has swung towards an idea of artists existing in a magical world where they get everything they want and need, without any money coming in. And even if they don’t get the money, chances are they’ll keep going as a hobby, because they’re do� ing something they love.

 This is a dangerous way of think� ing, and when one thinks of the great art, the stuff that enriches our lives, gives us something to strive for, and in many cases, brings mean� ing to our very existence, it’s very, very hard to picture people doing it just for the love of it, whilst work� ing a 9–5 job on the side. Creativity comes with a price, and sooner or later, we either pay the bill, or get used to life becoming that little bit more grey. Steven Rainey

Illustration: Meaghan Hyland

– For The Love Of Art

November / December 2016


88mph XTC Skylarking

– 88mph XTC Skylarking (OCTOBER, 1986)


kylarking was a triumph over adver� sity. XTC’s recording contract was under threat. In 1982, while promot� ing their monumental English Settlement album, the band had dramatically quit the road, Beatles-style, when lead singer and chief songwriter Andy Partridge suffered a mental breakdown. Since then the new, stu� dio-only XTC had added two more excellent albums to their catalogue, but without live shows, Virgin were seeing diminishing re� turns. Luckily, the unexpect� ed success of their retro-psy� chedelic alter ego Dukes of Stratosphere saved their bacon and they were afford� ed another shot. Targeting the US market XTC were hooked up with ‘70s experimental pop legend Todd Rundgren as producer. Just days after receiving early demos Rundgren responded with a fully fledged album concept, the songs sequenced into a life-in-one-day tale. Although impressive, it was a shock to the band and to Partridge in particular who felt his authority threatened. Nevertheless XTC decamped to Todd’s Woodstock studio to get to work. Rundgren’s methods, personal� ity and attitude clashed instantly with the boys from Swindon and the rustic lodgings he provided for them didn’t help matters much. The sessions became progressively


The Thin Air Magazine

more difficult for the band and tensions rose; Partridge threatening to fly home and Colin Moulding actually walking out (eventually being convinced to return). Miraculously, when Skylarking appeared, it made Rundgren and XTC sound like a marriage made in heaven. The concept, while loose, provided a thread guiding the listener through a wonderland of tantalising sounds. The band’s classy experimentation, that had escalated since their retreat into the studio, was brilliantly augmented buy Rundgren’s arranging genius. Lyrically both Partridge and Moulding hit new highs, delighting in simple pleasures, lamenting heartache and indulging in subtle, wistful nostalgia. Despite the intended audi� ence and its American pro� ducer, Skylarking is a decid� edly English record. Even as a young punk band back in ‘77, XTC, at considerable risk of parochialism, made little attempt to disguise their roots. By 1986 though, as a sophisti� cated and versatile pop machine, they were happy to actively evoke the medieval legacy of the region of England they called home. With all the elements that make this a record a pastoral gem, it is the songwrit� ing that remains key; each of the 14 titles taking turns to get stuck in the listener’s head. Jonathan Wallace

November / December 2016


Winter gigs at the MAC

Little Green Cars (Acoustic Show) 8 December Think the MAC is just for theatre? Think again. The next few months are jam-packed with gigs from relaxed and soulful acoustic evenings, to contemporary and rhythmic violin sounds from Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire). For everything visit

£12 - £17

Ciaran Lavery with Strings 19 December

£12 - £17

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