The 10 nominees for this year’s RTÉ Choice Music Prize album of the year will perform at this year ceremony which takes place at Vicar Street on Thursday March 8th.

Nominees and performers include:
  • Come On Live Long
  • Marlene Enright
  • Fangclub
  • Lankum
  • James Vincent McMorrow
  • New Jackson
  • Otherkin
  • Fionn Regan
  • Ships
  • Talos

Tickets for the Choice Music Prize live event on March 8th in Vicar Street are available from Ticketmaster and priced €28 plus fees.

Posted on February 7th, 2018

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Castlepalooza has announced its first lineup for the August Bank Holiday this year and Charleville Castle will feature !!! (Chk Chk Chk) – a particularly good booking and the only Irish festival date for All Tvvins this year.

  • All Tvvins
  • !!! Chk Chk Chk
  • Detroit Swindle
  • Ships
  • New Jackson
  • Space Dimension Controller
  • Super Extra Bonus Party
  • Boots & Kats
  • I Draw Slow
  • Seamus Fogarty
  • Mix & Fairbanks
  • Fontaines DC

LAUGHTER LAB

  • Rubberbandits
  • Karl Spain
  • Eric Lalor
  • Colin Murphy
  • Gearoid Farrelly

Weekend tickets are available from €109 with no camping or €139 with camping.

Posted on January 29th, 2018

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The RTÉ Choice Music Prize have announced the 10 albums shortlisted for Irish album of the year today as revealed on Tracy Clifford’s 2FM show by Choice chairman Tony Clayton-Lea.

The winning album will be revealed at Vicar Street on March 8th after a judging panel deliberation.

The 10 albums shortlisted by the judges for Irish album of the year are:

Shortlisted albums

Come On Live Long – In The Still (self released)
Marlene Enright – Placemats and Second Cuts (self released)
Fangclub – Fangclub (Universal)
Lankum – Beneath the Earth and the Sky (Rough Trade)
James Vincent McMorrow – True Care (Faction Records)
New Jackson – From Night to Night (All City)
Otherkin – OK (Rubyworks)
Fionn Regan – The Meetings of the Waters (Abbey Records)
Ships – Precession (Ships Music)
Talos – Wild Alee (Feel Good Lost)

A Spotify playlist of nominated album highlights

Reaction?

A very strong list this year. Great to see Ships, Talos, Come On Live Long, Marlene Enright and New Jackson in there – many of which were featured in my Irish albums of the year. We live in a deluge of new music so for those albums to get even to judge’s ears now is no mean feat, not least make an impression. Independently-released albums have to swim upstream and rely on sites like this, word-of-mouth and hard graft to make a lasting impression beyond the week of release in the first place.

Missing from the list? Northern Irish acts didn’t get a look in once again. The NI Album of the Year from Joshua Burnside doesn’t feature, nor does the brilliant debut album from Bicep or And So I Watch You From Afar most notably. It seems the NI / ROI divide remains even if it has certainly improved in recent years.

2017 wasn’t a year that many Irish major label acts released an album save for U2, Van Morrison, Niall Horan, The Coronas and The Script. The Script was pretty much panned across the board and U2’s Songs Of Experience received mixed reviews. It’s December release date may not have helped.

One notable act whose huge success didn’t translate to a Choice Music Prize nomination? Picture This. They may be able to sell out big venues all over the country but this award is for album alone and the critics didn’t pluck for the Kildare boys.

No room for trad acts like Cormac Begley or Martin Hayes and Damien Dempsey fell short of the judges.

About the Choice Music Prize

The winning act will receive €10,000, a prize fund which has been provided by The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) and The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA). All of the shortlisted acts will receive a specially commissioned award. RAAP, Culture Ireland & Golden Discs are also official project partners.

RTÉ Choice Music Prize – Irish Song of The Year 2017

The shortlist for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize – Irish Song of The Year 2017 will be announced on Wednesday 31st January 2018. A special event featuring exclusive performances from both Album of the Year and Song of the Year nominees will be held in Dublin’s Tramline venue that evening.

Choice Live Event – tickets

Tickets for the Choice Music Prize live event on March 8th in Vicar Street are available from Ticketmaster and priced €28 plus fees.

RTÉ 2FM Radio support

RTÉ 2FM will celebrate the announcement of the shortlist across its schedule throughout the day with All Irish Music All Day from 6am to midnight. Louise McSharry will present a two-hour special programme on this year’s RTÉ Choice Music Prize, Irish Album of the Year 2017 shortlist from 8-10pm this evening. RTÉ 2FM will continue to mark the announcement of the shortlist this week and beyond through a mix of airplay of tracks from the shortlisted albums, interviews with this year’s shortlisted artists and live performances.

Live event broadcast on RTE radio and TV

As part of the partnership with RTÉ, the event will be broadcast live on RTÉ 2FM in a special four-hour extended programme from 7-11pm and on RTÉ2 as part of a special RTÉ Choice Music Prize TV programme, approximately one week later.

Judging Panel

Kate Brennan Harding – Today FM
Martin Byrne – Music Consultant
Stephen Byrne – Golden Plec
Tracy Clifford – 2fm
Alan Donovan – Red FM
Dave Hanratty – Freelance journalist & broadcaster with NO ENCORE podcast
Hugh Linehan – Irish Times Culture/Arts/Ticket Editor
Ann Marie Shields – BIMM
Lilian Smith – RTE Radio 1
Danny Wilson – Totally Dublin

Previous winners of the Choice Music Prize

2016: Rusangano Family
2015: Soak
2014: The Gloaming
2013: Villagers
2012: Jape
2011: Delorentos
2010: Two Door Cinema Club
2009: Adrian Crowley
2008: Jape
2007: Super Extra Bonus Party
2006: The Divine Comedy
2005: Julie Feeney

Posted on January 10th, 2018

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2017 Best of | Best songs | Best albums | Irish albums | Irish songs | Club tracks | Guest selections


Here are my 25 favourite Irish albums from 2017 whittled down from a shortlist of 40 or so. Number 1 was a surefire since I heard it earlier this year but there were a few late addition entries released in the last few months that made it near the top.


Tower Records

25.

Otherkin – OK

It’s increasingly hard to stand out in rock music in 2017 beyond genre die-hards and Otherkin are the pick of the Irish bunch when it comes to old-fashioned guitar music (though Fangclub and Gypsies On The Autobahn came close). There’s not much radical at play here – these are catchy very well-produced rock’n’roll songs you’d imagine could soundtrack an ad with ease.


24.

Fionn Regan

Five years since his last full-length and it sounds like time away has left Fionn Regan with a renewed sense of purpose. The Meetings Of The Waters feels like a stepping stone to a new path for Regan. Ditching the Dylan-influence completely, the album largely features meditative spacious folk music that sustains quietly like smouldering embers and a centrepiece of three tracks with more layered rock music-style songs.


23.

Having moved from pensive singer-songwriter to elegiac composer/songwriter a few albums ago, the Galway artist Crowley has transitioned once again, with the help of The Gloaming’s Thomas Bartlett who produced Dark Eyed Messenger. Barlett counselled Crowley to make the album without his trusted guitar. He obliged and the results sound utterly beguiling.


22.

The Gloaming fiddle player’s latest project saw him convene in an 18th century house in Bantry with frequent collaborator Dennis Cahill (guitars) and New Yorkers Doug Wieselman (bass clarinet, Anthony & The Johnsons and Laurie Anderson) and Liz Knowles (hardanger d’amore), with a fire going at both sides of The Blue Room (the album is called after it) and the quartet’s recording process involved playing each traditional piece repeatedly and allowing something different to emerge in the process. Another worthy inclusion from a master.


21.

Keith Mannion’s SPLH project has morphed from bedroom electronic solo endeavour to a full live band in recent years and this year’s album When I See You…Ice Cream! on Strange Brew Rekkids is an affirmation of his new inclusive ethos. It may have still been recorded in his Donegal bedroom but appearances from Whipping Boy’s Fearghal McKee, Gaze Is Ghost offers contrast to Mannion’s own wobblyevoice on a playful and lo-fi-leaning album.


20.

Dublin experimental veterans’ sixth studio long-player takes them deeper,darker and longer. Written in 2015 as a single longform piece for a once-off performance in Dublin’s now-defunct Joinery venue, Tough Love is a diptych of 20 plus minute tracks of dense krautrock dystopian synth-dirge dramatics.


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Posted on December 12th, 2017

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Ships‘ album Precession is one of the finest records of the year song-wise along with the most sonically detailed. It’s been on constant play since it came out earlier in the year and Sorca McGrath and Simon Cullen’s gigs have been regular features since.

For the Simon-featuring vocal cut ‘I Can Never’, the Dublin band teamed up with Irish illustrator Matt Griffin for a psychedelic retrostellar animated video.

Posted on September 28th, 2017

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Here we go.

Two of my favourite Irish acts combine on this remix of Ships‘ ‘None Of It Real’, the most recent version of which featured on the Nialler9 highly-recommended debut album Precession.

Kildare duo Mix & Fairbanks have been knocking it out of the park of late on the remix front and last week Skream played their Orange Tree Edits release at Creamfields so the music is getting out there.

For this remix, M&F have added space and length to the original creating a space-disco odyssey with an acid dancefloor shade.

Catch both acts at Electric Picnic this weekend. Ships play Body & Soul main stage on Sunday (11pm) and Mix & Fairbanks play Casa Bacardi on Friday (4pm). EP Stage times.

Posted on August 29th, 2017

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RHA’s Hennessy Lost Fridays returns next Friday July 7th after its March edition sold out and they’re promising another night of “colour, creativity and cocktails.”

Lost Friday’s July edition will feature cutting edge and dynamic artists, musicians, and creatives including the creators of my Irish album of the year the disco-synth duo Ships, the upcoming experimental electronic artist Wastefellow and the Cork DJ Niamh Ní Shúilleabháin aka DJ Hula Hoops.

On the non-music front, also on offer is:

  • A walking tour of this summer’s RHA Annual Exhibition with Director Patrick T. Murphy.
  • Free, body or face art done by the Dublin Body Painting Jam.
  • Watch as an artist creates a 3D artwork using Google’s Tilt Brush and have the chance to step in and create your very own piece of art.
  • Artist Colm Mac Athlaoich will be doing free caricatures for people to take home and on the hour every hour he will be giving 15 minute mini-classes on how to draw caricatures

Throughout the night Hennessy’s expert mixologists will create bespoke Hennessy cocktails, as well as hosting cocktail masterclasses. Cocktails include Hennessy & Ginger and Hennessy Sidecar. Grub will be served up on our summer-eve patio.

Tickets €20 + booking fee (include two complimentary Hennessy cocktails)

Posted on June 29th, 2017

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We’ve got the Body & Soul Festival stage times, the playlist and how here are the recommendation for 12 acts to see in Ballinlough this year featuring 9 acts & 3 DJs you must see.

Friday

1.

Anna Meredith

Friday, Main Stage, 10pm

I have zero idea what the live show from Scottish composer Anna Meredith will be like as she’s made music that had an epic brass quality and experimental post-rock-style music but if either of those show up as the sun sets on Ballinlough, particularly the bombastic ‘Nautilus’ then I’d be happy.


2.

Le Boom

Friday, Woodlands, 3am

A late-night show from one of the best new bands in Ireland? Nice. Christy Leech & Aimie Mallon are a party band who make music that moves between house, pop and electro. They are one of the hottest tickets on Irish festivals this summer so stay up late for this one.


3.

The Bug ft. Miss Red

Friday, Midnight Circus, 21:30

If it’s heavy bass and atmosphere with a gritty rhythmic shake informed by down and dirty Drum ‘n’ bass, ragga, grime, ambient and dub, then a live show from the Bug is a must.


DJs

Optimo

Friday, Midnight Circus, Midnight

JD TWitch and JG Wilkes would be an inspiration to myself and the Lumo Club crew, and no doubt countless others, because they are great DJs, they have eclectic taste, they aren’t afraid to throw a curveball in the mix , run a great label, have made great remixes and and they created the best Sunday club ever at Sub Club in Glasgow bar none. They curate and play the Midnight Circus on Friday.


Saturday

4.

Bonobo

Saturday 11:15pm, Main stage

Simon Greene’s most recent Bonobo album traded off his reputation as a creator of intricate electronica to add some toughness and dynamic dancefloor production to his music, making Migration his best work yet. Live, he’s already known for large band recreations of that music so this should be a treat.



5.

ELLLL (Live)

Saturday, Reckless In Love, 1am

Corkwoman Ellen King’s electronic is fairly uncompromising sonically, eschewing clean lines and grids for grit and lo-fi noise. Beneath it all, is a throbbing techno style. As seen in the recent Women In electronica documentary, King is also founder of the Gash Collective, who are also playing throughout the weekend.


6.

BARQ

Saturday, 1am Bulmers Lounge, Sunday Woodland stage 11:15pm

BARQ are seasoned musicians having played with Hozier, Kodaline, Monster Monster, Damien Dempsey, Loah, Lethal Dialect, Ryan Sheridan and Zaska in the past and are establishing their own rap-tinged soulful R&B jazz sound under a genre they’ve coined as “agrosoul.”


DJ

Sally Cinnamon

Saturday, Wonderlust, 11.15pm

Saturday is a great day for Irish DJs. While it would be remiss of me as one-third of Lumo CLub not to mention that we are playing twice on Saturday at Reckless in love from 4pm – 6pm and Absolut Bar late at 2am til close. So before you come over the latter, you can find my Loose Joints co-host Sally Cinnamon playing at the Wonderlust stage where I know there’s going to be be tunes I can recommend. Sally introduced me (and many others) to this track and it often gets a play in her sets.


Sunday

7.

Hundred Waters

Sunday, Main Stage, 9pm

Lisa lowres

One of my favourite live bands. The Florida band Hundred Waters‘ music features skittering electronic leaps, abstract folk textures and the undeniably beautiful voice of Nicole Miglis.


8.

Kelsey Lu

Sunday, Main Stage, 15:30 / Woodlands, 22:30

Kelsey Lu is a North Carolinian cellist and singer/songwriter who makes orchestrally-arranged ambient folk music and has an EP out on True Panther. She has earned comparisons to Alice Coltrane and Bat For Lashes, Lu’s music leans into the avant-garde spectrum yet she has collaborated with artists in the field of pop and R&B like Blood Orange, Kelela and Wet.


9.

Ships

Sunday, Woodlands 1am

They are the creators of an album that is one of my favourites of the year, an ’80s-inspired collection of strutting synth disco with heart. Simon Cullen and Sorca MCGrath will work better than most at 1am at a festival. The place to be.



DJs

Mix & Fairbanks

Sunday, Absolut Bar, 3pm


DJ Arveene has curated a whole weekend of DJs with an emphasis on the Irish selectors and the lineup is strong across the weekend with the likes of Ciara Brady, Kelly-Anne Byrne, Billy Scurry, Jimmy Rouge, Eddie Kay, Stevie G, Cyril Briscoe, DJ Deece and Aoife Nic Canna among them. Kildare up and comers Gary O’Reilly and Rob Smyth aka Mix & Fairbanks have recently got into original tracks to whopping effect, but it’s the skills as DJs playing disco and house edits and classics that started them on their path. Just listen to the Linndrum (80s drum machine) inspired mix they made for me last year.


Bonus

Sing Along Social

Sunday, Woodlands Stage. 6:45pm

Ok so slightly cheating here, but my wife Aoife runs Sing Along Social and last year’s Body&Soul was the first time her zero commitment choir debuted at a festival and it went off as you can see below. Basically, Sing Along Social is a zero-commitment choir, a group karaoke session, a party with lyrics and backing tracks. This year’s theme is Pop Battle so think Drake vs. Rihanna, Justin vs Britney, Abba vs. Fleetwood Mac and more, including props and inflatable. It’ll be gas. There’s a kids version on the Saturday too.

Posted on June 22nd, 2017

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Latitude Festival has grown to become one of the biggest in the UK with 15 stages and 750 acts on the schedule for the festival from 13th – 16th July in Henham Park, Suffolk.

The final acts were just added to the list including the BBC Music Introducing Stage and notable acts include Pumarosa, Skott and Beth Orton.

The Solas stage will host some familar Irish names to visitors of this site including Talos, TooFools, Rosie Carney, Ships, Le Boom, Ailbhe Reddy, Seamus Fogarty, David Keenan and Brian Deady.

Also playing that area are Dutch indie-pop Klangstof, the intense 4AD performer Aldous Harding, Swedish rising duo Geowulf, Danish band Lowly and singer-osngwriter John Smith.

Posted on June 19th, 2017

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Sorca McGrath and Simon Cullen have been making music as Ships for the last five years. As both a creative duo and real-life partners, they have imbued their synth-disco music with genuine exploration of human feeling. The ‘Ships’ in the title also represents some suffixes using the title – ‘relationships’, ‘friendships’, ‘scholarships’. There’s connection at the heart of their creativity.

Prior to 2017, they’ve released songs that have ably glued an emotional heft to their dynamically constructed synth-pop on songs ‘Places’, ‘You’re Gonna Feel It’, ‘Space Inside’.

With Precession, Ships have taken all that guardianship, heart and knowledge and have made one of my favourite albums of the year. Songs for the mind and body. The album is one of the most beautiful and dynamic sounding records you’ll hear this year. Its production is detailed with lots of little sonic treats that easy to pick up on but hard to create.

Ships’ established sound that engulfs synth-pop, disco, cosmic disco and vintage electronica is in its DNA. There’s groove, space, funk and glittering disco balls in its fabric. Whether its the gleaming disco-funk of ‘All Will Be’, the deep peaks of ‘Around This World’ , the booming electro of ‘None Of It Real’ or the hazed ’80s billowing ‘Another Way’, these songs demand rotational spins. Friends Rian Trench (Solar Bears), Ross Turner (I Am The Cosmos) and John Cowhie (Goodtime) help out.

Key to their success are the vocals by McGrath and Cullen, which gild these songs deeper in stature. Cullen glides across the psychedelic space-rock of Tame Impala-esque ‘I Can Never’ and McGrath’s brings a connective touch to the album synth-disco highlight ‘Where We Are’.

Precession is bound to be one of my records of the year. Support the artists.


They’re selling a handmade gatefold vinyl worth your money.

Posted on April 28th, 2017

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Body&Soul has added more acts to the festival in Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath from June 23 – 25th.

Additions include:

RÜFÜS – Australian dance outfit
Kelsey Lu – Brilliant cellist
Brooke Bentham – Newcastle indie-rock
Lyra – Cork electro-pop
Ships – Dublin synth-pop duo
I Have A Tribe – piano-folk pop

Pagoda Stage:

Ryan Vail – electronic contemporary composer
Auxiliary Phoenix Trio – Jazz and hip hop fusion
Dowth – synth drones and samples
PrYmary Colours – electronic pop
Wastefellow – electronic experimentalism

Reckless in Love:

On Friday – irregular ‘pop-up party’ Alice will feature Byron Yeates and his rotation of residents, oscillating between hardware-heavy analog sets, dreamy house tracks, balearic beat downs and experimental electronics from Automatic Tasty, Breen, Cáit and Eoin Ryan.

Saturday – festival favourites Homebeat curate a night of choice selectors and contemporary beat-makers from across the country. Kicking off with left-field gems from the Homebeat DJs there’ll be sets from Lumo Club, DIP DJs, Major Problems DJs, Neil Flynn (Lossless), Bantum, ELLL and John Daly.

Sunday – Berlin-based label maeve will unleash a surprise line-up that is primed to bring the festival to a spectacular close.

The 2017 Art Trail

Dublin-based collective Algorithm have created an otherworldly portal in the form of their Space Mandala; a vortex that undulates with colour and wills the viewer to relinquish their sense of self and dive headfirst into a shifting and uncertain future. Fusing architecture, engineering and art, Rae Moore has created the Funicular Folly, an explorable terrain that uses light brickwork to create an alternative tent structure that’s begging to be climbed. As festival-goers make their way around the grounds they’ll be greeted by surprising, twinkling, provocative and inspiring pieces from artists such as Felix Power, Jane Groves, Jason Kearney and our resident land artist Christy Collard to name but a few.

Line up: Metronomy / Vitalic / Lambchop / Sleaford Mods / Mykki Blanco / Austra / Optimo20 / La Femme / Sinkane / Birdy Nam Nam / RÜFÜS / Hundred Waters / The Moonlandingz / Songhoy Blues / Tiggs Da Author / Anna Meredith / Formation / A Tribe Called Red / Kelsey Lu / Idiotape / Mammút / King Kong Company / Parcels / Brooke Bentham / Mario Batkovic / Elaine Mai / DBFC / Ailbhe Reddy / TooFools / Weval / Avalon Emerson / Mr TC / Æ Mak / The Bug ft. Miss Red / Loah / Kelly-Anne Byrne / Shookrah / Sing Along Social / Ships / Ollie Bell / Le Boom / Lyra / Jinx Lennon / Barq / Katie Laffan / Joni / I Have a Tribe / John Conneely Inc.


Posted on April 20th, 2017

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One of my favourite Irish bands of the last five years, the disco synth-pop band Ships, Simon Cullen (Music For 18 Machines, Lasertom) and Sorcha McGrath (Wounded Healer) have been carefully toiling away on their debut album for a number of years and now it’s all ready to drop on May 1st.

I’ve heard it. It’s so good. Precession will be up there with one of my favourite albums of the year.

‘All Will Be’ is one of the upbeat highlights from the album (the second teaser after ‘Around This World’), a synth-pop banger with McGrath’s earworm vocals and Cullen’s production lifting it to the next level. I’ve been listening to this non-stop for the last couple of weeks. So good.

Precession, as a title is “reflective of the subtle shifts over a long arc of time and the album represents an extract of our own experiences within that. Along the way, songs have come and gone, some have come back again and we’ve landed on a collection that we feel represents where we are as musicians and as humans in the world as it is now.”

Ships – Precession Tracklist

1. Golden Rule
2. Around This World
3. I Can Never
4. None of it Real (Featuring Ross Turner on drums)
5. All Will Be
6. Another Way (Featuring John Cowhie)
7. Where We Are (Featuring a solo from Rian Trench)
8. Round and Round
9. Nothing But

The vinyl is available to preorder from Bandcamp.

The album will be available from all the usual digital download and streaming services from May 1st.

Posted on March 23rd, 2017

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Do you like synths?

Music for 18 Machines is a reimagining of Steve Reich’s minimal 1976 piece Music for 18 Musicians on its 40th anniversary and is a co-present between Note Productions and Synth Eastwood and was conceived by Simon Cullen (Synth Eastwood, Lasertom, Ships) and he will be joined on stage in the performance by Neil O’ Connor (Somadrone).

The pair will utilise 18 synthesizers on stage.

M18M rehearsal

Again, do you like synths?

Reich’s work is a blueprint of the minimalist movement – an exploration of pattern and process which morphs into a psychoacoustic experiment that posits the question ‘what happens when a group of musicians are asked to perform like machines?’

Music for 18 Machines reverses this process somewhat and seeks to coax an expressive and emotive performance from 18 electronic instruments triggered by a single sequencer.

The show will also feature artist Anthony Murphy (Shadowlab) who has created a new illustrative interpretation of the processes and patterns embedded in the work.

The date for diaries is the 15th of September 2016 at the Button Factory in Temple Bar. Tickets are €15+fees from UTicket.

Facebook event

Posted on July 13th, 2016

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Dublin duo Ships, Sorca McGrath and Simon Cullen have been working on their debut album in their home studio Kimmage with their two cats Jackson and Frankie for the last year. With the album nearly completed, Ships not wanting to merely release digitally are aiming to put some thought and care into a physical gatefold vinyl package for the album with designer Dave Darcy.

The band are releasing the album themselves. They are looking for €6000 to cover pressing (€2k), gatefold sleeve (€500), artwork, design, printing (€1500); mastering (€1k) and video (€1k). Check out the rewards and page for Fundit and send them some money.

Donate on Fundit.

Posted on July 5th, 2016

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