Kiasmos are coming back to Ireland after their Electric Picnic gig this past weekend, courtesy of Hidden Agenda who present the Icelandic electronic duo of Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen’s live show at Vicar Street on Sunday 5th November.
Tickets on sale via Ticketmaster on Thursday 7th Sept at 9am.
Kiasmos have a new EP called ‘Blurred’ on the way on October 6th on Erased Tapes. Here’s the lead track.
Forbidden Fruit just revealed its first names for the festival in Royal Hospital Kilmainham on June Bank Holiday weekend June 3rd- 5th.
It includes: Tame Impala, Underworld, Jungle, Flume, Groove Armada [DJ Set], Tale Of Us, Kiasmos, Âme [Live], Maya Jane Coles, Jackmaster, Tiga [Live], Battles, Bondax, George FitzGerald, HNNY, DJ Deece
Weekend tickets are on sale from 9am Wednesday February 10th priced at €99.50+ fees through Ticketmaster and usual outlets.
There will be four stages on the grounds of IMMA for the festival’s sixth year (Original Stage, Undergrowth, Lighthouse, Someplace Else) and Pod, the organisers are promising bigger afterparties in the city as part of the festival under the Forbidden Fruit Night name.
Iceland has a special allure. The island is alone in the North Atlantic but upon touching down in the country, you get the sense it is unique in more ways than its geographical position. Sure you’ve heard about its most famous cultural exports: Sigur Ros, and Iceland’s most famous musician Björk. Not a day goes by without a mention or a spotting of the lady herself while in Reykjavík. Despite cancelling shows for the remainder of the year including Iceland Airwaves, Björk gave a press conference during the festival to call for action to stop the destruction of the Icelandic highlands (petition here).
Iceland is idiosyncratic. At just over 300,000 inhabitants, the music is topsy turvy in this part of the world with alternative/rap/rock and folk seemingly more dominant than mainstream pop.
The country teaches music throughout primary and secondary school, meaning there are lot of music-educated people in the country. All that musical knowledge is felt at Airwaves with what felt like 150 bands from the country playing the festival.
Adding to the mystique of the country and the festival, is the adventurous young landscape that gives us jutting volcanic rock, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, black ash beaches, mossy green ground and geothermal volcanic water that gives magical tourist attractions like the Blue Lagoon and a culture of naturally-heated public pools that the entire population use almost daily. Its wonder isn’t confined to the ground either, as the the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis were spotted in the sky on our last night. It all adds to the uniqueness of the Airwaves adventure.
Three things people enthusing about Iceland maybe didn’t tell you? Post-crash and on the way up, the country is an expensive place to stay once again. Secondly, the hot water smells like sulphur, that rotten egg smell which is a surprise jolt to receive in your first morning shower. Thirdly, the Icelandic love rap. Those hard Icelandic vowels lend themselves to it. Which leads us to…
The Daughters of Reykjavík
The Icelandic love rap. You couldn’t escape it at Airwaves. Like many other places reappropriating the American cultural force, much of it copies the source. The few rappers I saw were pretty standard.Yet overall, the Icelandic bands had an equal amount of women as men (the country has a history of a strong women’s equality movement) and it was like a refreshing glimpse into a hopeful future.
It was most evident when I encountered The Daughters of Reykjavik aka Reykjavíkurdætur (1).
Reykjavíkurdætur, who I saw three times at the festival, embody that feeling. They are all-female rap group formed from girls-only rap nights, who take to the stage with between 11 and 22 rappers depending on whether they’re all available (one gig saw a rapper do the first song then make excuses and leave for work). Their collective performance was the pinnacle of this idea. Here were a wild collective of Icelandic ladies with fierce attitudes, unapologetic demeanours, distinct personalities, styles and flows; united in sisterhood by rap.
They rap in Icelandic so the content of much of their lyrics are unknown though at Airwaves the songs were about social networks, slutshaming and a song in English, that you wish you were left guessing, about the joys of get a finger up the ass.
“Daughters of Reykjavík / On dark nights / We own this town / Listen to the lioness words,” they sing in Icelandic on the chorus of their eponymous manifesto song ‘Reykjavíkurdætur’. With the lyrics obfuscated by a language not understood, live, it’s the individual characters of the performers that draw you in.
With so many rappers, the quality can vary throughout the verses but the unique energy and spectacle was more than enough to keep us coming back over the course of the week. With so many members of varying commitments, each show was different. Reykjavíkurdætur may remain an Icelandic concern due to logistics and the cost of bringing so many people on tour but for those who witnessed them for the first time, they empowering to watch, female or male. There was talk of the Daughters Of Dublin being formed as a direct result of their shows.
My own experiences with Icelandic music other than Reykjavíkurdætur didn’t have a great hit rate. While I didn’t get to see Fufanu, Soley, Tonik Ensemble, Milkywhale, Mr. Silla and countless others on my list, I did enjoy a set from Samaris’ Jófríður (2) and her band who all drank tea and chilled us out off-venue at the Alda Hotel on Friday, as well as a small slice of the Austra-style electro-pop of East Of My Youth (3).
Much of the Airwaves action takes place in Harpa, Reykjavik’s recently-built architecturally-impressive luxurious concert hall on the docks, which is where I see an Icelandic band singing about a thing I travelled to see the day before – a waterfall. Iceland’s biggest new band, if the crowd in Harpa, is anything to go by, is Vök (4). It’s hard not to be impressed at first, the band’s glacial electronic moody pop takes advantage of Harpa’s great soundsystem and the band’s stylistic monochrome live-captured visuals is perfectly pitched to their mood. The xx-style ambiance is a natural fit to Iceland’s own vistas, but their icy electronics soon give way to a a lower quality that basically boils down to flimsier songs and too much wailing reverbed sax. When in doubt, do not just keep playing that saxophone.
Kiasmos (5), the electronic project of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, know the power of minimalism. Their cinematic electronic music has a neo-classical and contemporary sensibility that moves in small shades and gradual dynamics. Matched by sumptuous visuals that might be graded and mirrored Icelandic tourist videos, Kiasmos in Harpa is a high-definition event. The next morning at the geothermal public pool at Vesturbæjarlaug, Arnalds is seen relaxing in the naturally-heated hot tubs. That’s just how Icelanders roll and one of the nice things about Airwaves, fitting into the local’s leisure time.
Ever since I first saw Sophie (6), the male producer at SXSW in 2014, the hyperactive, pinging electronic pop music he’s been making has been crowded by peers in PC Music who aren’t as captivating or take the music too far into art project territory. People were unimpressed at the fake energy-drink branded QT show in Nasa where she pressed play on a CD/USB and stood there as if it was an art project like this. Thankfully, my check in with Sophie proves he’s a cut above the rest in the same venue later that night. That’s because Sophie’s music has its own sonic imprint even if it impressively sounds like a mashup between Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, Dutch hardstyle and the Chipmunks. It takes real skill to take disparate styles and make then your own. Sophie did that live. Plus, he played his brilliant Charli XCX collaboration, which points a way to establish this unique fizzy pop into the mainstream. Kudos also to Kane West (7) who did a great job later that night in Hurra of delivering his own take on percussive lo-fi weirdo dance pop music.
Earlier that night, it was electronic pop of a different persuasion, one informed by soul and R&B that impressed. My previous run in with the English singer Nao (8) at the Great Escape in Brighton earlier this year was let down by a crowded venue and poor sound, but this time around there were no problems. Nao killed her set in Nasa. Tight, bright and funky, songs like ‘Inhale /Exhale’ and ‘Zillionaire’ were responded to fervently by the engaged Nasa crowd in front and watching from the sides, so much so that there was a dance circle formed at the back of the room.
North American thrum
The North American contingent featured with some strong marquee names like John Grant, Father John Misty, Mercury Rev, Ariel Pink, Beach House and Battles among them yet some of them didn’t live up to that stature. The latter two headline shows caused the busiest night and the longest lines in Harpa. Mercury Rev has the loudest show imaginable, so loud, many hardened gig-goers were forced to the back or to leave the room. Ariel Pink remains a curio, unable to translate his quirkiness into something palatable live. Father John Misty has one of the albums of the year concerned with confronting his jaded romanticism but he looks like a jaded performer these days, bored with the characterisation he’s undertaken, not engaging with the audience other than to quip about preferring the mink whale meat back home or to record the perfect take of a song for a fan on their mobile. The set suffered from sound issues though so the scowls aimed at the scrambling backstage and a buzzing speaker in front of the audience and that didn’t help the performer and audience connect. Only, Grant’s show with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra was among the most coveted and special for many and softened the blow of no Bjork show. I was filled in another way at the same time, by one of the best meals I ever had in the Nordic restaurant Dill, which could show Irish chefs how to embrace our local produce with flair and imagination.
There was plenty of both at shows from Braids (9) and Hundred Waters (10) at Airwaves. The former Canadian band left the best impression of themselves as a great cross between indie electronics and jazz drumming. Drummer Austin Tufts is so impressive during Deep In The Iris’ standout ‘Blondie’ that not even his glasses falling from his face can distract his intense breaks. Hundred Waters meanwhile, as one of my favourite bands ever since a chance encounter at SXSW years ago, never fail to make me melt. Nicole Miglis’ voice makes me drippy, it has a special quality, as does their music. Live, the now-three piece have bridged a perfect gap between their debut’s pastoral electronics and the second’s moody ambience. Live, ‘Down From The Rafters’ transforms into a propulsive number using the Huxley remix as a guide. The New Jersey hardcore punk rappers Ho99o9 (11) are outliers of the American music here, though they fit in with a lot of the metal-leaning Icelandic bands. The band (it’s pronounced ‘Horror’) brought some serious mosh vibes in wedding dresses and face masks to NASA complete with backflips.
On the first night in Iceland, Feel Good Lost hosted an Irish welcome with Slow Skies, Talos and Daithí playing in the budget gastropub-housing KEX Hostel. As the night wore on, spirits continued to lift and Daithí (12), once again, as he did at Electric Picnic, put on a killer hour-long performance that got the natives throwing big shapes for a Monday night. It set the scene for the rest of the week, the streets of Laugavegur, the main street where many of the daytime off-venue gigs took place were filled with familiar Irish voices and faces.
The UK contingent was also strong at Airwaves. Later in the week, KEX hosted the Manchester post-punk funk musician LoneLady (13) whose taut danceable rhythms lingered long in the ear. Skepta and JME (14)shutdown the Reykjavík Art Museum with their chiptune-recalling London grime. Anna B Savage (15), fresh from supporting Beach House, delivered an intense solo set of brittle electric guitar confessionals that reminded more than a few people of PJ Harvey.
The final night takes place outside the city in a very large hall, the only one that can accommodate more than 2000 people in one go. That jump in size doesn’t benefit Sleaford Mods, whose music, guttural and compact doesn’t travel around the room but no such problems for the people-bolstered Hot Chip (16), festival closing vets at this point, with the best drummer around in Sarah Jones, who finish us for good and end a magical week with our Lumo #1closer, their spiffing cover of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in The Dark’ interpolated with LCD Soundystem’s ‘All My Friends’.
In between all of this music, Iceland seeped into my pores. Whether it was watching the awesome power of water at Gullfoss, driving through a country which had four seasons out each window, catching the Northern Lights overhead, losing hours browsing second hand vinyl at Lucky Records, having a great coffee at Reykjavik Roasters, dancing late into the night elbow to elbow in Kaffibarinn, or spending the most relaxing time of recent memory in the local pool at Vesturbæjarlaug, there was much to mark Airwaves out as a destination festival and Iceland as a haven in the North, to which I will readily return.
There was disappointment a few weeks ago when Bjork cancelled all her festival appearances including the November hometown shows at Iceland Airwaves.
Hot Chip were added last week to soften the blow and today, the festival have added 120 bands to the lineup including Kiasmos, Nao, Galway/London band The Drink, Chastity Belt, Formation, Lonelady, Anna B Savage and more. Wowair fly direct to Reykjavik from Dublin now. Ticket info is here. Full list below.
After their incendiary show at the Body & Soul Festival and the equally impressive show in the Opium Rooms earlier this year, Kiasmos, the pair of Iceland composer Olafur Arnalds and Finnish musician Janus Rasmusen, will be back for a show in District 8, Francis St., Dublin 2 on November 21st.
If you were to pick the single best festival in Ireland at the moment, it’s certain to be Body&Soul. As I said last year, it’s the most beautiful festival in Ireland. The weather always helps but also does putting it on during the summer solstice, the brightest weekend of the year.
It’s the attention to detail that makes it. A custom-built amphitheatre set stage is both wide yet intimate, the walled garden a calming presence with pockets of madness like The Glasshouse with its excellent cocktails and vibes (really enjoyed DJing there on Saturday night), the woods go from chillout to party and back again, all while housing art installations at every turn, things that you subconsciously seep in and leave you refreshed.
The crowd are enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable to the point where GOAT, a psychedelic band of atavistic-dressed musicians were touted as a main draw. So much of the festival worked, but the increased capacity to 10,000+ was certainly noticeable as the site felt busy at all times. A gripe on behalf of the artists, the performers campsite was practically at the main entrance through the main campsites with no water or security on the gates except for Friday evening. Not great security or convenient if you did have to leave your gear in a tent between performances.
My own highlights musically? A fan-favourites set from the returning Welsh heroes Super Furry Animals had room for tracks like ‘Receptacle for the Respectable’, ‘International Language of Screaming’, ‘Mountain People’, ‘Hometown Unicorn’ and of course, ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ complete with Yeti costumes and Cian Ciaran’s sprightly noodling.
Elsewhere, Kiasmos‘ set in Midnight Circus filled the tent with nuance, subtlety and enormity as Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen took their intricate classical-leaning electronic to large heights, David Kitt’s New Jacksongetting the big slot he deserved for his fine house music on Friday, Dan Deacon’s “wall of life” aka an entire field of people high-fiving each other, beautiful sets from Talos and Somerville at Wonderlust, an impressively commanding one from Hare Squead on the same stage, a hyperactive set from Lasertom at Homebeat’s Treehaus and Mother’s always essential party in the woods of Saturday night (ditto Hidden Agenda).
Body & Soul Festival does things differently. The festival on the grounds of Ballinlough Castle doesn’t just erect some tents and hire stages, it builds bespoke areas to house music and people, it embellishes them with installations, art and a thoughtfulness that makes for a special experience, taking in a walled garden, custom-built bars, an amphitheatre, woodlands and much more. You can read more on the festival’s ethos in my interview with festival director Avril Stanley.
There are a few must-visit areas at the festival, Wonderlust in the walled garden features thoughtful talks during the day, with music at night and bingo and performances in between. It’s a perfect place to hang out and with the Happy Pear just around the corner, a good place to stop for food. Tree Haus, curated by Homebeat will host a haven of great Irish music and on Saturday and Sunday in the woods. We are giving it some Vinyl Love from Noon to 5pm at Tree haus with over 20 DJs playing 7 of their favourite 7″s on rotation. Stumble upon a cottage late into the night done up like the living room of filmmaker Myles O’Reilly and you will have found the Arbutus Yarns theatre with its sense of lawlessness and creativity. Or how about some special cocktails and tunes at The Glasshouse? Vodafone Centre Stage will also be there for with a full array of comedians at the Vodafone Comedy Tent too.
Before we get into the live acts, here are just some of DJs worth a dance to down there this year: Get Down Edits, Sally Cinnamon, Decent Perks, This Greedy Pig, Mother, Hidden Agenda, Laura Bap To The Future, Stevie G and Donal Dineen.
Here are 20 bands and artists to catch at the festival.
Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds and Faroe Islands’ synth-pop musician Janus Rasmussen’s Kiasmos project mixes glacial electronics with a classical grandeur, creating minimal dance music from disparate textures. As they showed in the Opium Rooms in April, their live set hits hard with beats and beauty.
2. Super Furry Animals
There is no better place for the return of the Welsh pop weirdos than the amphitheatre at Body & Soul. Expect a smattering of Yeti and Power Ranger costuming among the catalogue of electronic, folk and psychedelic gems. If anything, their stature as one of the UK’s best bands has grown since they were away.
Katie Stelmanis and band create twinkling night-time dance atmospheres with synths and operatic vocals. Shake it out.
Eoin French sound draws on ambience, reverb, falsetto and honey-eyed song craft. Live with a full band or as a solo musician on piano, his performances were among the best I saw last year.
Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal’s project produced a sophisticated collection of music that is informed by things that maybe aren’t considered cool – disco-lite and soft jazz, lounge-fun. The result is emotional R&B songs with love at its heart. This will be their first Irish show.
6. Dan Deacon
There ain’t no show like a Dan Deacon show. Whether he’s picking out audience members for dance offs, forming a conga line around and outside the venue or generally shattering the barriers between performer and audience, Deacon’s live show is a must see. With new album Gliss Riffer presenting a deeper compositional side to the Baltimore music, his Body & Soul performance may be a re-invigorating highlight.
Galway’s Maria Somerville makes slow, moving music with the barest of instruments and the most delicate of touch. She hasn’t been giving much away of late so the festival will be an opportunity to see how that slow moving sound is progressing.
Cork funk and soul eight-piece band Shookrah burst into my conscious with the righteous and celebatory ‘Woman’.
9. Hare Squead
Friday / Saturday
A trio of rappers from South county Dublin still in their teens, Jessy Rose, Tony Konstone and E-Knock move between rap, R&B and pop and do it with a full band with backing singers and a barrel of youthful exuberance. A glimpse of the future.
10. Natalie Prass
Having sat in the wings as Matthew E.White’s career was taking off, this year was the time for Prass and her classic songwriting with the honeyed voice to take her own impact. White’s Spacebomb records released Prass’ self-titled debut album this year to great acclaim and Body & Soul will be her third appearance in Ireland after a support slot with Ryan Adams and a solo show in Whelan’s.
AH. Super Furry Animals couldn’t have picked a better place to come and play their first Irish show in years other than Body & Soul.
They’ve just been added to the lineup for the summer solstice weekend from June 19th to 21st in Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath along with:
Super Furry Animals, Tiga, Kiasmos (as revealed at their gig), SOAK , Kuenta i Tambu (KiT), Vin Gordon and the Real Rock Band, Clu, Cloud Castle Lake, Bleeding Heart Pigeons, Planet Parade and a new 2000-capacity venue featuring Northern Soul, reggae, ska fun kand more with The Mouse Outfit, Chai Wallah, Stuff and more to play.
SFA have just started back playing live again to promote their Welsh language reissue Mwng. Here they are from this week:
How to enter ticket comp – Email [email protected] with the gig above in the Subject line you’re entering for along with your full name and phone number in the body of the message. Full info on each show below. Draw closes at 6pm the day before the gig or Friday 1pm latest for weekend gigs.
Ruby Sessions @ Doyle’s (9pm, €6) [Acoustic club] 16 years running this week!
Ergodos presents Songs @ Little Big Museum (€10) [Musictown festival] vocalist Michelle O’Rourke, reed player Seán Mac Erlaine and cellist Kate Ellis, composers Garrett Sholdice and Benedict Schlepper-Connolly
Breaking Tunes Music Trail @ Various cafés, shops etc (12 to 6pm, Free) [Acoustic performances] Featuring Columbia Mills, Participant, Paddy Hanna, Moossmann, Me Auld Flower, Color//Sound, Maud in Cahoots, Dear Desert, Brian Casey, I’m Your Vinyl
Young Hearts Run Free: Dublin Hidden City @ city centre walk/venues (€14) [Walk] Walking, chatting and exploring memory and the city with; Karl Whitney, Eleanor Tiernan, Barry McCormack, and Clare Barrett, with more guests to be announced, and surprise venues.
What’s the Story Bud @ The Workman’s Club (€5) [Musictown/Lingo Festival] A night of spoken word and soul music based on The Barrytown Trilogy with Roddy Doyle, John Cummins, Jess Kav and The Brown Bread Players.
Kiasmos, Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen’ who made a fantastic album of neo-classical-inspired minimal electronics, a recent album of the week on this site are to playa Hidden Agenda Opium Rooms show on Saturday April 18th. Tickets are €10 from Ticketmaster, Resident Advisor and TicketABC and it’s a late show.
Canadian electro-wizard Doldrums is also touching down with HA, in Whelan’s this time for a gig on Thursday May 21st. New album The Air Conditioned Nightmare is out in April on Sub Pop. Tickets €12+ from ticketabc.com and ticketmaster.ie.
The first Nialler9 show of 2015 was broadcast last Thursday at 10pm on TXFM. The two hour show leaned forward and featured some of the best new music coming out in the first months of the new year: from All We Are to Emmy The Great; Laura Marling to Jape, Marina & The Diamonds to Lapsley, Dan Deacon to Panda Bear. HAve a listen below.
My favourite albums of the year features a sixth album career highlights from a psychedelic mathematician, a fourth album breakthrough for a rubbernecking sweat-drenched band, the return of Aphex Twin, a Wicklow man who seemed to take over the music world, two great Irish rap albums, an album about an imagined trip through China, two very different R&B debut albums, lounge-time electronica from Norway, Annie Clark’s continued ascension through ambition, a collaborative effort from Iceland and the Faroe Islands and a marquee buddy rap album that said more about the state of America than anything else this year and had a brash kick-ass time doing it.
There’s a Spotify playlist available for it all but click down to get some context for each album from 10 to 1. Top 100 songs of the year tomorrow.
“We know now that the contents of Syro is just some of the material recorded in the intervening years in one of James’ many studios. The oldest track stretch back six or seven years, using a massive 138 pieces of musical equipment (all listed in spiral on the artwork).
“What appears before it also echoes the heavier side of Druqks but repeated listens reveal new textures, new moods, new avenues explored by James. The trademark eeriness of melody and general cheeky humour is still evident throughout but the greatest part of a new Aphex Twin record is that is truly allows you to get lost in its puzzle, a completely different musical terrain even when there are expected imprints of ambient works, electro, acid, jungle and squiggly funk.
“The 10 minute experience of ‘XMAS_EVET10 [thanaton3 mix]’ feels different every time with environmental listening experiences changing the focus and feel (headphones, outdoors, late-night) as all the best electronic music can do. Syro still offers much to explore, many repeat listens in.
“And that is the key to why Aphex Twin is pored over so minutely, because he goes into such detail in his music. James’ intricate compositional skills remains his biggest asset. While his sounds have been copied over the years, his brain is still peerless.”
The American singer dials up the amps and keeps things intimate.
“When you have a voice so striking you could hang a hat on it, it’s probably a good idea to hang your songs on it too. Angel Olsen’s 2012 debut album Half Way Home introduced us to the Missouri singer’s deep country-folk vibrato that sometimes sounded like an entrant in a yodelling competition and musically, was set to throwback acoustic folk. She was an otherworldly attraction.
“The followup, Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar) still relies on Olsen’s distinctive tones to draw you in but the songs hold you closer and Olsen reveals more of herself in the process, while expanding the arrangements to include a rock band at full tilt, devastating acoustic songs and poignant country-folk.
“If Olsen sounded distant and unearthly before, on Burn Your Fire For No Witness, she is emotionally baring, whispering uncomfortably close in your ear or sometimes dancing around you, a real person, hanging her songs and her voice on relatable and knowable experiences.”
A brilliant grimey hip-hop collaborative album via Clare, Zimbabwe and Limerick..
“As they describe it, ‘a Zimbabwean Christian and an Irish pagan sit down with a pot of tea’ with the expressed interest of changing the game.
“What God Knows, the founding member of the Random Acts Of Kindness collective and Ennis-born mynameisjOhn came up with (along with MuRli) is a game-changer in the way it drags Irish hip-hop into a fully-formed album/mixtape format with a confidence and skill that is unfamiliar in this country’s rap output.
“MC God Knows is a fervent presence, an MC with command, as heard on the soulful clip of ‘Standard’, an easy album highlight. MynameisjOhn provides the horn-soul hip-hop backing but doesn’t rest there, the beats bang, the strings stab and God Knows goes double time to the beat slowing to let the soul sample breathe.
“The versatility extends to MynameisjOhn too. ‘Throw The Spear’ reminds me of an MF Doom production – Dangerdoom era, meets Machinedrum. ‘Habbahuk’ is more plaintive, ‘Twentyfourseven’ is psychedelic funk and there are hints of a knowledge of electronic subgenres, even African dance on ‘African Shirts’.
“Aspects of being an African boy growing up in Ireland seeps through the lyrics in details about being black in an Irish school. He’s Joined by MuRli and Guide on ‘Words Of Our Fathers’, a track which, in the short history of Irish-African rap would have never been made twenty years ago, and serves as an aural document of one small thing that multi-cultural Ireland has given us.”
Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds and Faroe Islands’ synth-pop musician Janus Rasmussen’s first album together collides two worlds of sounds to engaging effect.
” Arnalds and Rasmussen explore what happens when contemporary composition that uses stringed instruments, has a classical knowledge and is often written with scores in mind intersects with the sensibilities and practices of synthesizer-driven music structures.
“The pair spent much of the year in Reykjavík working together on this album. The result is a grandiose vocal-less dance album that effectively uses the tactile textures of the former in the arena of the latter.
“Across seven, often long tracks (the average length of about 6 and a half minutes), the opposing worlds of electronic and classical mesh well together and Kiasmos moves in a place that is neither contemporary or classical, house or techno, but that crosses both with a new identity.”
An alluring minimal indie R&B album from the Oxford musicians.
“ZABA, the band’s debut album pushes their atmospheric agenda into a cohesive release. Their M.O. is slinky minimal pop, not a million miles from Alt-J, but more exotic and worldly than their counterparts. But they do share a common parlance in how they translate their traditional band setup into an otherworldly place.
“Executive production by Paul Epworth with Bayley producing ensures that level of aural consistency, meaning ZABA which is likened to ‘a backdrop of man-made wilderness,’ according to the band directly, is awash with ambient and alluring songcraft.”
Dark disco and electronic pop on album #2 from the Long Island band.
“The eight tracks on the self-titled second album are definitely night-time grooves, which occupy the same mood without jumping around from genre to genre, and as an album it works wonderfully, because Mr Twin Sister have an attention to the small details that stands to them when they delve deep into genres like disco and funk.
“Andrea Estella’s lyrics suit the vibe, their disco-noir sound is escapism and she often seeks to escape. ‘In The House Of Yes’ she locks herself in her room, drinks to a stupor and dances on her own own til her head is on the ground. ‘Rude Boy’ finds her rejecting the advances of an opposite (“I have all the drinks i can handle”), content to exist in the space. “Is there a real me? Or am I just a series of nights,” she sings on ‘Blush’. The thrilling ‘Out Of The Dark’ has her questioning identity too – “I am a woman / But inside I’m a man / And I want to be as gay as I can.” The Johnny Jewel-esque ’12 Angels’ has someone singing about being in drag to reinforce the theme.
“Despite the album being united in tone, there’s a sense that Mr Twin Sister aren’t settled. It’s in the artwork which is deliberately unfinished and packaged, it’s in the 37-minute running time and it’s in the new name. The altered band have reset and are heading in their own independent direction and making great music as part of the process.”
“Twigs has showed herself in public through artwork and videos which have hyper-realised versions of herself (large eyes, elongated neck, disfigured faces), that she is interested in examining and distorting her identity, including the very name she’s persisted with – Formerly known as.” On LP1, she shares seemingly true intimate versions of herself.
“There is no worry that the separation of the music from the visuals FKA twigs has become synonymous with has lessened the impact of LP1 or that twigs has nothing to say. A longer sustained running time means rather than snatches of character-forming opinion, we get a confidential look at the artist herself talking sex, self-image, desire, loneliness, intimacy, and state of mind, subjects normally guarded from others more vehemently, particularly for new artists.
“The combination of twigs’ alien otherworldliness, her ambient often anguished electronic R&B style and her intimate and lustful portrait of herself, directly or reflected in others, makes for an iconic release and helps form a person who feels human and real. By the end of the album’s 10 tracks, twigs decides that she knows herself best, after all.”
The Baltimore band’s fourth record of melodramatic synth-pop hit a bigger audience.
“These are songs that have the chest-thumping melodramatic new wave pop at the heart of what they do while refining the songwriting and production by Chris Coady make for an overall better album.
“There’s a straight up heart-on-sleeve anthemic lean to all of the songs. Each of them stand on their own, hence the title, whether it’s the yearning synth-pop of ‘Spirit’, the hook-laden chorus of ‘Sun In The Morning’, the bass-funk of ‘Doves’ , the slow epic atmosphere of ‘A Song For Our Grandfathers’ or the brilliant album closer ‘A Dream Within A Dream’.
“There’s quite enough eccentricity in Herring’s vocal delivery whether he’s whispering, skulking, brooding, wailing, growling, crooning or delivering a monologue like David Bowie in Labyrinth on ‘Fall From Grace’. His range is beautifully dramatic and spirited and the music doubles down on providing an effective poignant foil for that – focusing on chugging bass, propulsive rhythms and colourful synths. It’s a perfect distillation of Future Islands which just happens to leave a more accessible, hook-laden welcoming impression than before. The band are all on the same powerful page rather than just being “that band with the eccentric lead singer.”
And let’s face it – as Letterman proved, and as this album substantiates, Herring, Gerrit Welmers and William Cashion have a lot more highly-strung emotion and joyful connections to make with audiences.”
“What a pleasure it is to arrive at the sixth album from an artist to find them at the peak of their music-making abilities. Press play on Our Love and that sentiment is obvious.
“Snaith’s psychedelic imprint and swells of emotion covers everything, through his falsetto and his preference for nostalgic-faced melodies. His lyrics add to the tenderness, chiefly concerned with a slipping, fading love, yet he offers us, and himself, solace in every other way.
“On Our Love, Snaith is now fully immersed in the world of the nightclub but he wears his heart on his turntable. That doesn’t mean that there’s an dumbing down or mindlessness. There is a simplicity to a lot of the tracks that, only comes from putting in the long hours. Snaith’s love of his craft continues to shine. If anything, he’s has just better at making things sound larger with less.”
Best buddies El-P and Killer Mike made the year’s best rap record.
“The sequel to one of the best rap mixtapes in recent times does what many sequels do not. It improves the dynamic between the cast, it delivers smarter, more quotable lines, it takes aim at larger targets and it adds a whole lot of bang.
“Run The Jewels 2 is what happens when a producer-rapper/rapper hit a career high at the same damn time. Because this is El and Mike’s album, they own it. Because even though there are vocal guests: RATM’s Zack De La Rocha, singer/producer Boots and Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Boo, they serve the version of a banging lean record, rather than overcrowd it.
“RTJ2 is two buddies, operating at their creative peak. It’s more than another chapter, more than a sequel. It’s a sinewy distillation of more than a friendship, it’s a fruitful creative partnership that sounds like it’s been reinforced by steel foundations such is the wicked bulging energy contained within the album’s 40 minutes.”
The Nialler9 TXFM show airs every Thursday night at 10pm for two hours. You can listen live on 105.2FM, online, the TXFM app or if you missed it, on the listen back function on the site, as per below. The show starts six minutes in,right after the news in each hour. Click the buttons to launch the TXFM site autoplaying links.
Tune back in Christmas Day and New Year’s Day at 10pm for my songs of the year specials.