I’m not a musician and I’ve never claimed to be. And so naturally, I’m often asked why I write a MUSIC blog. I can’t sing (although try telling me that after a few drinks) nor can I play an instrument, yet. I have recently acquired an electric guitar but that’s a story for another day/blog. So what gives me the right to judge the merit of anyone’s musical offering?
The short answer is of course nothing. I can’t tell if a guitar player is employing a certain technique of if a peculiar sequence of notes has any particular value. I can of course Google this if I want to appear “all-knowing” but really what is the point?
It seems that blogs, more-so those pertaining to the arts, fall under a certain pressure to be critical. Of course we all have the right (and responsibility) to express criticism. Without truly questioning something how can we garner an understanding? But there is a blurred line between opinion and criticism. And whilst the power we wield as self-appointed judges can be addictive if not intoxicating, it is of no use to either artist or reader.
But this is not to say that my music blog is of no use. There is a reason why I put fingers to keys and churn out “reviews”. The only musical asset I truly possess is my taste. That might sound a little pompous, but I do this because I love music. And the reality is that there is no real output for the wealth of musical talent in this country. When I make such a statement I am of course am talking about Ireland. A country with such a strong artistic and cultural history despite such minuscule investment and infrastructure. Whilst there are some good radio shows, publications and of course blogs who strive to put good music in the public domain, mainstream media continues to turn a blind eye to home-grown talent.
Of course my blog can’t change this current state of affairs. But to employ a cheesy and overused cliché, I hope my contribution will act as another “brick in the wall” which puts good music to the forefront (Please excuse that Floydian slip).
Let me introduce you to my latest obsession. Asgeir, or Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, is an Icelandic singer songwriter who has been on a sort of meteoric rise (never really knew what that last expression means) since his emergence back in 2012. Having been forged in the land of Ice and Fire, Asgeir has had somewhat of a head start coming from a family rooted in music and poetry. And these factors are prevalent in the atmospheric brand of rhythmic indie-funk (not really sure what else to call it if I’m to be honest).
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Asgeir up close and personal in the confides of St James Church (Dingle) for the world-renowned Other Voices festival. And it was whilst sitting in the front row of the miniscule chapel/music venue/tv studio that I first encountered this curious musical medley.
Originally recorded in his native tongue, Asgeir’s debut album features most prominently in english. This of course was made possible through translation work by the enigmatic American singer, John Grant (who also made an appearance at Other Voices).
The debut offering , from the Icelandic singer-songwriter, ‘In the Silence’ is deep, dark, atmospheric and laden with lyrics and metaphors passed down from his ‘wordsmith’ father. This marriage of hard-hitting, thought-provoking lyrics with captivating electronic musical accompaniment does well to provide a fresh listening experience. But not so fresh to the point where the listener feels somewhat alienated. A sort of happy medium.
OK so here we go, I think it’s about time that I got back up on the proverbial horse and returned to the faithful blog. I do apologise for my lengthy absence but I had the small matter of my final year of College to deal with. But now as I write this post I am free. Free from exams, free from painfully long essays, free from pointless lectures and above all else free from educational slavery. Of course I have to mention that the aforementioned freedoms are subject to me actually passing my final exams and assignments. Fingers crossed though!!
So what have you been up to since my last post here? I’m not addressing any one individual in particular, just trying to be friendly and open up a dialogue so I can tell you everything that I have been up to. So for the past couple of months, as I mentioned above, I’ve been working towards my college degree. This included the production of a documentary film called ‘Under The Influence’ which examined the relationship between video games and their users, but more about that on another day. I also appeared on the radio (can one appear on a primarily auditory medium?) and was asked to give a spiel on the upcoming Irish Festival Season. The blog post for which can be found here. I also have the mp3 file from the interview which I may put up at some stage.
Over the past few months I have received a large number of music submissions from some great bands. Whilst I have not had the time to blog about them it is fair to say that my study playlist was anything but dull. I’ll be catching up on these reviews over the next few weeks so be sure to watch out for the likes of Red Elephant, Analogue Wave, Wolfgirl and many other talented bands.
Finally, you may have (or not) noticed the Roksan logo on the right hand side of the blog. Relax, it’s not some bad attempt at naming my favourite Police song. The good folks at Roksan Audio have kindly lent me their Radius record player for which I will be using to add a new vinyl review section to the blog. I haven’t exactly settled on a name but I’m looking at something along the lines of ‘The Vinyl Countdown’, ‘The Vinyl Frontier’ or something equally as cheesy. To ensure the fruition of this soon to be launched section I am looking for vinyl records (yeah probably the most obvious one) but if you are in a band and have decided to press vinyl or happen to own records that you would like to donate then please get in touch. Secondly, I will be looking to interview some vinyl enthusiasts and collectors, so if you would consider yourself to be such person then please also get in touch.
And so think that’s it. Now that the silence has been broken you can expect a lot more reviews over the coming weeks, months and possibly even years. But for now let’s stick with tradition and finish with a song. (Bet you didn’t see this one coming)
So this Summer is shaping up to be one of the biggest yet for Music Festivals in Ireland. Be it the recently announced Oxegen and Electric Picnic line-ups, the newcomers Longitude or the small but reliable host of boutique festivals, it’s safe to say that there is something to suit all musical tastes (unless of course you are into heavy metal). If you missed my Irish Festivals update on Spin South West on Saturday do not fear. This blog will tell you everything you need to know as well as some things you don’t, about this summer’s musical offerings.
A previous jewel in Ireland’s festival crown, back by popular demand to a lackluster chorus of disapproving keystrokes as the nation mourns the death of ‘real music’. It seems that ‘Europe’s biggest Rock n Roll Weekend’ has forgotten itself during its year-long sabbatical and renounced most if not all of its roots. This years line-up sees the likes of Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Snoop Whatever, Example and Chase & Status occupy the headline slot and show previous headliners (Coldplay, Foo Fighters, The National) how things are supposedly done. Early Bird Tickets start at 149.50euro. For more information visit http://www.oxegen.ie
Go and see
- Soulwax could be good
- I’m pushing it here but Rizzle Kicks could be good for a laugh
- If I had to choose a third act, even though there is no one forcing me but myself. I’d nearly say Example
Despite earlier concerns over the festivals future it seems all but certain to go ahead now following Thursday’s Line up announcement. Some of this years heavy hitters include The Arctic Monkeys, Fat Boy Slim, Bjork, Ocean Colour Scene, Franz Ferdinand and Johnny Marr. With 2013 marking the 10th Anniversary of the beloved festival it’s fair to say that revellers expected something a bit more fitting i.e. David Bowie & Daft Punk. But it’s early days yet. If you are thinking of heading along to this years EP and have been in the past then be sure to check out the loyalty scheme over on their website http://www.electricpicnic.ie/holding.html
Go and see
- My Bloody Valentine
- Deep Valley
- Mick Flannery
So this is the big ‘indie disco’ The Divine Comedy have been singing about. Longitude, the younger brother of the UK’s Latitude festival is all but set to make its Debut appearance this coming July. Formed after a musical breakup with the aforementioned Oxygen, Longitude took a host of indie and electro acts, left home and set up shop in Marlay Park. All the stops have been pulled out and a host of heavy hitting bands such as Phoenix, Foals, Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Hot Chip and of course Kraftwerk have been recruited to mark the arrival of this new flagship Irish Festival. One thing worth mentioning is the lack of camping facilities. I’ve always seen these day festivals as a ‘cop out’. I mean it’s not a festival unless you’re camping on a mud made island in the middle of a rain water lagoon. Tickets are a reasonable 149.50. More details over on http://longitude.ie/
Go and see
- Funeral Suits
- The Cast of Cheers
The Year of the Small Festival
This year, without question, belongs to the small festivals. The larger music festivals, mentioned above, seem to have pigeonholed themselves into distinct genres and are catering for a select fan base. But festivals are all about diversity (no not that dance group off the telly) finding new bands and ‘rocking out’ to genres you wouldn’t normally be caught dead with. And if you want this variety then you cannot look any further than the boutique festivals. Body and Soul seem to have put together a great festival with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Willy Mason, R.S.A.G and Wallis Bird to name a few. And with regard to Indiependence, where they lack in the headline department, with the likes of De La Soul, Fratellis and Bastille, they more than make up for it further down the line up. With bands like Windings, The Hot Sprockets, Le Galaxie and even Kodaline, Indiependence has positioned itself as a real front-runner for the August Bank Holiday. But watch this space, the ever solid Castlepalooza are yet to announce their line up, and you just know that they have something special up their sleeves.
Go and see
- Windings (Indiependence)
- The Hot Sprockets (Indiependence)
- The Strypes (Sea Sessions)
Vladimir Jablokov is a Slovakian violinist renowned for his classical take on modern music. Since arriving in Ireland back in 2004 he has forged a solid following for his own unique genre of ‘Classical Twist’. His normal set-list usually encompasses everything from Bach to Bowie. But on the 7th of March, accompanied by his sister Olga on piano, Vladimir showed the intimate crowd at the Sol y Sombra his true virtuoso talents.
Before I go any further with this review I have to stress that I am only 20, with a limited knowledge of classical music. So whilst I knew the first piece Vladimir played was by Mozart I am afraid that I cannot be any more specific in terms of symphony numbers, movements and so on. But all the same it was captivating to witness the duo’s master-ship of their respective instruments.
The night’s set-list is strictly classical featuring pieces from Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Paganini and some Strauss thrown in at the end for good measure. Each piece is book-ended with tales of composers and Vladimir’s own personal experience growing up with each. His storytelling is refreshing and adds layers to the live performance.
By the end of the night the crowd were baying for more and called the classical pair back to the stage for a double encore. The first of which prompted a little sing-song in the form of Jaromir Vejvoda’s ‘Beer Barrel Polka’. For the second, the crown had to make due with a theatrical bow.
Overall the concert was a resounding success. It is not everyday that you are gifted the opportunity to observe such classical maestros up close and personal in a small town like Killorglin.