Villagers @ Black Box, Galway | 13/12/18 | Review

Following the release of their most recent album The Art of Pretending to Swim in September 2018, Villagers have been playing non-stop. Miraculously, there wasn’t a sense of exhaustion from their November 2018 European Tour seeping into their show at the Black Box in Galway. The crowd fuelled their wild dynamics of both acoustic and synth. The band’s latest album includes a taste of electronica and rock amongst maintaining the usual folk-like lyrics and guitar patterns. This show wasn’t just a performance of an experimental album – this set was built off of the reciprocal relationship between audience and band, driving each other to new capacities.

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Villagers’ performance of “Again”, the opening song on their new album, mixed synth, techno, bird noises, and gave the impression of elevating into a new dimension. The lyrics, “I feel it ripple and ready its soul again” make us question whether “it” is music, the artist, the audience itself, or a zest of huamnity. Within the one song, the audience was dancing, swaying, or shocked into silence at any different moment in the song.

Another standout performance was that of Darling Arithmetic‘s “Hot, Scary Summer”, leading the audience through pain, awkwardness, and ultimately reassurance. “Courage” was performed in a similarly raw and acoustic style, building in huge dynamics to a dramatic climax in the final chorus.

The strongest performance of a new song was undoubtedly in “Ada”, a homage to Ada Lovelace, fading into an amazing electronic soundscape at the end of the song to mimic the fantasticalness but also confusion that a technologically developing world brings. The Black Box performance was one of both tenderness and techno, lyrics remaining simple yet poignant. The drummer drove the band from folk to rock across the performance of the band’s variety of albums, with his multitalented musicality carrying over to performances on the flugelhorn.

O’Brien himself picked up the horn at the end of the set; the set’s conclusion was, unsurprisingly, {Awayland}’s “Nothing Arrived”. There was a sense of uncertainty amongst the audience as to how this dynamic and vivacious set could possibly be concluded by a well-known and sensitive acoustic song. The song was performed humbly, focusing on the guitar fingerpicking and the tender lyrics. Yet, it built on O’Brien’s raw lyrics through the use of harmonies and the respectful accompaniment of the band, and finally, through an incredible brass performance, raising hope and radiating musicality through the audience.


More from Villagers’ 2018 album, The Art of Pretending to Swim


Frances Wilde
+353 83 043 9326
Business Inquiries: franceswilde@hotmail.co.uk

Humingbird – Flatsound | Review

Mitch Welling, also known as “flatsound” released a new album last month, which is now available on his site, Bandcamp and Spotify. The relatively short, self-produced, ambient album speaks loudly, but in soft tones, about Gilmore Girls, love, depression, transience and the permeation of pain.

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Track one, “hummingbird” opens with an ambient, cyclical track, blending seamlessly into the following “even the stars can be hollow”. This track is more lyric-based, like some of flatsound’s past work, especially songs off of the album sleep. The lyrics and melody are based on softness and repetition, creating imagery of breaking, contrasted with imagery of allowing for light to be let in, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”. The third track, “action scene”, is a song written about the pain of desire and disappointment. Flatsound’s lyrics are often centred around the theme of depleting mental health, and the debilitating aspects of this, and this song is no exception. “Action scene” is a song written about not only this but also the overwhelming pressure to “succeed” in human relationships: “you said that you wanted everything”. Following a similar theme, “when we met” focuses on this pressure, but past tense: “when we met, I was broken”. The synth-electro track added in the second half of the song encourages us to question if the fragmented sense of self and purpose has been resolved, or if wholeness is just a fantasy that relationships and “adult life” try to sell to us. This emotionally heavy song is followed by a synthy interlude, “oatberry”, quite reminiscent of the Stardew Valley soundtrack. The following track, “wash away” is a selfless one, focusing on recognising other’s pain and beauty, prefacing the track that is the album’s culmination, “you said remembering would feel too much like moving back home”. This closure to the album focuses on the attempt to move away from a place, in order to escape from a person and the emotional state attached to them, but instead, being unable to let go of their existence, and that connection to the past. Through rereading messages, and remediating memories, the protagonist of the song keeps the past close – perhaps too close.

In a recent blogpost, Mitch wrote, on his online interactions and presentation of his music, “I don’t want this all to feel so passive” (Welling,<https://www.flatsound.org/blog/2018/1/22/a-few-scattered-hours&gt; [accessed 8/2/18]). Mitch’s heartfelt, short, subtle and self-aware album, available for free download on his website, certainly achieves this reduction of fan-artist space, in the emotional transparency it creates. Yet, I argue that this album is the best quality of flatsound’s in terms of production. Each track is balanced perfectly and framed with ambient sound’s reminiscent to those created on his recent radio broadcasts.

The combination of high production quality and touching lucidity makes this both a classic flatsound album, and a work of art astutely crafted to be something delicate and new.

★★★★

Wallis BIRD @ Vicar Street, Dublin | REVIEW

Support

Sam Vance-Law acted not only as a member of Wallis’ band, but a phenomenal support act. Balancing comedy, openness and genuine music beauty, Vance Law’s songs coupled with piano and Emma Greenfield on trumpet were raw, hilarious and I gathered from those around me that his songs stayed with the audience long after he left the stage. One song was actually interrupted by unstoppable laughter, so skilled was he at lifting everybody’s spirits on a dark January night.

 

Main Set

Wallis’ use of different genre, style and melody in her songs was evident through the jolting movement from one track to another, mixing soulful rhythms with more traditional Irish influences. The use of varied instruments reflected this hotchpotch too, including the use of Aidan’s running scales on the clarinet, various trumpet melodies, and stunning violin interludes.

Stand out track performances were:

  • Seasons
  • To my Bones
  • In Dictum
  • Home

Each of these tracks were performed beautifully, with strong central vocals, the twang of a strong accent, a distinct growl and total enthusiasm.

Reminiscent of Orla Gartland, Gabrielle, The Staves, Sinéad O’Connor, and complete with three standing ovations, Wallis Bird’s performance was pretty much flawless.

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Lisa Hannigan @ Liverpool Arts Club 21/10/16 Review

Support Act: Heather Woods Broderick

Singing later in the concert as part of Lisa’s band, Heather Woods Broderick was an apt warm up to Hannigan’s soft tones. Her echoing, haunting voice prepared the crowd as people gathered in to eventfully fill the Arts venue. Although at time not astutely enunciating, Woods Broderick’s melodies were beautiful and gave a comforting ambiance.

Main Set: Lisa Hannigan

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Opening with Little Bird, a beautiful folkoric tune from previous album Passenger, Hannigan silenced the audience totally with her lyrical genius. Other songs from this album were played, including the track Passenger itself and O Sleep.  In O Sleep especially we were able to see the full talent of other set members and the genuine collaborative nature of the band’s singing.

A couple of tracks in, Hannigan began to play tracks from her most recent album, At Swim. In gothic track Prayer for the Dying, the music talent of the double bassist was revealed. Ora was performed with a similar emphasis on strings. Meanwhile, Snow and We the Drowned were elaborated into much more energetic pieces, including some heavy drum work to gauge the crowd’s interest.

The standout performance has to be the acapella version of Hannigan and two band members (including Heather) singing Anahorish, a song of the new album originally a Seamus Heaney poem.

The most energetic song was most definitely Knots; Hannigan’s enthusiasm in the performance was visible. With the impressive drum work, everybody was tapping their feet.

While disappointing that older classic tunes like Home and I Don’t Know weren’t performed, it was a full set list with an intriguing band and a genuinely original sound.

Lisa Hannigan- Lo – Live @ Arts Club

 

Gavin James- Bitter Pill | Review

After seeing Gavin James perform live at the Bodega in Nottingham recently, I was beyond excited to buy his album ‘Bitter Pill‘ and the deluxe version, complete with live performances, did not disappoint, and definitely remained true to the busker roots of this very Irish music.

“I left my heart at the lowest places
lost all my graces in midnight flames”

Standout tracks include ‘For You’, ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Say Hello’ and ‘Till the Sun Comes Up’, focusing simultaneously on heartbreak, but resilience. The audience participation in the live version of ‘Say Hello’ is especially poignant and brings the song to life. The vibrancy of people and relationships in James’ music makes climactic choruses all the more uplifting.

Buy the album here: http://www.gavinjamesmusic.com/