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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cate Le Bon – Crab day (Turnstile)



The latest Le Bon trades in some of the psych in favour of some endearingly wonky pop shapes.

Guitar lines cavort in giddy fashion, falling around the place good natured and wide eyed.

What’s striking amidst the loopiness of the arrangements is the unbeatable quality of the songwriting – short and sharp but giving the impression of taking its time and possessing a sweet almost childlike lyricism.

Take this endlessly fascinating section from 'Find me', a kind of surreal pastoral scene -

Mindful of the host
Colouring the cookbooks in with love
Shimmying your tree
Looking for my morning breakfast


In an absolutely killer first six songs (the single 'Wonderful', 'Love is not love', 'I was born on the wrong day' etc ), 'I’m a dirty attic' makes a compelling case for best song title in the history of pop music.

As you listen further, you discover hidden pockets of unruly horns, mischievous xylophones and buzzing synths. Le Bon’s voice of course is a delight as always, guiding proceedings like some kind of deadpan party entertainer stroke couldn’t give a fuck performance poet.

The way has clearly been paved a little by her compatriots such as Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Super Furry Animals but Le Bon is carving her own space brilliantly. And although post punk shows through in places the closest contemporary reference point I can think of is the avant folk mini opuses of William D Drake or North Sea Radio Orchestra. Especially the 7 minute closer ‘What’s not mine’ with its honks and stabs and dreamy atmospheres.

So wonky and progressive at the same time. Another reason to rejoice.

Adventurous, meandering, catchy as hell, this is a beautiful album that just grows and grows.



Astronauts – End codes (Lo Recordings)



A second album from Dan Carney (and friends) full of his signature hushed motorik, that wonderful combination of soft but insistent backbeats and sotto voce vocals.

Things to expect -

-the beautiful kosmische drift of ‘Civil Engineer’ and ‘Recondition’.
-the twinkling psych folk edge to ‘You can turn it off’ and ‘Hider’.
-the great brooding atmosphere of ‘A break in the code, a cork in the stream’ helped by a bass rumble, droning woodwind and wonderfully tense mandolin-style guitar strumming.
-the impassioned vocal of ‘Breakout’.
-the whirring menace of ‘Skeleton’ while it sparkles and shifts gloriously.
-the lovely sturdy organic feel to the instruments, typically warm picked acoustic guitars, warbling organs and middy snare beats.

Another triumph of subtly insinuating, slightly melancholy yet ultimately strangely joyous pop music.

Playlist 403 - May 24 2016

Robert Forster is back in Europe this week. His new single is a first (I'm fairly sure) for him, a breezy samba duet with his wife Karin.

Robert Rotifer can do breezy too, jazz folk is more his bag, 'Calais' is an unsettling account of passing through the notorious Jungle in northern France.

Cate Le Bon has a brilliant new album out, wonky via psych via surreal pastoral. A Dyjecinski has a fantastic voice, in the country soul region of things, check his album too.

The first taste of Jherek Bischoff's new album sounds great, orchestral majesty. Clint Mansell channelling Bernard Herrmann a little from the s'track of High Rise. New music from The Moles and Piper's Son, great alt guitar pop.

More on these pages.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/theundergroundofhappiness
Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 403
Tues May 24 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983fm
*listen back to this show here
https://goo.gl/FWESwV


Playlist
Jaako Eino Kalevi – Double talk
Astronauts – Newest line
Whyte Horses – La couleur originelle
Cate Le Bon – I was born on the wrong day (playing Oval Space, London, May 26)
Robert Forster – Love is where it is (playing Whelan's, Dublin, May 28; Primavera Sound Festival, Barcelona, June 1-4)
Robert Rotifer – Calais
Martin Heyne – The gathering
A Dyjecinski – The resurrection (playing Union Chapel, London, May 28)
Jherek Bischoff – Cistern
Mendrugo – La breva
Dieterich & Barnes – Parasol gigante
Clint Mansell – Critical mass (from the sountrack of the film High Rise)
Piper's Son – Wake up
The Moles – Beauty Queen of Watts
Tuath – Take refuge
XIXA – Vampiro (playing Mundial Festival, Tilburg, June 25-26)
Melt Yourself Down – Yazzan dayra (playing Festival No. 6, Portmeirion, Sept 3)

*next week's show features music from Spain, Low & The Comet Is Coming, among others

e-mail the show on radio@ucc.ie
or text +353 (0)86-7839800
please mark messages “uoh”

Conor O'Toole,
c/o UCC 98.3FM,
Áras na Mac Léinn,
Student Centre,
University College Cork,
Cork,
Ireland.




Thursday, May 19, 2016

Robert Rotifer – Calais (from the EP If we hadn’t had you, Gare du Nord)



Something rare these days.

A songwriter documenting Europe’s migrant crisis. (Maybe documenting isn't the word but read on.)

That would make you think something worthy and dense and difficult.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead what you have is something light and drifting, an impressionistic account of passing through the famous jungle in northern France on the way to Belgium.

It’s a sublime jazz folk canvas, full of shakers and sumptuous guitar chords.

Difficult though. No, disconcerting is better. Disorientating. A woozy guitar line seems about to fall down drunk. A background vocal “ooh” takes the part of the steamed pal holding you up staggering down the street.

In the midst of this pleasurable haze, the lyrical content creeps up on you. Around here, an awful realisation hits home – “you see the sea, the sea of tents” – that you’ve been party to a nightmarish scene, although one painted in beautiful pastel colours.

That is an impressive achievement and on several levels we can say this is a brilliant piece of pop art.

*Jazz folk styles are also brought to bear on other political matters – anti-war protests of 2003, the British government decision to participate in the bombing of Syria – on this thoroughly classy EP.



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Playlist 402 - May 17 2016

10 years since Grant McLennan died, good to remember his heartfelt cinematic songwriting, in a shape of a genius cut from Tallulah, a somewhat underrated album even by the standards of The Go Betweens.

A trio of haunting/chamber/devotional pieces around the middle of the show.

Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld, so delicate, so elegant, so compelling.
Pedro Soler & Gaspar Claus, a father and son duo playing Spanish guitar and (very muscular) cello, stirring inspiring stuff.
Brigid Mae Power, the Galway singer making haunting late hours music with a little help from Peter Broderick.

More on these pages as always.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/theundergroundofhappiness
Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 402
Tues May 17 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983fm
*listen back to this show here
https://goo.gl/QTPSVY


Playlist
The Goon Sax – Boyfriend
The Go Betweens – Bye bye pride
Lake Ruth – The inconsolable Jean-Claude
Radiohead – Burn the witch (playing Primavera Sound Festival, Barcelona, June 1-4)
Cavern of Anti-Matter feat Bradford Cox – liquid gate (playing Primavera Sound Festival, Barcelona, June 1-4)
Cate Le Bon – Find me (playing Oval Space, London, May 26)
Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld – The empty boat (playing Rich Mix, London, June 2)
Pedro Soler & Gaspar Claus – Rocio y Corrales (por Sevillanas)
Brigid Mae Power – Let me hold you through this
Roy Ayers – Coffy is the colour (from the sountrack of the film Coffy)
Marvin Gaye – T plays it cool (from the sountrack of the film Troubleman)
Prince – When doves cry
Christine & the Queens – iT
Tenniscoats – Mochi
Man of Moon – Sign (playing The Great Escape Festival, Brighton, May 20)

*next week's show features music from Robert Forster, Astronauts & Jaako Eino Kalevi, among others

e-mail the show on radio@ucc.ie
or text +353 (0)86-7839800
please mark messages “uoh”

Conor O'Toole,
c/o UCC 98.3FM,
Áras na Mac Léinn,
Student Centre,
University College Cork,
Cork,
Ireland.




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Playlist 401 - May 10 2016

Another stream of great new music this week.

The 2nd Melt Yourself Down album is just out, another marvellous set of space jazz funk. Another track from the Dieterich & Barnes album (pic), delirious improv instrumentals. Holy Fuck back with some great punk funk. Orchestra of Spheres with tricky shapeshifting psych grooves. A couple of lovely looped tropical cuts from Aries and Maria Usbeck. The 2nd Kevin Murphy album, superior wracked songwriting.

And The Moles, new music from them for the first time in years, beautiful bittersweet jangle pop.

More on these pages as always.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/theundergroundofhappiness
Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 401
Tues May 10 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983fm
*listen back to this show here
https://goo.gl/2S966D


Playlist
Melt Yourself Down – The god of you (playing Larmer Tree Festival, July 15)
Orchestra of Spheres – Trapdoors (playing Club Makossa, London, May 26)
Aries – Nieve de noche
Maria Usbeck - Moai y yo
Holy Fuck – Xed eyes
Dieterich & Barnes – Philae lands on Comet 67
Kevin Murphy – Your heart’s a circle around me
Nadia Reid – Holy low (playing Slaughtered Lamb, London, June 1)
Aldous Harding – I’m so sorry
Astronauts – Hider
A Dyjecinski – The fight (playing Union Chapel, London, May 28)
We Show Up On Radar – All of your bad dreams
Jackie Lynn – Alien love
John of Silence – No lie
The Moles – Artificial heart

*next week's show features music from Brigid Mae Power, Tenniscoats, & Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld, among others

e-mail the show on radio@ucc.ie
or text +353 (0)86-7839800
please mark messages “uoh”

Conor O'Toole,
c/o UCC 98.3FM,
Áras na Mac Léinn,
Student Centre,
University College Cork,
Cork,
Ireland.




Saturday, May 7, 2016

Howe Gelb Interview



I sat down for a chat with Howe Gelb a few weeks ago. What a pleasure that was for me.

He’s a wonderful speaker, a raconteur, you could sit down and listen to him all night. The warm engaging quality you find in his music is all there in person too.

He was in town as part of the Giant Sand Farewell Tour which stopped off at Cyprus Avenue in Cork on April 14th. It was a beautiful day, the evening sunny so we sat on the street outside The Oliver Plunkett Bar just across the way from the venue. That's the strains of their regular Thursday night trad session you can hear cranking up in the background.

The Farewell Tour was, I gather, a decision not to take to traipsing around the world much anymore (Howe turns 60 soon), although he hasn’t ruled out festival appearances, beginning with a few in Europe this summer. And to coincide, Fire Records are releasing a slew of his back catalogue over the next while, Sun Set, starting with six Giant Sand albums from across the decades under Volume 1, which includes one of my favourites Chore of Enchantment. It’s great to hear the material collected in this way and what a breadth of material there is taking in lounge, jazz, country, Mexamerican, blues, rock n roll and psych.

I think I've been listening to his music for close to 20 years, very often as a result of a nod to the wise from my good friend Derek. The first time Howe came across my consciousness was under the name OP8. That was Giant Sand with Lisa Germano, most famously brilliantly covering the Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra classic 'Sand' adding a wonderful air of deadpan menace to the original, as part of their 1997 album Slush.



I think I'd seen him play live twice before, once under his own name and once as Giant Sand (both in Cork, Triskel Arts Centre and Cyprus Avenue respectively). Derek also went to see him in Kilkenny one time and came back with the first M Ward album which Howe released on his own label Owom Records ( http://owomrecords.com/). It's worth remembering how much other great music Howe has been responsible for putting out in the world and supporting apart from his own. At that previous Cyprus Avenue show, Lonna Kelley played support, someone who has remained part of the wider Giant Sand familia over the years. I believe that's her singing on 'Pen to paper' from last year's Heartbreak Pass, wonderfully dusky late night vocal tones.





Howe started off this interview by talking a bit about early musical influences.

"I was subjugated to what's called American standards."

His mother's music. So Frank Sinatra and the likes. And apparently, Howe has an album of standards in the works now. At the gig later, he started with a few covers as a piano trio, along with drum and bass, and it sounded fucking sublime.

He talked aswell about the influence of the radio, and how channel hopping growing up informed his "magpie" tendencies, dipping into all and every genre. I can remember the Triskel gig in 2000, Howe was at the piano (which of course he plays like a king) but he also had a portable CD player inside the piano. In between songs, and sometimes during songs, he would break off for a CD interlude which could have been Neil Young or some opera or something else.

Of course, his friend Rainer Ptacek came up in the conversation – he became like a brother to him says Howe – and how the pair figured out how to make the music they wanted to make in 1980s Tucson at a time before internet. Interestingly, it boiled down to not being able to lay their hands on the music they wanted to hear (at the time punk, post punk and the like), so they made it themselves. Rainer died following brain cancer in 1997 (something to which Howe attributes his own personal slump in the mid to late 90s) but you get the strong feeling that he’s still very much present with Howe in everything he does.

I asked Howe about Alvino Rey, a name I hadn’t heard previously which I came across in one of Howe’s interviews (he was a steel guitar player who appeared on American television in the late 50s/early 60s and kinda bridged the gap between big band, jazz and country).



This prompted an amazing story which began with his 2006 album Sno Angel, recorded in Montreal with a Canadian gospel choir, and finished with Arcade Fire, circling back to Alvino Rey in the process.



And Howe finished by talking a little about the Tucson “petri dish”, a fascinating personal/musical social history outlining how the template of indie rock (his words) developed by Rainer and himself gave rise to what we now know as the sound of Tucson.

I would have happily sat there for longer but there was a show to do (plus the trad session was in overdrive by this time). The gig afterwards was great of course, a little piece of Tucson on tour. It's the last time which is a shame but thanks for the memories Howe (and I can't wait for those standards).

P.S. Apologies for the short pause midway through the interview. You’ll hear Howe comment “multitasking”. That was me checking my phone. Very unprofessional.

P.P.S. Special thanks to the Tour Manager Christoph for his help in arranging the interview, and for his hospitality (and the beer) - he invited me to join the band while they were having their meal as we waited for Howe. The party included Gabriel Sullivan and Brian Lopez, part of the Giant Sand band for this tour but they also have their own band XIXA, who play what they call psych cumbia; Jason Lytle who was playing support on the tour; Danish pedal steel guitarist Maggie Bjorklund, who was guesting on tour with Giant Sand; and Howe's daughter Patsy, who was singing on stage as well as looking after the merch stall. It's a bit of a cliché to say but there really was a family atmosphere around the table. Here's some of their music. It's easy to see how they all fit with the Giant Sand gene pool, or "petri dish" as Howe called it.