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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Smile Down Upon Us – Magical breath (from the album Smile Down Upon Us, wiaiwya)



Bright and breezy pop concoctions which we can call quirky and they rescue that word from oblivion by returning to the root, with a playful wide-eyed sense of adventure and a couldn’t give a fuck quality which is endearing all on its own.

Then add the sheer weight of hooks and ideas, musical and lyrical. Here’s some background.

The second album from UK/Japanese group Smile Down Upon Us is released by wiaiwya on deluxe vinyl, in a delightful gatefold sleeve designed by artist Yuji Maruyama, on Record Store Day, April 18 (a CD version is released in Japan soon after). It’s a delicate, intimate, playful record that’s equal parts Cibo Matte pop, Vernon Elliott soundtrack and animated Marc Chagall painting, its music a perfect navigation between childlike wonderment, impish eccentricity and sophisticated intricacy.

Smile Down Upon Us is the duo of London-based multi-instrumentalist Keiron Phelan (littlebow, Phelan-Sheppard, Silver Servants, etc.) and Tokyo-resident singer/electronicist moomLoo. They are assisted on this album by, among others, guitarist/percussionist David Sheppard (Ellis Island Sound, Snow Palms, and Keiron’s erstwhile partner in renowned UK post-rockers State River Widening), cellist Katie English (Isnaj Dui, Doomed Bird of Providence, littlebow) and nomadic sonic alchemist Tui (Orla Wren).


‘Magical breath’ is the perfect example – a shuffling beat of tablas and shakers with looped ukulele plucks forming the backdrop for a meditation on breathing, and still room for an electronic flight of fancy mid-section complete with muted woo hoos. It skips along effortlessly and you skip with it.

Utterly charming and quite beautiful.

*Apparently Phelan and moomLoo have only ever been in the same room together a couple of times which makes the boundary-pushing achievement of this album all the more remarkable.

Virginia Wing – Estuary (from the album Measures of joy, Fire Records)



An album of haunting shifting pop music from this London group which is equally at home with both swooning melodies and shuddering textures.

‘Estuary’ is a song which swings between both these poles. An ominous opening of circular bass and hissing ride cymbal give way to the height of dream pop with washes of organ and banks of filtered backing vocal aws.

Still it’s more dreamy dark than dreamy bright with a clipped Nico-esque quality to the vocal delivery of Alice Merida Richards (also plenty of top end on those esses) and a loping drumbeat which has a distinct post punk feel, in fact coming on like punk funk played at walking pace.

These strands are developed further over the course of the album – the disturbing dream haze of ‘A complex outline’, the fascinating kosmische/motorik exploration of ‘World contact’, the mesmerising synth spirals and post punk jolt of ‘Meshes’, the riveting Stereolab-esque stoic of 'Marnie'. (Plus in fairness you also have to love a band named after Grace Slick's mother.)





Playlist 351 - Apr 14 2015

You may have noticed Easter happened the other week. We started this week's show with some devotional sounds, first Polar Bear from their new album (intense) then a quite odd effect from Ralph Carmichael courtesy of Trunk Records (always good for the oddness).

A few near duets around the middle of the show. The sublime Vic Chesnutt with Emmylou Harris & backed by Lambchop, new music from Arborist with Kim Deal guesting and the recent release from Elephant Micah, another stunning turn with Will Oldham helping out. All under the folk umbrella, all showing great vocal chemistry.

New music also from Jon DeRosa, another great duet with Carina Round from his new album; and Rozi Plain, more beautiful kosmische folk from her upcoming 3rd album.

Tender Prey (pic) doing great work in the pow wow punk genre. And in advance of Record Store Day 2015, when Fire Records reissue the first three Close Lobsters albums, 86-89. Always room on this show for superior misty-eyed jangle pop.

More on these pages.

Apr 14 2015 w/ Polar Bear,Jon DeRosa,Rozi Plain,Tender Prey,Arborist,Close Lobsters,Jim Noir++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


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

Playlist 351
Tues Apr 14 2015
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
http://goo.gl/B548Il


Playlist
Polar Bear – Life love and light (playing Kazimier, Liverpool, Apr 19)
Ralph Carmichael feat. Pat Boone – The addict’s psalm (from the soundtrack of the film The Cross and the Switchblade)
Jon DeRosa – Dancing in a dream
Rozi Plain – Friend city (playing Thekla, Bristol, Apr 29)
Thomas Truax – You are my sunshine (playing De Barra’s, Clonakilty, Apr 16)
Tender Prey – Pleasure pain principle (playing Undertone, Cardiff, May 22)
Vic Chesnutt feat Emmylou Harris – Woodrow Wilson
Arborist feat. Kim Deal – Twisted arrow
Elephant Micah feat Will Oldham – No underground
Dutch Uncles – Upsilon (playing Workman’s Club, Dublin, Apr 25)
Vuurwerk – Warrior (playing KOKO, London, May 23 w/ Plaid & DJ Food)
Myles Manley – Pay me what I’m worth
Close Lobsters – A prophecy (Record Store Day 2015)
Surf City – Leave your worries
Jim Noir – In hell
Stephen Steinbrink – Synesthetic ephemera

*the next show will feature music from Stump, Lazarus Clamp, Noveller & Ryuichi Sakamoto, 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, April 8, 2015

Playlist 350 - Apr 7 2015

We kicked off this week with some classic Luna who are reforming to play some shows this year. Especially beautiful about this song is the driving bassline by Britta Phillips. The new single from Swedish duo Death & Vanilla, another gorgeous wash of dreamy psych pop.

The new Aloa Input album has lovely shades of early Beck and the Beta Band a bit, the latter are in there too from 1997 sounding like Beck jamming with Can.

A couple of great Tropicalia cuts, Os Mutantes from 1968 and Gal Costa putting the cosmic soul back into acid rock.

Lower Dens not neglecting the motorik, Smile Down Upon Us with some wonderfully daft and breezy pop music.

Jean-Claude Vannier marshalling a female choir of chants and footstamps and fingerclicks. And August Wells feat. Ken Griffin ex Rollerskate Skinny channelling Scott Walker beautifully.

More on these pages.

Apr 7 2015 w/ Luna,Death & Vanilla,Beta Band,JC Vannier,Lower Dens,Os Mutantes,August Wells++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


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

Playlist 350
Tues Apr 7 2015
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
http://goo.gl/KA7u2D


Playlist
Luna - Speedbumps (playing The Garage, London, July 31)
Death & Vanilla – Arcana
The Beta Band – I know
Aloa Input – Vampire song
Os Mutantes – Panis et circenses
Gal Costa – Meu nome é Gal
Lower Dens – Company
José Gonzalez – Leaf off/The Cave (playing Primavera Sound Festival, Barcelona, May 28-30)
Smile Down Upon Us – Magical breath
Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power – Damn damn damn damn
The Scaramanga Six – Out of my tiny mind
Jean-Claude Vannier – Le ballet des accoucheuses
August Wells – Here in the wild (appearing on Other Voices, May 17)
The Notwist – Object 1
Marker Starling – Husbands (playing Shacklewell Arms, London, Apr 15)

*the next show will feature music from Polar Bear, Jon DeRosa & Thomas Truax, 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.




Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Playlist 349 - Mar 31 2015

We had a number of great male crooners on this week's show (I feel a special coming on...), starting with Adrian Crowley, the slightly heartbroken variety, then Daniel Knox, a jauntier cabaret style, later Jon De Rosa, a classic 50s style with gravitas, and Marker Starling who comes under blue eyed soul more, with a great pathos under the smoothness.

Stewart Lee has not to my knowledge sung on record before but he has now, covering Shirley Collins with Stuart Estel for a tribute album to mark her 80th year coming out on Earth Recordings for Record Store Day.

Virginia Wing, making intriguing psych pop; Colleen making meditational dub sounds; Jessica Pratt, bending time with a sublime folk cut.

And Moondog, the man himself making oh so sweetly challenging "classical" music with daughter June on vocals from 1970, and then his influence on Kenny Graham from 1956, which comes out like some wonderful interplanetary exotica.

More on these pages.

*No podcast this week I'm afraid due to a technical glitch, apologies. In its place, try a couple of full album streams around this week's playlist. Two ace artists, two new releases, the world is a beautful place sometimes.





The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


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

Playlist 349
Tues Mar 31 2015
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983fm
*no podcast this week due to technical glitch

Playlist
Adrian Crowley – The stranger (playing Unitarian Church, Dublin, Apr 25)
Daniel Knox - 14 15 111 (playing Windmill, London, Mar 31)
Stewart Lee & Stuart Estell – Polly on the shore (Shirley Inspired Tribute Album)
Shirley & Dolly Collins - Fair maid of Islington
Jon DeRosa – When Daddy took the treehouse down
Marker Starling – Uphill battle (playing Shacklewell Arms, London, Apr 15)
Virginia Wing – A complex outline (playing Espace B, Paris, Apr 1)
Colleen – Eclipse (playing Opera House, Cork, May 2, w/ Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh)
Jessica Pratt – Jacquelyn in the background (playing Mono, Glasgow, Apr 6)
The Jean Paul Sartre Experience – I like rain
ESG – Moody (Record Store Day, Fire Records)
Moondog – Voices of spring
Kenny Graham & His Satellites – Lullaby
Bjork – Lion song (edit)
Paperchase – Amsterdam
Polar Bear – Don’t let the feeling go (playing Village Underground, London, Apr 8)

*the next show will feature music from Smile Down Upon Us, Death & Vanilla & Aloa Input, 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.




Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Monochrome Set – Fantasy creatures (Tapete Records)

A band associated with Rough Trade and Cherry Red in their early years of the late 70s and early 80s and whose apocryphal presence in Morrissey’s record collection reportedly persuaded Johnny Marr to form a band with him.

That story alone gives an idea of the dandyish thread running through the band’s music and that particular element of their sound is strong on their new album Spaces everywhere. It’s a wonderful piece of work combining folk, soul and pop strands with an arch songwriting eye and a great characterful croon courtesy of Bid. The arrangements through the album include flutes and banjos but the enduring quality of the writing rises above any individual instrument choices.

Take ‘Fantasy creatures’. A twanging Strat, a busy restless observational lyric, then a Hammond organ and the vocal flowers out into a kind of pleading upper register, a brilliant switch – “don’t go away, come and stay forever”.

It connects in a line with ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ Ray Davies and ‘Common people’ Jarvis Cocker but with extra empathy and poignancy.

It tickles the heart and stirs the soul.

Track 6 in this playlist

Mar 10 2015 w/ Virginia Wing,Princess,Monochrome Set,Damon & Naomi,Dawn of Midi,Daniel Knox++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud





*For a bit less poignancy and a lot more sharp satire, check their s/t classic from 1980.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daniel Knox – By the venture (Carrot Top Records)



I was put on to Daniel Knox by a friend of mine recently and he’s been a wonderful discovery for me. His third album is self-titled and he’s been around the Chicago scene for a number of years. The best plan is to read this excellent interview and background piece which gives a vivid flavour of the man’s life and work to date, a career which is nothing short of inspiring.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/daniel-knox-piano-songwriter-carrot-top-atwood-lynch/Content?oid=16564714

One line from that piece stays with me -

"I actually never sang at all until I was 21 or 22. My favorite singers were Al Jolson and Judy Garland and, to some extent, Maurice Chevalier. So my voice was way over-the-top, with heavy vibrato. But to me, it sounded very natural."

So you might think this is someone not remotely interested in musical currents or trends and you’d be right. (Still, it’s good to know that his talents have not gone unnoticed by such luminaries as Jarvis Cocker and David Lynch.) He’s now in his mid 30s and his voice displays that great quality of unself-consciousness and having been lived in thoroughly. His songs, like all the best, clearly exist to fulfil their own inherent rationale, not for any external commercial purpose.

Piano is his other instrument (self-taught as you’ll read in the above piece) and ‘By the venture’ is the best example I can think of to show off his great feel for it.

It’s a jaunty tune - after the langurous intro – and has something I’m very partial to, a central thread of cabaret or even showtunes influence (perhaps in line with Garland, Jolson and Chevalier although not that you’d identify specifically) creating a real sense of drama, down to the restrained string quartet and later the lovely reed and harmonica interjections.

Lyrically, the song supports the arrangement (other way around possibly) with what might be dark wit – “your house is still there, it looks like garbage” – later transformed into something deeply poignant – “life is a gift, it keeps on giving, see what you’ve done, look where you’re living”.

It’s one of those story songs that will remain under your skin and intrigue you over days and weeks, each listen bringing to light some new inflection in the delivery which is full of pathos and humanity.