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Best of 2016 Mix Part 3 - Instrumental/Electronic/Spoken Word/Psych Pop

One last post before New Year's. This one rounds up some tunes mostly from the second half of the year. It turns out there was a lot of great instrumental music in there. Plus some other material that I think fits with that.

Enjoy and see you on the other side.

Fixity – Hungry clouds
Tortoise – The catastrophist
Elias Krantz – Patchwork Pt 1
Syrinx – Aurora spinray
Marielle V Jakobsons – Rising light
Cavern of Anti-Matter feat. Bradford Cox – liquid gate
Melt Yourself Down – Dot to dot
The Comet Is Coming – Space carnival
Dieterich & Barnes – Parasol gigante
Alien Ensemble – Skeleton dance
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Arthropoda
Matthew Bourne – Keighley
Qluster – Glasperlenspiel
Nathan Bowles – Chiaroscuro
Lambchop – Flotus
Iggy Pop, Tarwater & Alva Noto – As Adam early in the morning/I am he that aches with love
Rothko – A young fist curled around a cinder for a wager
Wymond Miles – Protection
C Duncan – Nothing more
Weyes Blood – Generation Why
Cool Ghouls – When you…

Best of 2016 - Part 2: Pop/Soul/Indie

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Part 2 of this list, out of four in total, the others to follow in January. There will be another Best of Mix also over the next week, stay tuned to Mixcloud.

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1. Trashcan Sinatras – Let me inside (Or let me out)
A monumental year for fans of this treasured Scottish band. A new crowdfunded album, the wonderful Wild pendulum, possibly their best ever work, and tours in America and Europe.

And having seen them play live in November, the big insight (other than the obvious genius on show) was the sheer soulfulness of the songs. So yeah, top notch tunes and buckets of soul. I’ll take that any year.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2016/11/trashcan-sinatras-workmans-club-dublin.html

Track 14 in this playlist


2. Britta Phillips – One fine summer morning (from the album Luck or magic, Double Feature)
Another artist I saw play live in 2016. In these thoughts from last June, I was zoning in on the fact th…

Best of 2016 - Part 1: Folk/Baroque/Orchestral/Chamber Pop

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Musical moments and memories from the year gone by. In no particular order. Enjoy.

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1. North Sea Radio Orchestra – Dronne (The Household Mark)
Another sublime set of tunes from Craig Fortnam and company which combines folk, kosmische and avant garde classical strands, taking the legacy of former band Cardiacs into fascinating new territory.

Woodwind and strings are strong and strident against a hushed motorik rhythm on centrepiece song ‘The British road’, a wonderfully sharp state of the nation analysis of Brexit era Britain – when will they learn to fight like our men, how can I rise if you don’t fall.

These poised swooping strings, along with the cooing woodwind, the signature guitar style of Craig Fortnam – courtly, playful, lithe – buzzing synths and the great pure singing of Craig’s wife Sharon against Craig’s reedier tones provide the core elements throughout.

Essential food for the ears, the heart …

Ex Reyes – Bad Timing (Memphis Industries)

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A sublime psych soul cut with deep roots coming from Prince and Curtis Mayfield and others.

Horns. Bending melodies. Ascending strings. Wonderful bass driven backbeats.

It’s 3 and a half minutes long but feels like a full blown symphony.

If you need any other reasons to be endeared, it seems to be a song about love and dancing.

One of the year’s essential sounds for me.

C Duncan – Nothing more (from the album The midnight sun, Fat Cat Records)

A late entry into my end of year thinking but not to worry as this is an album that needs time to smoulder.

The opening song has a gorgeous sweep if you take a minute – banks of devotional voices, a surrounding sense of mystery and a graceful but insistent melody.

And in the end a kind of soulfulness, a reaching out, perhaps an effort to alleviate the weight, underneath the sublime minimalist stylings.

There's something deeply existential about this sound but in the end it is simply transcendant.

The Midnight Sun by C Duncan

Cory Hanson – The unborn capitalist from limbo (Drag City)

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A sweet left turn from the Wand frontman into gorgeous string soaked psych folk territory.

With a voice knowing like early Marc Bolan but vocal delivery straight and earnest like Nick Drake.

Beautiful things that will stick with you from this record.

The brilliant slow build of the title track, with a string playout that is balm for the soul.

The soft shoe boogie, strident string section and killer up and down vocal melody of ‘Replica’.

The hushed major seventh mood of ‘Violent moon’, with plaintive cello accompaniment.

The line “ordinary people took my mother from me” amid a string section throbbing one minute and soaring the next, irresistible but emotionally fraught.

The swooning melancholy of the highlighted vocal on ‘The garden of delight’.

The all round intrigue and arms length psych feel of the set.

A wonderful wonderful piece of work.

Howe Gelb – A book you’ve read before (From the album Future Standards, Fire Records)

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A captivating tune from Howe Gelb as he goes back (to the future?) to a piano trio format and back to the atmosphere of the standards he grew up with.

He also hooks up here with Lonna Kelley, often time associate of Gelb’s and duetter on ‘Pen to paper’ from the last Giant Sand record, Heartbreak Pass, one of the most glorious vocal performances ever committed to record I still believe.

There’s a narcotic effect to this dual vocal, sleepy and late night. But though steeped in later years nostalgia, there’s a satisfying knottiness to the lyric that keeps pulling you back to wide awake.

Love was just a just reward
just not the thing that your heart could ill afford


A beautiful intimate late night experience, this.

Track 1 in this playlist


Weyes Blood – Front row seat to Earth (Mexican Summer)

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Welcome to the captivating, transfixing world of Weyes Blood.

Two words have cropped up a lot in reviews of this album – stately and compelling – and both are valid.

Stately because there’s an unrushed and a certain and deliberate stance in the delivery of these songs. If stately makes you think cosily endearing, think again, because there’s also a confrontational character to them which makes sense in light of her previous work with Ariel Pink and Jackie O-Motherfucker.

Compelling because those very qualities, when added to the glorious voice of Natalie Mering, make the songs impossible to turn away from.

The melodies soar, taking flight on her voice. In its lower register it has a little of the stoicism of Karen Carpenter, a comparison point which only adds pathos and poignancy to the overall sound. Listen to the way she sings “do you need me like I need you” on ‘Do you need my love’. Or the chorus of ‘Generation Why’, “Y-O-L-O why”, which could easily be hilarious in…

Playlist 427 - Dec 13 2016 - Christmas Special

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A seasonal collection that hopefully steers clear of cliché.

There's still room for nostalgia in the shape of Dylan Thomas who is a master of memoir reshaped into bursting childhood surrealism.

And earnest goodwill in the shape of Sufjan Stevens, albeit in bonkers fairytale fashion.

In between there's a healthy dose of scepticism - Gruff Rhys; cautionary tales - Howe Gelb; and ominous poetry - Patti Smith.

The bulk of the set could probably be summed up as the triumph of form over content. Cocteau Twins, shimmering and shoegazing. Low, being Low, marvellous. Darlene Love's wall of sound. Arthur Lyman, Hawaiian sounds brought to bear.

And the swooning orchestral soundtrack of Mikael Tariverdiev, just released.

Happy Holidays.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


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

Playlist 427
Tues Dec 13 2016 - Christmas Spec…

Playlist 426 - Dec 6 2016

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A mix and match this week, some Best of 2016, some new music (ahead of the Christmas Special next week).

The former.
Entrance, beautiful sweeping orch pop.
Weyes Blood, a monumental noise with a voice deceptively smooth.
North Sea Radio Orchestra, a wonderful album of shifting avant folk music.

The latter.
Nadia Reid, back with a new album in the new year, a lovely foretaste.
Whyte Horses, reinterpreting their album with a 400 strong children's choir.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen, soundtrack music with great propulsion.

And a classic from Super Furry Animals, currently on tour.

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 426
Tues Dec 6 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
goo.gl/Et6rTO


Playlist
Peaking Ligh…

Playlist 425 - Nov 29 2016

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Weyes Blood (pic) is Natalie Mering and you need to hear her. Dreamy psych pop that is stately, somewhat serene, and with a singing voice that will have you in the palm of its hand from the first note. Do it.

Also great new Howe Gelb, from his Future Standards album, which is piano trio jazz tunes and with to die for vocals also by Lonna Kelley.

Virginia Wing have some very interesting spooked electronic shapes on their new album, haunted you might say.

Cory Hanson's solo album is another beaut, subtly freaky folk songs with lush throbbing strings.

And Rothko have made something that's absolutely gripping, like some kind of cross between Mark E Smith and Ken Loach. Give it a go.

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 425
Tues Nov 29 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM…

Mikael Tariverdiev – The irony of fate (Earth Recordings)

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Last year Earth Recordings did a great thing. They released a retrospective of the film soundtrack work of Mikael Tariverdiev, a Russian composer who might have been to that country what Michel Legrand is to France. He was prolific in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when not much of Russian culture passed through the iron curtain to this side of the continent. That album was an absolute treasure and you can read more here.

This new release is another sublime collection from a 1975 film, sweeping orchestral passages brushing up against plaintiff Russian folk songs. My favourite moments are the sublimely soporific feel to the orchestral jazz theme of ‘Snow over Leningrad’ and its companion/variation ‘Melody’, where the strings come out from under the shadow of the vibraphone magnificently.

Another album to treasure from a treasure of a label.

The Irony Of Fate – Original Score by Tariverdiev

Lambchop – FLOTUS (Merge/City Slang)

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Autotune on vocals is about the last thing I would put on my wish list for the next Lambchop (or any) album but when dealing with a legend like Kurt Wagner (and pals) let’s say we can give him more leeway than most.

And it turns out autotune, which is appalling on all those strident belt it out vocal styles, produces a surprisingly delicate effect in the case of a subtle and restrained instrument like Wagner’s. It acts as a blink and you’ll miss it twist to his low key croon.

So it adds a level of intrigue to opening track ‘In care of 8675309’, something somehow punk rock among the gorgeous lounge soul stylings.

It plays up the funk on a track like ‘Old masters’, a slow and smooching dancefloor jam.

And it adds deep pathos on the title track, a song with an already sad nostalgic air and undercut by softly skittering electronic beats.

For the rest of the album you can drift or you can listen closely, treating it as a warm bath or an aural puzzle, a kind of shapeshifti…

Jess Williamson – See you in a dream (from the album Heart song, Brutal Honest)

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There’s a deceptive and devastating simplicity to this wracked blues from the Austin Texas singer.

Williamson’s voice is a wonderful instrument for starters, hovering on the edge of cracking, somewhere between a plea and Portuguese fado, a distant relation to Angel Olsen maybe, so little enough is needed in the musical arrangement to set it off.

Just some of the tastiest reverbed and tremolo-laced guitar since Chris Isaak and perfectly judged drumbeats, shading in between the lines with sensitivity and artistry so that the magnificent singing remains centre stage.

All in all it has the air of a David Lynch soundtrack cut, a shimmer of moonlight, a shiver, a dream, something from another world.

A memorable and intriguing piece of pop music.



*Opening album track ‘Say it’ is also a beautiful thing, a cousin to ‘See you in a dream’, another smouldering blues with a lovely reined in walking guitar line and a vocal to strap your soul to where every breath is a matter of lif…

Playlist 424 - Nov 22 2016

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A spate of great gigs coming up in Cork and we played several of these bands on the show this week.

Fixity, a new album conceived in Cork, recorded in Malmo and sounding like a pure beast, launches in Triskel Dec 3.

The Altered Hours, "hometown" show at the Kino Dec 10, it's been too long. Also Rozi Plain, same venue the following night, all part of the Sudden Club Weekender. Great.

A terrible clash but also on Dec 10 in Cobh at the Sirius Arts Centre, the return of the wonderful Slow Moving Clouds, strings and drones turned into gorgeous ambient hum.

Also great music from Cool Ghouls, channelling The Byrds from 1965/6; Rothko with vocals by Johny Brown, sterling bass and voice expositions from the north of England; The Sea Nymphs, a timeless treasure from 1992, just released.

And Lambchop, making autotuned vocals credible for the first time.

More on these pages.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness…

Trashcan Sinatras – The Workman’s Club, Dublin, Nov 12th 2016

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At the end of my twenties I was standing in Waterloo Station in London. I was over for a long weekend with Songs to Learn and Sing. As he queued for food someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “do you like the Trashcan Sinatras?” I was wearing my I Hate Music t-shirt, bright yellow text on blue, the one I bought at their gig in Nancy Spain’s in Cork a few years earlier, which had a series of anagrams of the band’s name on the back – Anarchist Has Ten and the like. I used to wear this t-shirt around town. It had an uncanny ability to draw comments from people as if it was the controversial opening salvo in an argument, a blatant provocation, a long straight middle finger – “Well I love it”, “You don’t mean that do you?”, and other things. People would approach me distraught, vexed, furious. This particular guy in Waterloo was none of those things. He was politely curious. I told him I did like them and he said, “would you like to meet them?”. Still in the dark, I told him I wou…

Playlist 423 - Nov 15 2016

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I saw Trashcan Sinatras play live last weekend. What a joy that was. A band at the top of their craft, 25 years + on. This album (pic) features some of the best one liners in all of pop music - "got to get the keys from my girlfriend", "disco dancing in the morning" - and that's just in the first song, which opened the show . More to come on that gig on the blog.

August Wells are back on tour in the spring with band which should be very special.

We had a run of beautiful vibes-tinged jazz pieces - Kathryn Williams & Anthony Kerr from their album of jazz covers. Rayon (Markus Acher from The Notwist) plying similar late night tones. And Mikael Tariverdiev, the sound of St Petersburg through film in the 1970s, a bittersweet and quietly uplifting sound.

And more from Hilma Nikolaisen, a gorgeous album of shifting psych pop shapes.

More on these pages.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness.blog…

Hilma Nikolaisen – Puzzler (Fysisk Format)

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The bass player with the renowned Norwegian band Sereena Maneesh strikes out into intriguing Tame Impala (grooves) meets Ariel Pink (bittersweet pop sensibility) territory.

The first thing you notice is the bass playing. It’s front and centre in the mix, a beautiful warm sound and full of circular figures which are insistent and groovy. It immediately brings to mind The Byrds from around 1965-67, in which the bass went far beyond simple root notes to bring an extra voice to the arrangements. Think ‘Eight Miles High’ or ‘So you wanna be a rock and roll star’. It’s a brilliant foil to Nikolaisen’s unusual and enigmatic vocal and you’d be inclined to be humming these basslines to yourself after one listen.

The next thing to say is that the songwriting has the ability to make different moods rub shoulders together without it sounding forced or for effect, but instead inherent to the song. It’s a joy, that.

So the wonderful opener ‘Hermitage’ follows an urgent psych pop beginnin…

Playlist 422 - Nov 8 2016

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A couple of great new records featured this week.

Hilma Nikolaisen might be best known as the bass player in Norwegian shoegazers Sereena Maneesh. Her first solo record is a brilliant combination of dreamy jangle pop and psychedelic grooves, adorned with outstanding bass playing, maybe not surprisingly.

Lambchop are back with a shift in focus. Kurt Wagner has been on the autotune but it tends to work a dream with his gentle croon and on a bed of electronic clicks and coos.

Also new sounds from Goat, Cory Hanson, Virginia Wing.

And a treasure from Bruce Haack, inner space moog masterpiece.

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 422
Tues Nov 8 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
goo.gl/6XEuNF


Playlist
Vir…

Playlist 421 - Nov 1 2016

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An extra hour this week so time to fit in a few indulgences like

12 minutes (well most of) of glorious orchestral sweep from The Fiction Aisle
New music from Jess Williamson, great desert blues with a voice on the edge of cracking
Fantastic shifting cosmic soul from Ex Reyes
Lovely country boogie from Hiss Golden Messenger.

Also time for some more wonderful Russian film music from Mikael Tariverdiev
Irresistible beats from Yama Warashi
Some treasures from The Byrds & Big Star.

And a Grant McLennan interlude featuring a great solo cut from 1997 and two of his genius Go Betweens catalogue.

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 421
Tues Nov 1 2016
11.00am-1.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983fm
*listen back to this show here
goo.gl/rmydww

Playlist…

The Notwist – Superheroes, Ghostvillains + Stuff (Alien Transistor)

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And finally (and by coincidence somewhat appropriately for Halloween), another effortlessly cool, fluid and (crucially) groovy chapter in the story of The Notwist.

Apart from notwisting, the Acher brothers have had their hands in all kinds of fascinating pies over the years. For the first time, this is a live set, recorded in Leipzig in front of a most appreciative audience and it sounds fantastic.

From the opening strains of ’They follow me’ – with its intriguing creeping meditative air – there’s a lovely organic mixture of analogue and digital sounds.

It’s like a Notwist mission statement, neatly summed up by the band like this -

It’s all about sonic interconnection, about music as entanglement, music as reconciliation. The rather majestic, cinematic (indie) pop and experimental, kraut- infused jazz, the spirit of the enlightenment and baroque playfulness, the traces of modernism and minimal music, dub leanings, hip-hop lessons, and even hints of house music: here is w…

The Monochrome Set – Cosmonaut (from the album Cosmonaut, Tapete Records)

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There’s a great swagger about this title track from the 13th album by The Monochrome Set, who are something of a cultural institution at this stage.

Bid is in excellent and provocative voice and the guitars (12 string Rickenbacker by the [wonderful] sounds of it) roll around with a fantastic barrelling energy.

Don’t take my word for it, this is the Tapete one sheet -

The title track opens with a Theremin cyber fly buzzing towards your skull before the song hits, launching you into a mirror dimension that is both familiar and alien. The whole album is a trip that starts with a hallucinating cash-till lady, then travels through dream-sets involving cannibalism, disaffected squirrels, strange gods, dying sweethearts, sexual depravity, Alzheimer's, backward evolution, and ends in an operating theatre, amid a sea of medical tentacles.

In short, a camping holiday.


Very good. You would need an antidote of this order to get hrough the whole Butlins experience.

Invigorating…

Alien Ensemble – Alien Ensemble 2 (Alien Transistor)

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Beautiful combination of smooth jazz, krautrock and brass band shapes from Micha Acher (The Notwist) and friends.

Within the first two tracks we already have a cool jazz jam, a bowed double bass meditation, a gorgeous vibraphone exercise (all on album opener ‘Arc Trilogy’) and a sprightly/bittersweet brass band workout (‘Morgenstimmung’).

The heart and soul of the album for me is the run beginning from the fourth track ‘Sun’, an exquisite accordion, flute and vibes concoction that drifts and lopes all woozy and heat drunk.

Next the sublimely morose brass of ‘Lenity’ is a perfect palate cleanser, like a Tom Waits tune in a sharper suit but just as pleasingly dishevelled underneath.

The run is crowned by the glorious motorik beackbeat of 'Skeleton dance' with the white line held by a single banjo chord while an irresistible flute and trumpet melody flirts with the verges.

The album still has great things in store – the insistent brass, flute and vibes interplay…

Playlist 420 - Oct 25 2016

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The marvellous Trashcan Sinatras are back in Ireland soon for a live date. What better time to roll out something from their 1996 masterpiece, the genius cut 'Genius I was'. Makes me melt every time.

Kristin Hersh is in Triskel Christchurch in Cork for a solo show next week, should be wonderful. Jherek Bischoff is in Utrecht for the Le Guess Who Festival. Rozi Plain is back in Cork at The Kino in December. Bring that great folk kosmische, Rozi.

Howe Gelb has a new piano trio album out soon, Future Standards, going back to his childhood listening lounge roots,sounds great so far.

And The Notwist with a live album, sounding as stoic and essential as ever.

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 420
Tues Oct 25 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at

Itasca – Open to chance (Paradise of Bachelors)

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This is a record I’ve been digging a lot for the past couple of months, on a label that is consistently reliable for offering authentic and intriguing cuts.

Layla Cohen is the woman who goes under the name Itasca (a composite of the Latin words for “truth” – veritas - and “head” – caput - apparently). She lives in Los Angeles and there is a shimmering, heat-induced quality to her plaintiff, straightforwardly beautiful folk songs.

Above the delicate guitar figures and woozy mix of steel guitar and keys, Cohen’s voice drifts with an elegance that is particularly moving. There’s a purity to it, a muted tone, something like a soft bell or chime, somehow reminding me of Joni Mitchell more than anyone else, although free of any of Mitchell’s vibrato or baroque stylings. Soft alright but insistent and beguiling.

It’s an album that sounds a little out of time but all the better for that.

A majestic and authoritative document.

This from the label one sheet (which in the case of…

Sans Chateaux – Aspendale

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Sublime chamber folk offering from Austin Patrick who is of this universe – sometimes Cork, sometimes Melbourne, sometimes Canada – but projects a distinctly otherworldly aura.

There’s a delicate featherlight quality to these songs that would remind you of Fredo Viola, although the addition of cello on most songs gives an interesting extra emotional tug and weight to the arrangements.

Patrick’s voice is the key, a thing of high register beauty with a honey tone on the edge of falsetto, which although it may not be to everyone’s taste absolutely rocks my world.

Gentle fingerpicked guitar and here and there simple piano chords round out the picture.

Highlights include the title track opener with added lush ambience, the rhythmic lilt with stacked harmonies of ‘Fiction can be heavy’ and the Beach Boys vocal gorgeousness of ‘On distance’.

The mood is primarily downtempo although fascinatingly breezy west coast US things happen on ‘Stuff unknown’ when a tambourine joins …

Playlist 419 - Oct 18 2016

Ahead of the release of Fixity 2 on vinyl, and a Cork Opera House (Green Room) show, something from the first Fixity album, dark and murky and engrossing. Matthew Bourne hitting a similar tone using a Moog - shimmering analogue sounds.

Glorious vocal stylings from Sans Chateaux which should be to the liking of Beach Boys fans. Some "lost" Russian film music from the wonderful Mikael Tariverdiev.

Yama Warashi is a Japanese woman in Bristol (and friends) making adventurous cosmic folk music. Arborist is Belfast man Mark McCambridge flitting between beautiful chamber and country sounds.

And The Altered Hours who play a Cork show in December at The Kino, drifting, teasing, psych 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 419
Tues Oct 18 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.…