Koloto – ‘Life in Clay’

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We were first introduced to the glorious sounds of Koloto back in 2013, with some early tracks that would later form the bones of the super debut EP, Mechanica.

Canterbury based electronic musician and producer, Koloto AKA Maria Sullivan, has returned with ‘Life in Clay’, a brand new single and part of Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Song selection. ‘Life in Clay’ illustrates Koloto’s preference for homemade, hand-crafted sounds, to great effect. Light, bright and optimistic, it intricately weaves a wonderful patchwork of colorful fluttering electronics with blend of playful sounds, a hint of the tropical and Koloto’s recognizable touch of glitchy brilliance. Combined with complex melodic and rhythmic shifts, ‘Life in Clay’ is profoundly and wonderfully imaginative, and an irresistible three-minutes of electronica.

You can stream ‘Life in Clay’ below, and it is also available as a free download from Secret Song.

Knockanstockan 2015 Review

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Given that I’m over 9,000 miles away, there ain’t much chance of me making an appearance at any Irish festivals but in my absence, my mate and intrepid gig goer, Johnny Feeney was at this year’s Knockanstockan. As always, his makes for interesting and thoroughly enjoyable reading. Thanks as always to Johnny and I’ll leave you in his very capable hands. 

While many festivals continue to expand year on year, Knockanstockan have deliberately gone the other direction, scaling back the size of the main arena and removing the main stage for the second successive year. Live music is now concentrated into three main medium-size stages with a further dedicated dance tent, a performance stage displaying varied entertainment such as debate, spoken word and cabaret and a kids area.

The main arena’s compact but not overcrowded. The camp site is close by so everything is a short walk away – a very important fact considering it’s BYOB. However there are bars scattered around the place also. The crowd are boisterous and friendly and there was no sign or reports of any aggression or trouble over the course of the weekend. Due to work commitments, Friday was unfortunately missed but Saturday proved to be a treat. Helpfully, the weather was also kinder on the Saturday with the sun making the occasional, welcome appearance through the overcast sky. And so to the music.

Dublin four-piece rockers Pretty Beast were first up in the Dimestore Tent (it was marked down as the Circus Tent on the timetable). They played a high-octane set of pulsating rock that fizzed along noisily. As the show progressed the tunes became noticeably more danceable with their heavy riffs underpinned by grooving basslines and synths. The charismatic frontman Donie Keaveney owned the stage and worked up quite a sweat, culminating in him perilously climbing to the top of the scaffolding at the side of the stage towards the end.

Sinead White was next up in the intimate amphitheatre, the Faerie Field. It’s a beautiful setting for the Dublin-based singer-songwriter and a nice way to ease into the day. White plays acoustic guitar throughout but is ably accompanied by lead guitar, bass and drums to flesh out her sound. For her closing song, White hands out 50 plastic kazoos into the crowd in an attempt to get the crowd to join in on the chorus. By the time people have figured out how to play the kazoos White has left the stage so all that’s left is the sound of kazoos all over the place. A cue to exit if ever I’ve heard one.

Upon entering the Burrow, White Chalk have already kicked off their set and are in full flight. They’re a seven–piece band with a penchant for anthemic songs and big, singalong choruses –lots of woahs and doo-doos that you can pick up after a listen or two. Think a strange Arcade Fire/Maccabees/trad hybrid with guitars, percussion, cello, keyboards, mandolins and more. Main vocalist Conor Quinn’s country-tinged voice is unique and not what you’d expect and he’s backed by soaring harmonies. They’re armed with very catchy tunes and certainly get the crowd moving. It would be very interesting to see these guys under a roof in a dark room.

Having known nothing about them before Saturday, Hot Cops were easily the find of the day for me. The Belfast three-piece play brilliantly dark, melodic indie-rock reminiscent of Pavement or Surfer Blood. Vocalist and frontman Carl Eccles comes alive with guitar in hand but just as quickly becomes soft-spoken and mild-mannered with barely a hint of a Belfast accent – so much so in fact that while speaking between songs, when one of the crowd suggests he doesn’t sound like he’s from Belfast he apologises! Drummer Conor Ellison is an absolute powerhouse on the drums. Superb.

Fresh on the trails of Hot Cops, Tramore native Rebecca Collins delivers another stunning performance in the Dimestore Tent. You can see why she’s been compared to the likes of PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi – particularly the former. This is theatrical alternative-rock that’s slightly morbid but utterly mesmerising. Collins is a captivating presence throughout and it’s difficult to take your eyes off her.

Having been impressive the weekend before in Longitude, Otherkin produced another storming set on the Burrow stage on Saturday evening. This Dublin-based four-piece play infectious, upbeat grunge/indie-rock with fuzzy guitars and a real swagger. The band clearly look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage and it’s hard not to get carried away with their enthusiasm. Nothing ground-breaking but very enjoyable all the same.

Festival highlight Elastic Sleep are a bit special. The Cork five-piece specialise in dream-pop/shoegaze along the lines of the quieter side of My Bloody Valentine. Muireann Levis provides breathy, haunting vocals around which the rest of the band create bruising, meandering soundscapes. Music to get well and truly immersed in, these are one of the best live bands around today. The Dimestore Tent didn’t ease off in quality all day. No Spill Blood were next on and the Dublin band produced a scintillating, no-holds-barred barrage of heavy synth-rock. A pummeling, chaotic, high-intensity set has the crowd going absolutely mental, the energy in the tent is electric and a fair amount of sweat is shed. Quality.

As night falls on Knockanstockan, various other attractions come into their own. Apart from more heavy-hitting music on the main stages, the Caravan Club Extravaganza (the dance tent) comes alive and various campfires pop up throughout the main arena where one can engage in various levels of entertaining conversation depending on who you end up beside. A great day, a very fine little festival.

Open Window – ‘XX00′

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Formerly going under the guises of Sliab Cuinciu & Cuinciu, Open Window is the latest alias for Wicklow producer Ross McDonald’s superlative electronic output.

No matter the moniker, to date, he’s impressed a hell of a lot and firmly placed himself toward the top end of a rather congested bunch of Ireland’s emerging electronic producing talent. Aside from the chameleonic name changes, of late, he’s been busy amassing a solid collection of new material that is ‘XX00′. It’s a sumptuous selection of sound that draws inspiration from a wealth of hip hop, synth pop, disco and electronic influences (and an X-Files obsession). McDonald appears to have unearthed the deceptively simple, age-old secret to transcending influences: just craft top quality tunes, and how! An exemplary example of which is ‘0013 (RIOT TAPE)’, a powerful fusion of hip hop inspired, thumping beats, flourishes of electronic brilliance and shrewd sampling that delivers a clear and concise declaration from Black Panther, Fred Hampton. The production feels menacing, threatening and mightily dangerous as Hampton declares, “In plain proletarian worker’s language, it takes two to tango. As soon as these motherfuckers go, we go.”

You can sample some choice cuts from ‘XX00′ below and the full set is here. Also, you can listen to Open Window’s GruffWuff inclusion, ‘003 (Africa)’ – of which you can download the full 19 track compilation here for FREE.

Open Window plays Scrobarnach Boutique Music & Arts Festival on August 14th.

Introducing: DRINKS (Cate Le Bon & White Fence’s Tim Presley)

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Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon is joining forces with White Fence‘s Tim Presley for DRINKS, a new collaborative project. Despite their synergistic efforts, they describe themselves “as solo project, not a collaboration. It has one mouth, one set of lungs, one mind and four legs.”

Moving swiftly away from the pedantry, the duo’s debut album Hermits on Holiday, will be released on August 21st via Heavenly Records. Ahead of the LP’s release, which is not too far away at all, we’ve got a a veritable pair of aces in ‘Hermits On Holiday’ & ‘Laying Down Rock’. Title track, ‘Hermits On Holiday’ is a peculiar (and incredibly catchy), jaunty affair with a jittery, tick-tock rhythm and led by Le Bon’s distinctly soft, supple vocals, before a mash of ragged riffs rise up, and rip it up, to see out the song with chaotic majesty. Meanwhile, Presley handles vocals on ‘Laying Down Rock’, a purposefully graceless, jerky piece of ’60s-leaning-psychedelia, driven by some tremendous riff repetition.

Who looks the majority of vocal responsibility on the album? Guess we’ll have to wait and see, but both are equally affable, no doubt about it. It is a promising start to an interesting partnership and you can hear both tracks below.

 

Sleaford Mods – ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo’

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Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods release their new album Key Markets, today, July 10th 24th via Harbinger Sound.

Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn have already shared ‘Face To Faces’ & ‘No Ones Bothered’ with us, and now they’ve added another, with their new video for ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo’. Inspired by a 1977 horror movie of the same name, it is a slightly different take on their usual sound. Mellow, by their standards, with a moody bassline that’ll get inside your head providing the backdrop for Williamson’s metaphorical take on the often bleak and feverish experiences of touring. Be it the sneering sarcasm and vitriolic anger, there is a brutal honesty and realness to everything Sleaford Mods do. The new record can’t arrive quick enough.

Check out the Simon Parfrement shot video for ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo’ below.

Stealing Sheep – ‘Not Real’ (Gwenno Remix)

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Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep – Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley and Lucy Mercer – released their second LP back in April. Slightly odd, peculiar but brilliant new record, it is one this year’s favorite records so far.

The trio’s sweet and heavenly voiced psych-pop, choral harmonies and quirky delivery is immersed in a colourful mix of electronics and leftfield ’80s pop, incorporating synthesizers and drum machines to their psych-folk tendencies, it is an admirable evolution of their sound. Equally meritorious is their label mate and former Pipettes front-woman, Gwenno‘s remix of the title track. Stealing Sheep‘s utterly contagious, infectiously off-kilter pop gem ‘Not Real’, is transformed into a blissed-out chugging, hypnotic electro-kraut-pop jam. An insistent, urgent backbeat gives shape to the more dreamy, ethereal tones and the echoing vocals flashes of psych moments only add to a most ear-catching, immersive and irresistible of tunes. Ruddy marvelous!

Stealing Sheep’s Not Real is out now, while Gwenno’s album, released late last year, is getting a reissue later in 2015.

The School – ‘Do I Love You’

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Cardiff’s resplendent pop purveyors, The School have a new album coming, entitled Wasting Away and Wondering, it’s out September 4th on Elefant Records.

Ahead of their new album, The School have shared with us, new single ‘Do I Love You?’. It’s superlative Northern Soul inspired indie pop flavours. A timeless pop earworm, it’s bright, breezy and irresistibly catchy, blending a joyous and colourful explosion of soulful chimes with Liz Hunt’s light-as-air angelic tones. A rich and gorgeous sound, the Welsh indie-pop makers remind us exactly what it is they do so very, very well – and why we should be getting excited for the new record. Marvellous as usual.

The new LP, Wasting Away and Wondering is out September 4th Elefant Records. ‘Do I Love You?’ however, is out now and you can sample it’s delights below, or pop over here for a free download.

Galants – ‘This Is Heaven’

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Following on from their impressive debut double A- Side ‘Howling/Silver’ last year, Dublin-based Galants have returned with a brand new single, ‘This Is Heaven’.

The first of a trio of summer singles, ‘This Is Heaven’ is a warm fuzzy number, sonically charged with layers of shoegazing goodness, jangled hooks and melodic exchanges that recall some of Creation Records reverb-soaked finest moments. Galants have merged the noise making promise of their previous release ‘Howling // Silver’ with a well honed vibrant urgency and confidence. Part one of three this maybe but ‘This Is Heaven’ is magnificent and should immediately prick your ears up and catch you hook, line and sinker. One thing is for sure; it certainly sets the scene nicely for the rest of their forthcoming singles.

Check ‘This Is Heaven’ below.

Kelly Lee Owens – ‘Uncertain’

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Kelly Lee Owens may be an unfamiliar name, but her voice should be recognisable, especially fans of Daniel Avery and Ghost Culture, having collaborated with both on their excellent, recent records.

However, the London producer and vocalist is carving out a rising reputation in her own right. Earlier this year Owens released a two track single ‘Lucid/Arthur’ and at the end of July, she is releasing ‘Uncertain’ paired with a club reworking of the aforementioned ‘Lucid’. ‘Uncertain’ is a haunting piece of gothic pop. Filled with swirling textures and atmospherics, an ominous bassline and sweeping orchestral string arrangements conspire to create an otherworldly backdrop for Owens’ ethereal vocals to mesmerise and enchant in equal measure. Murky, chilling and foreboding but equally, it is utterly beautiful.

Owens second EP, Uncertain is released on July 31st. You can listen to ‘Uncertain’ and a snippet of the club reworked ‘Lucid’, below now.

Neon Wolf – ‘A Place To Call Home’

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To date, Kilkenny-based Neon Wolf have built a pretty solid rep when it comes to catchy, easy-on-the-ears indie-rock with infectious pop leanings.

Things sound like they’re kicking it up a notch for the 5-piece with the release of their brand new single, ‘A Place To Call Home’, on UK label Killing Moon. ‘A Place To Call Home’ is a vibrant and colourful piece of synth sprinkled indie-pop. Flush with pleasure it bounces along with iridescent melodies, bright rhythms and more hooks than a gigantic cloakroom, and all imbued with some serious tropical vibes. It brings to mind a certain other Irish band and famed purveyors of melodic indie-pop, namely, Two Door Cinema Club, in their pomp. An irresistible three-minute slice of electronic-tinged indie-pop, this is a rather fine return from Neon Wolf.

‘A Place To Call Home’ is out now and you can listen to it below, or purchase it via iTunes. For those of you back home headed to Longitude this weekend, Neon Wolf play the Main Stage, Saturday at 2pm.