Introducing: Stella Donnelly

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Wales-born, Australian singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly built a much warranted reputation on the back of her 2018 debut EP Thrush Metal – a stunning collection of deceptively simple, sparse but compelling acoustic tracks filled with witty, stark, honest and frustrated musings tackling subjects like sexual assault, victim blaming and misogyny.

Following on from last year’s EP, Donnelly has announced her debut album, Beware of the Dogs will be released on March 8 via esteemed indie label Secretly Canadian, and the 13-track LP is led by the single ‘Old Man’. Joined by a full band, on the surface ‘Old Man’ is a breezy, easygoing and sparkling piece of indie-pop but amid all the warm melodies, it’s a song that finds a perfect balance between dreamy and acerbic, with a sharp message aimed at taking exploitative men to task. Once again, Donnelly has proven herself to be a masterful voice of rage, wit, humour and compassion.

Check out ‘Old Man’ and the Fiona Jane Burgess directed video below and the debut LP, Beware of the Dogs is out on March 8 via Secretly Canadian. You can listen to debut EP Thrush Metal here too – it’s very, very good indeed.

Stella Donnelly plays The Grand Social, Dublin on April 29 – Tickets €15.

Introducing: Los Blancos

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Los Blancos are slacker/garage-rock foursome from Carmarthenshire, South West Wales.

A band bonded in friendship, Gwyn, Dewi, Emyr and Osian have known each other since school days, there is a quiet, understated confidence underpinning Los Blancos’s ’90s inspired garage sound. Drawing inspiration from the slanted sounds of Pavement, Brian Jonestown Massacre and the playfulness of Mac Demarco their songs are simultaneously gloomy yet hopeful and sun-kissed.

Sung in their native Welsh, Los Blancos’ scuzzy, fuzz-filled sound mutates somewhat between each release. ‘Cadi‘ is a ragged hook-filled rattle revolving around frenetic riffing and insistent percussion that combine in a languid, very Velvet Underground kind of way. With ‘Chwarter I Dri’ the melodic meanderings and ramblings are punctuated by soaring riffs, melodies and towering vocals while ‘Cadw Fi Lan’ offers a hazy meander sojourn to warm and swooning sliding guitar-led alt-country meets lo-fi indie. Aside from their native tongue and dash of garage fuzz, the other constant is Gwyn Rosser’s voice, his drawl consistently delivering that added emotional punch with aplomb.

These are songs that cheerily worm their way into your heart through perfect songcraft and you can check out some choices cut below.

Introducing: DefByMisadventure

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Originally from Co Tyrone, DefByMisadventure (aka Marius Magfhogartai-Marius) is an Irish producer based in the UK – Preston to be precise.

DefByMisadventure has a clear preference for head-nodding and lavish explorations of genres and styles but the hip-hop influence looms largest on the horizon, as evidenced by introductory tunes ‘Chevynova’ & ‘Versacered’. Both tracks are smooth, cool as fuck hip-hop inspired electronic tunes, with popping beats, slick samples and swaggering grooves, and all permeated entirely with an elegant air of chicness. Moving along an uptempo, stuttering snappy beat combo, ‘Chevynova’ swaggers on its way with sultry sax-solo sample and vocal snippets adding a final veneer of allure to this infectious production. While the bumping beats remain, ‘Versacered’ offers a more chilled and elegant side to his approach. Fueled by a bouncy beat and infectious rhythmic groove, it bobs along a rippling of chiming synths, popping percussion, as it moves along on its merry way with quite a swagger. Two sublimely cool tracks to introduce you to DefByMisadventure’s wares.

Listen to both ‘Chevynova’ & ‘Versacered’ below now:

Introducing: Sulkin’ Raven

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Sulkin’ Raven is the brainchild of Kevin De Nicolo, an electronic music producer, composer, and DJ hailing from North Hollywood, California.

Sulkin’ Raven’s intricate and delicately woven, glitchy atmospheric electronica flows from a well of ambient sounds and interspersed with subtle grooves and melodies, and charming computer game synths and 8-bit sounds – a fine and fascinating balance that his recently released Strange Days + Other voices EP is testament to.

‘Help! I’m Ambient’ is, as the name suggests, a work of slow burning ambient sounds. This is one to get lost in, as it evokes moods, feelings and memories on this magical trip through ethereal, atmospheric textures. ‘Not Near Whatever’ is simply gorgeous as it unfolds radiating a sense of awe and wonder as sounds drip, splash and twinkle amid the chiming tones, glitchy sounds and flourishes exuberant light. It bubbles and fizzes with playful computer game synths and 8-bit sounds delighting in delivering irresistible melodies. ‘I Can’t Even’ is a sort of crossing point between the two above; ethereal tones and atmospheric textures abound while slivers of synths and 8-bit sounds create a retro-futuristic vibe. Be they dreamy, playful, or both, Sulkin’ Raven wares are magical and beautiful instrumental electronic jams.

Listen to some choice cuts below and if you like what you hear, check out the new EP here.

Introducing: Kneecap

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Regular patrons of the site will be aware of my fondness for music of Welsh origin, and especially that performed in their native tongue.

Given this predilection, it gave to wondering about Ireland’s own native language and the comparatively scarce amount of contemporary music performed as Gaeilge. Now, that is a topic for another day and deserving of more attention and further examination (thesis anyone?) but it did bring my attention to Kneecap; a satirical hip-hop trio from Belfast who perform in Irish.

The three members; Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Provaí combine a fluency in Irish with an amazing delivery and a wry sense of humour to produce one of the most unique homegrown records of 2018.

Over eight tracks, their mixtape 3CAG offers a satirical take on life for young people, with a particular west Belfast slant. If like me, your command of Irish leaves a lot to be desired, it doesn’t matter a jot. The beats are superb and so infectious, and the flow and lyrical skill on show is second to none, with plenty of laughs thrown in for good measure – anyone who might be skeptical to begin with will be easily won over, just press play on ‘Amach Anocht’, ‘Cearta’ or ‘Tá na Baggies ar an Talamh’ below.

You can listen to mixtape 3CAG in full here; and like mentioned above, it is one of the most unique homegrown records of 2018.

Kneecap have also announced an Irish tour for February 2019 – you can check the dates near you here.

Introducing: Lennard Rubra

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Lennard Rubra, is a multi-instrumentalist from Riccione, Italy whose proto punk sound is inspired by a youthful fascination is ’60s Brazilian folk music, The Smiths and John Cage.

In May of this year, Rubra released two EPs, Pleonasmi and Escapismo Primaverile, both self-produced, recorded and mixed at home – and both are treasure troves of spellbinding sounds.

‘L’archetipo di Artemide’ offers a perfect introduction to what Rubra is all about. Opening with a wash of dreamy-pop amid a melodic mist before haring off at a frantic pace; jerky, angular art-rock riffs dance with a relentless, inescapable Krautrock indebted rhythm as the hypnotic swirl of guitars, hazy atmospherics drone of psychedelia closes in. A hypnotic and captivating track, of epic proportions. ‘Paracusie’ is less of a freewheeling juggernaut as it tiptoes its way through an elegant and dreamy world of escapism, drifting with a weightlessness punctured only by bouts of stabby, jerky guitar work. A warm brew of beautifully hewn layer upon layer of shimmering guitars and spacey atmospherics. ‘Aquafan’ meanwhile falls somewhere between the previous two, blending a hypnotic escapism with mellow undulating vibes while it purrs with a flair for psych-pop and the bite provided by a rough-and-ready DIY approach to indie meets post-punk.

Sang in Italian, Rubra’s output offers a magical escape to a world of drifting dreamy atmospherics with exuberant proto-punk tones and free flowing experimental excursions thrown in for good measure.

Tune into some choice cuts below and if they are to you liking, you can find much more of the same here.

Introducing: CHROMA

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CHROMA are a ferrous alt-rock trio – Katie Hall, Liam Bevan & Zac Mather – from Pontypridd in South Wales.

Welsh trio are a formidable force of nature and self-evidently brilliant guitar band, and led by the charismatic Katie Hall, they have a MASSIVE sound.

As far as an introduction to CHROMA, in a little over three-minutes, single ‘Vampires’ offers that in the best possible way. All scintillating riffs, high-energy, hammering percussion and bass line that pounds incessantly as Hall’s stunning vocals enter the fray, rendering everything else secondary. ‘Datod’ meanwhile, offers another side to CHROMA. Sung in Welsh, it opens quietly, introducing itself with gently a strummed guitar as Hall’s earth-shattering vocals front and centre. It slowly builds, shifting though the gears towards a muscular, cathartic climax that brings the house down around us. The juxtaposition between darkness and light, softness and harsh, is where ‘Datod’ power is sourced, that and the incredibly powerful, searing vocals – as per usual.

Two dizzying displays of what makes CHROMA a very, very exciting proposition indeed. Check ’em below.

 

CHROMA are also one of twelve acts selected from across Wales for Horizons 2018, so you will be hearing plenty more from them over the next 12 months.

Introducing: Badhands

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Dan FitzPatrick, formerly of The Last Tycoons & The Mighty Stef, he has returned with his new solo outfit Badhands.

An album, Predictable Boy is in the offing this year, with inspirations drawn from Nick Cave, Arcade Fire, Villagers and Leonard Cohen. As an opening intro to his new solo wares, FitzPatrick released debut single ‘Waves’ toward the back end of last year. Inspired by the experience when Dan and his brother Jamie swam out to sea to scatter their father’s ashes near their family home in Dublin, ‘Waves’ is a flourishing folk tune that will have your heart fawning from the first note. This warm, glowing organ hum swells, much like the sea, to engulf all in its wake but perfectly complimenting the rusticated guitar picks, that bubbles/buzzes in a Johnny Flynn-esque way and FitzPatrick’s wistful vocals.

A truly beautiful and compelling single, followed more recently by equally endearing ‘Let Me In’. The latest single tells the tale of a late night misadventure as the bluesy guitar and lush string arrangements give the song an ethereal ambience, richly bubbling away, building constantly in intensity to a pulsating finish. The mood is perfectly captured by Jamie Fitzpatrick’s eerie video, filmed at an abandoned farm near Stradbally, Co. Laois.

Dan FitzPatrick’s work with The Last Tycoons & The Mighty Stef is/was sublime and his solo work is of a similar high standard. As a side note, he was exceptional supporting Jeffery Lewis in Newbridge recently so between that and singles ‘Waves’ & ‘Let Me In’, we’ve a lot to look forward to with his forthcoming debut LP.

Listen to ‘Waves’ & ‘Let Me In’ below now:

Horizons Acts for 2018 Announced & Playlist

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As regular patrons of the site will be acutely aware I have a great fondness for Wales, and more specifically Welsh music (not to mention the footballing powerhouse that is Wrexham AFC).

For a relatively small place, Wales does rather well for itself musically and for somewhere of its size, it is surely unmatched in both quality and quantity. From the towns and cities, mountains and valleys, Wales proves itself time and time again, to be an ever reliable source of creative, superbly inventive and experimental sounds across a myriad of genres.

While I am entirely grateful for the seemingly never ending stream of wondrous sounds, something apparent from a casual listen to Adam Walton’s excellent BBC Radio Wales Programme (see also Bethan Elfyn also of BBC Radio Wales & Lisa Gwilym’s C2 on BBC Radio Cymru) or cursory glance at the Focus Wales lineup or the Horizons showcase.

It is the latter that draws our attention today – a collaboration between BBC Wales and Arts Council of Wales – Horizons aims to showcase exciting new, independent contemporary music in Wales, providing promotional and performance opportunities, incl. festival slots throughout the year.

Just this week, the twelve acts selected from across Wales for Horizons 2018 were announced. There are some familiar names in there; Adwaith, Campfire Social, CHROMA and Nia Wyn, and some new; Himalayas, I See Rivers, Aleighcia Scott, Alffa, Eadyth, Marged, No Good Boyo and The Pitchforks. Either way, new acquaintances or old, it is an incredibly diverse array of artists.

You can, like me, delve in below:

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Introducing: Irascible Fuck Brigade

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Formed earlier in 2017 by one angry Englishman and his machines, Irascible Fuck Brigade are hard to forget; partially due to their rather tasty handle but also because of the ferocity and caustic nature of their electro-punk sound.

While lyrics rage at societies increasing structural inequality and seething anger is never far away from exploding, the music differs in texture and intensity, sliding between punk, rock and electronic. Irascible Fuck Brigade don’t create music which is easy on the ear, rather it reflects a genuine anger and frustration (and a backlash against), proclaiming a defiant message of protest that takes no shit. Take recent singles ‘Slash The Fucking Seats’ & ‘Chocolate Box’, both feisty, ferocious and angry, they chop and change between styles but the instrumentation is intense, releasing the pent up energy like a coiled up spring, whilst the impassioned and flurried lyrics implore the listener to smash the chains. Blistering, righteous and caustic; Irascible Fuck Brigade leave a hell of an impression.

Listen to ‘Slash The Fucking Seats’, ‘Chocolate Box’ & ‘Conservative Dad’ below: