Cian Ciarán | Interview

Cian-Ciaran

Last week the wonderful, the magnificent and the legendary Super Furry Animals, announced they shall be gracing Vancouver in the new year, when they play at Imperial on February 4th, 2016. I for one, CANNOT FUCKIN’ WAIT!

With that in mind, there’s no better 0r more apt time to share this, an interview I did with SFA’s Cian Ciarán, earlier this year. Originally published with GoldenPlec on July 5th, 2015 – here it is:

Cian Ciarán is best known as Super Furry Animals’ resident electronic and keyboard wizard. Aside from illuminating our lives for the best part of two decades with one of the most enigmatic, creative and downright brilliant psychedelic pop bands of our time, he busies himself with various other stellar side-projects.

Most recently he has released two superb solo albums, ‘Outside In’ (2012) & ‘They Are Nothing Without Us’ (2013), an LP with his other band Zefur Wolves, a stack of collaborations and remixes, and all the while running his own Strangetown Records label. That’s no mean feat by any anyone’s standards.

Ciarán is currently in the midst of intensive touring with SFA and readying his third solo-record, which he hopes to release later this year. Taking time out from his hectic schedule he spoke to Barry about his solo plans, running his label, politics and the small matter of the SFA reunion.

The amount of musical activity you’re associated with is staggering – Zeruf Wolves, solo work, running Strangetown Records and the small matter of Super Furry Animals. How do you find the time and balance between different projects?

Cian Ciarán: “I don’t to be honest – I have to put things on the back-burner constantly. I document everything or try to and revisit things when I have the time. I have to go with the flow, it can be frustrating but I’m happy as long as things get done eventually. There’s an outlet for the music, that’s the main thing, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by talented musicians and creative people that keep me busy and on my toes. I never stop learning and the buzz is still there when I go to the studio so there’s no complaints. The only pressure, if that’s the right word, is self-inflicted. It’s still a labour of love.”

The new solo record [‘Hero, Leader, God’], is another protest album. Does it follow a similar path to ‘They Are Nothing Without Us’? Talk us through what we can expect.

CC: “Again this is music that’s been bubbling for years, but I wanted to bring on board other lyricists and vocalists. The music is completely different to my previous two outings, or the Zefur Wolves album. It’s mostly electronic-based and down-tempo so it lends itself well, I hope, to spoken word, poets etc. The intention was to release it around the UK election but the content is still relevant here and everywhere else in the world. It will probably, unfortunately, be more concerning as our situation becomes increasingly driven by the powers that be and their blatant disregard to the rest of us and the world we live in. It’s too depressingly long a list of issues that we’re subjected to but we have to persevere. As was shown during the water wars in Bolivia, there is strength in numbers.”

Continue reading

BarryGruff’s March 2015 Playlist

IMG_20150221_1700gfffgfgfg

A regular monthly feature to the blog; a nice, neat and handy playlist of tracks featured during the month.

It was a pretty big month for the blog to be fair. We celebrated 5 years of BarryGruff with GruffWuff; a 19 track compilation of new, previously unreleased and exclusive recordings from some of my very favourite acts over the past 5 years of blogging. If somehow you missed all the hoo-ha about ‘GruffWuff’, there’s more info here & you can download / stream it here: Bandcamp / Soundcloud.

Aside from this rather significant milestone, there was the return of Tame Impala, Applescal, Crocodiles and Cian Ciaran with new tracks ahead of their respective albums, and new singles from Teleman, Telegram, Girls Names, Tandem Felix, The Dead Heavys, CaStLeS and Spies. Also featuring on the playlist are: Django Django, Ulrika Spacek, By The Sea, Hippies Vs Ghosts and O Emperor.

Listen to BarryGruff`s March 2015 playlist below. The track listing is after the jump:

 

Continue reading

Ciaran and Wilding – ‘Missing Her’ / ‘Stuck In The Middle’

5054227042270_600

‘Ciaran and Wilding’ is a collaboration between Cian Ciarán, solo artist, producer and member of Super Furry Animals, and Melbourne psych-popper Wilding.

The first fruits of this transcontinental union come in the shape of ‘Missing Her’ and ‘Stuck In The Middle’, two gorgeous orchestral ballads of a similar ilk to Ciaran’s glorious album Outside In. Two charming tracks dripping with melody and harmony, they taks a chic blend of truly beautiful textures, swooning strings, rich sounds and create an atmosphere of beauty and tranquility, yet one tinged with an overwhelming sense of melancholy. This elegant backdrop proves a truly wonderful and perfectly suitable surrounding for the lilting croon to blossom and leave its indelible mark. Sleepy and laid-back yet immersive and deeply affecting, ‘Missing Her’ & ‘Stuck In The Middle’ are dripping with endearing melody and harmony that will brighten the heart of anyone who crosses paths with.

‘Missing Her’ / ‘Stuck In The Middle’ is out  now via Strangetown Records. You can stream they both below or purchase from here.

Cian Ciaran – ‘1/7/69’

Cian-Ciarán

Cian Ciaran‘s album They Are Nothing Without Us was one of last year’s finest records, without a shadow of a doubt.

Spiky, angry but with shades of sweetness and a sparkling ability for a pop song sewn in. This combined with a dash of idiosyncratic sparkle, from the man best known as the keyboard player and production wizard with Super Furry Animals, making the whole thing even more palatable as he took aim at the elite, the bankers, politicians and big corporations. This ‘protest album’ of sorts is continuing to prove a rather fruitful one, with Ciaran returning with another single from TANWU in ‘1/7/69’. The ensuing three-and-a-half-minutes of ‘1/7/69’ are a thoughtfully worked out, luxurious blend psychedelic jangle and overlapping backing vocals, with an irresistible drifting quality.

‘1/7/69’, the latest track to be plucked from TANWU, is accompanied by a brand new video from Mark James/Bait Studios. You would be well checking them both out.

Stream: CIAN CIARAN ‘They Are Nothing Without Uson Spotify.

 

 

 

Phoenix 48 Radiothon: 2 Hours w/ BarryGruff + The Boozey Swine

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

A few weeks back, myself and The Boozey Swine, sandwich maker to the stars, took to the airwaves as part of Phoenix FM‘s 48 hour Radiothon.

The Radiothon was to raise funds for the station and to support the continued work it does in the Dublin 15 community, and it was an absolute pleasure to be part of. It was pretty nerve racking but after Boozey said a few prayers to the patron saint of radio, Larry Gogan, we we’re on our way and it was loads of fun. Sure what’s more enjoyable than taking over a studio to play loads of your favourite music? You can listen to the full two hour show in all it’s glory below and the tracklist is after the jump. We’d quite like to do something similar in the future but we shall see, maybe those prayers Boozey was rattling off will come through for us.

Before that, a massive thanks to Boozey for being part of the show, and everyone who donated a few quid and all the sound people at Phoenix FM, we thank you. Enjoy!

Continue reading

BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2013

BarryGruff Albums of the year 2013

It’s that time of year once again when every music blog, website and magazine busy themselves with list making activities, and this blog is no different. Due to other commitments this year, especially the second half, it was rather difficult to keep on top of album reviews for the blog. Saying that, I reckon I’ve listened to as many records as any other year without finding the opportunity to share my thoughts on many of them.

Without further ado, here’s the BarryGruff ‘Albums of the Year’ for 2013.

25. Crystal Stilts – ‘Nature Noir’

24. Appelscal – ‘Dreaming In Key’

23. Trwbador – ‘Trwbador’

22. Mr. Huw – ‘Cariad Affaich’

21. King Krule – ‘6 Feet Beneath the Moon’

20. Channel Swimmer – ‘Alphabet’

19. Valeria June – ‘Pushin’ Against A Stone’

18. Veronica Falls – ‘Waiting for Something to Happen’

17. Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’

16. Public Service Broadcasting – ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’

15. Marika Hackman – ‘That Iron Taste’

A collection potent songs of enigmatic beauty, That Iron Taste is a gorgeous and charmed introduction to the delectable talents of Marika Hackman. It is done so with a striking vocal delivery, sounding both wise and beautiful, imbued with a telling level of touching emotion. She channels something beautifully rich and dramatic in telling these rather dark poetic stories. Absolutely no substandard happy-clappy folk pop nonsense on show here, on the contrary, her debut (mini) album is quite frankly a haunting, numinous experience.

[Stream on Spotify]

14. The Pictish Trail – ‘Secret Soundz, Volume 2’

Most likely the greatest album to be recorded solely in a caravan, Secret Soundz, Volume 2, is the second LP from The Pictish Trail, the alter ego of Scottish musician Johnny Lynch. Throughout the LP, he’s in a contemplative, often melancholic mood, concerned with life’s ups and downs. In contrast, musically Secret Sounds is rather chipper, spurred on by a glorious melange of oddball sounds, sparks of frazzled electronics and instrumental breaks. A magnificent record; warm, inviting and full of charming quirks from an exceptional talent.

13. Biggles Flys Again – ‘Remember Saturday’

Ireland produces plenty of great bands but where it falls short, of say our Welsh neighbors, is when it comes to indie bands of the weird and wonderful variety. In Biggles Flys Again, the moniker of Conor Deasy, we’ve got a domestic talent flying that flag. Biggles’ debut album Remember Saturday displays real talent for 3 minute pop gems. It is brimming with enchanting and whimsical good old fashioned pop songs, filled with sinuous melodies and organic arrangement. This is pop in the old fashioned sense, played by a band, and with an assured sense of style.

[Stream on Spotify]

12. Akala – ‘The Thieves Banquet’

Since the release of his debut in 2006, Akala has proven himself as one of the most articulate, intelligent and talented MC’s around, a trend continued on his fourth LP. A potent wave of righteous fury crashes through The Thieves Banquet. The world is beset by many problems, varied and plentiful they may be but Akala manages to take plenty of them head on. He remains passionate, focused and sharp when tackling everything from a sense of powerlessness to change things, to berating imperialism,  slavery, capitalists, 3rd world dictators and the clergy. A very fine record indeed.

[Stream on Spotify]

Continue reading

(Recap) Some Highly Recommended Albums: Cian Ciaran, Drenge & Curly Castro

I’ve been struggling to find the opportunity to share some of the albums I have been obsessing over recently so here’s three. A bit like buses my album posts. 

Cian Ciaran – ‘They Are Nothing Without Us’

For many familiar with Cian Ciaran‘s debut last year, Outside In, They Are Nothing Without Us may come as a bit of a surprise. The former was indebted to grandiose orchestral pop of the ’60s / ’70s, in contrast, the Super Furries man’s latest is spiky, angry but with shades of sweetness and sparkling ability for a pop song sewn throughout. This combination, with a dash of idiosyncratic Super Furry sparkle, makes the whole thing even more palatable. Where musically it opens with a rattling and rumbling fury before melting into psychedelic space territory as it progresses, lyrically, Ciaran is filled with anger throughout. He said this was his protest record and he has duly delivered that, while also producing one of his finest records to date (up there with SFA at their very best).

Drenge – ‘Drenge’

Drenge steadily impressed since the turn of the year with track after track of exhilarating punk-rock fury, and the debut album from sibling duo of brothers Eoin (guitar, vocals) and Rory (drums) Loveless, doesn’t disappoint. The record is a frenetic blitz of untamed rock ‘n roll, swathed in splashy cymbals and heavily distorted grungy guitar riffs. There’s a quite menacing threat to it all, hindered in no part by the opening salvo of four, under three minute bursts of coiled up aggression and fury. Although, it becomes more expansive the further through it progresses, climaxing with the eight minute ‘Let’s Pretend’, the album’s slowest and heaviest moment, and the softer, more melancholy of ‘Fuckabout’, which channels Hawley, Cocker & Turner. As spectacular debut record, as impressive as any band could hope for. 

Curly Castro – ‘Fidel’

There is scarcely enough space to pay full tribute to Curly Castro‘s latest album, Fidel, one of the finest hip hop records of the past few years. Raised in Brooklyn but residing in Philadelphia, Curly Castro’s music and lyrics explores a whole array of topics and themes; ranging from Black Nationalism, civil rights, racial issues, drugs, crime and autobiographical tales from his younger days, chronicling his journey to adulthood. Castro has plenty to say, but its not just what he’s saying, its the way he says it. Speaking with authority, an authority that makes you pay attention, his vision is delivered clearly and concisely, without ever sounding preachy or pretentious. His gruff vocal and impassioned delivery ensures added lyrical depth and musically, it doesn’t miss a beat and the production is top notch. You can download ‘Fidel’ from Djbooth.net for free.

Cian Ciaran – ‘Sewn Up’

avatars-000047646642-hosacq-t500x500

Cian Ciaran of Super Furry Animals is gearing up to release his second solo album and follow up to last year’s excellent Outside In. The album is called They Are Nothing Without Us and Ciaran himself has proclaimed it as his ‘protest album’. 

The first track from the album to surface is ‘Sewn Up’. It got it’s first airing on Marc Riley’s BBC 6 Music show last night and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The romantic overtures of his debut have been stripped away in favour of scathing politically charged lyrics, mean guitar riffs (very The Velvet Underground meets The Jesus and Mary Chain), while retaining the same lavishly layered vocals that marked Outside In. It is purposely filled with anger and rage at a world where the gulf between the haves and have-nots is widening, and at the system which perpetuates this exploitation. Powerful stuff indeed, which sets things up nicely with regard to the forthcoming album, which by the way, will be released on September 23rd through Strangetown Records

Ciaran recently surpassed his Pledge Music target for They Are Nothing Without Us but there are plenty of goodies still left, if you want, you can get involved here. Whatever the case, you can check out ‘Sewn Up’ below. 

Welsh Wizards | Mixtape

This is a quite odd post even by my standards. This day ten years ago I upped sticks and moved to Wales, Wrexham to be precise, which explains all the Wrexham related tweets for anyone who follows me on Twitter.

Although I’m back in Ireland a few years now, it was one of my smarter moves & I retain a fondness for Wales as a country and the music it produces (although I don’t get over half as much as I’d like these days). Welsh music features quite prominently on the blog, something regular visitors are probably aware of. Apart from anything else it got me thinking and I decided to knock together a mixtape/compilation of some Welsh favourites from the past few years, with one or two older tracks thrown in for good measure.

So, without further waffling, here it is, some mighty fine weekend listening. Diolch. Mwynhewch.

Continue reading

Album of the Week: Cian Ciaran – ‘Outside In’

For nearly two decades Cian Ciaran has been brightening our lives as Super Furry Animals’ resident electronic wizard and keyboardist. Outside In sees Ciaran come to the fore with a debut solo record under his own name.

It will come as quite a surprise anyone expecting an electronica album, but Outside In is a record indebted to grandious orchestral pop of the ’60s and John Lennon’s ’70s output. The record is a mix of down-tempo orchestral ballads of beguiling beauty and that idiosyncratic Super Furry sparkle.

Centered around his piano and subtle drumbeats, it swoons and sweeps, dripping with melody and harmony, allowing his wonderful lilting croon to blossom. It is permeated too, by an air of elegant richness, comforting tranquility and a hint of melancholy.

Album opener ‘You & Me’ epitomizes the fabric of Outside In; a blend of truly beautiful textures, swooning strings, elegant sounds and whispering lyrical laments for lost ideals. It seldom deviates from it’s course say for ‘Martina Franca’, which wouldn’t be out of place on an SFA release and the album closers ‘What Will Be’ and ‘Upside Downers’. Two positively exuberant tracks, imbued with joy and filled an array of horns and strings.

Outside In is a charming album that will warm the heart of anyone willing to give it the time it thoroughly deserves.