Archive for March, 2008

Live review: Efterklang at the Button Factory

Posted: March 31, 2008 in Uncategorized
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While I would be loathe to refer to yet another band’s music as ethereal (the prevalent factor in a lot of the music I‘m currently piping into my head) there really is no other way of putting it for most of Efterklang’s live shows.
They arrived into Whelan’s of Dublin not so long ago and dazzled a small, attentive crowd with their passion, musicianship, delicacy and joy. Their return visit on Saturday night, to the newly revamped, and beautifully lit, Button Factory (formerly the Temple Bar Music Hovel) was simply sensational.
As was the case the last time, the band is in nearly matching outfits. Some of them, mostly Rasmus, have been manning the t-shirt stand before the gig and the octet eventually bound onto the stage, effervescent and beaming, clearly as thrilled to be back as the crowd are to have them. Peppered about a stage packed with all forms of instruments, they launch into a set that includes a beguiling Swarming, Step Aside, Chapter 6 and a scattering of tracks from their most recent Parades album, Frida Found a Friend and Mirador to name a few. A new track, Mirror Mirror, gets a run and on this evidence it could be the single that introduces the group to a (the bastard muso in me grits my teeth…) much larger following.
Efterklang are a band that has somehow managed to find that bridge between the electronic glitch and the organic instrument. They dash about the stage, changing musical equipment seamlessly and all of them participate in the frequent choral vocals. In between songs, a rosy-cheeked Casper engages warmly with the crowd, sharing jokes and laughing, and the band seem to get on so well; it makes you wonder if they could ever have not been together.
No song is a disappointment and when they finish with the gorgeous Collecting Shields and Step Aside, the gleaming glam shoes of Casper toddle off with rest of his Danish troupe to rapturous applause and a palpable elation amongst the chattering fans that you really do not find at many gigs these days.

Mumblin’ Deaf Ro is a singer-songwriter of a different ilk to the more serious artistes that have flooded our nation in the last few years. With some of the most original lyrics you’ll hear, his songs dip into the hitherto unexplored waters of lovelorn mental patients, failed boxers, and frustrated authors to name but a few. His couple of album’s, 2003’s Senor, My Friend and 2007’s The Herring & The Brine, have garnered impressive reviews yet this has not made him any more prolific and he remains untouched by major labels, something, mind you, that clearly does not phase him.Drop-D spoke to the Dublin man himself (his real name is readily available but I’ll laughably attempt to keep the mystery on this page) and tried to scratch beneath the surface of his quirky characters and fingerpickin’ blues..

What ‘s the plan for the moment, following the Adrian Crowley support slot?
I’m playing support at the launch of the new Spook of the Thirteenth Lock album on 18 April; the Cobblestone in Dublin on 10 May; and in Belfast on 15 May. I’m planning more gigs around the country for the summer and autumn, but in general I don’t play too often as I prefer to do a small number of one-off gigs rather than a long list of shows where I play the same songs in the same order and make the same wisecracks.
I have also started writing the next album, but it will take the guts of the next two-and-a-half years to finish. It feels good to be writing again after an eighteen month hiatus.
What does your music do for you personally – is it a hobby, a creative release of sorts, or what would you call it?
Music is a way for me to understand my life and to reflect. There are lots of things I think about, but desultorily. Often it’s only when I start to articulate a particular viewpoint in a song that all the latent thoughts and feelings washing around in my head begin to surface and come together in a coherent way.
How important is it for you to be more of a storyteller as opposed to delivering more specifically personal stuff?
I don’t consciously try to adopt a more fictional style: I just find that a story can make particular personal ideas or feelings more vivid for the listener. What’s important in writing is to find something universal in your own personal experience; it’s that insight that’s worth writing about rather than the personal experience surrounding it.
What are you reading/watching/listening to these days that you are finding interesting, or that you feel really enthusiastic about?
I usually read fiction and have just finished the Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was heavy going. I’m a huge fan of Thomas Hardy and generally enjoy nineteenth century writers such as Dumas, Gogol and Chekov. More recently I’ve started reading South American and Japanese writers, probably because I need a holiday and fancy reading something from a foreign setting.
In terms of music, I really like the new Laura Marling record ‘Alas I cannot swim’. It’s a remarkable album and I hope the music business treats her well so that she can make a few more like it. I’m also going through a big Elis Regina phase: her voice is very natural and has an almost maternal quality to it.
Where and when do you like writing your songs? Do you have a specific place or time which best suits you or is it just whenever and wherever you get a chance?
I usually vomit up loads of musical ideas quite quickly and then spend about three or four years walking and singing under my breath; writing and rewriting until I’m happy. Each song takes about three or four months. I never rush things as the world has enough half-baked ideas already.
How ambitious are you for your music and your gigging? Would you fancy living out a few chapters of Hammer of the Gods?
I’m ambitious in terms of the quality of albums I’d like to make. I look at my CDs and books at home and am all too aware of the standards that have been set, and how far I will have to develop to get near them.
I’m not at all interested in working in the music industry. (The feeling is mutual by the way.) Fame was the great failed experiment of the 20th century: it ruined the lives of famous people and their families, and created cycles of expectation and disappointment among audiences. For me, music is joyful and makes me feel alive: it would be greedy to demand more from it than that
My father and my uncle are both long-serving civil servants and are both creative people with numerous extracurricular activities that I think are reactions to their specific work environments. You, however, have said that you enjoy your civil service job. Does the 40 hours a week you spend at your ‘day job’ feed any aspects of your music at all?
In work I am exposed to new ideas, new people and new demands on my abilities all of the time. I think that in order to become, and stay, creative a person needs that sort of stimulation in their lives. If I were a full-time musician driving six hours a day; playing the same songs over and over; and talking about myself all the time, I would become bored very quickly and my interest in music would almost certainly disappear.
Do you feel that music these days is lacking the certain sense of humour that flows through some of your music?
A lot of songwriters want to be taken seriously or to be viewed as deep or sensitive; maybe that stifles their sense of humour. I have always tried to sprinkle songs with a little humour without necessarily making them funny. I find deliberately funny songs – for example Loudon Wainwright III’s stuff – quite annoying.

(Far from) Electric Picnic

Posted: March 26, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Seriously? Is that the line-up? Why don’t we just put Boyzone up there while we’re at it.

Mad Men: watch it

Posted: March 24, 2008 in Uncategorized
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With The Wire and The Sopranos both essentially finished, a hole has been left in the TV schedule that needs to be filled with something of high quality. It is rare to see a programme that sucks you in immediately and gives you real hints that it may well be a bona fide classic, and that you are going to be talking about it alot with your TV-loving friends. The Wire was certainly a show that started strong and grew better and better as you became more engrossed in the characters, the plotlines and the politics of it all. Mad Men could well be the show to fill the considerable void left by these shows’ departures.

The men in Mad Men (BBC4, Sunday. Repeated on BBC2 on Tuesdays) are so called because they’re ad men and they work on Madison Avenue, centre of American advertising in the 1960s.
In the early ’60s New York ad world, morality has not yet been invented and a thick cloud of smoke envelopes the sharp-suited, racist, sexist, drinking, smoking titular characters.
Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, was a writer on The Sopranos and the similarities are apparent even if the action has moved across the Hudson river, and nearly half a century back in time.
The characers are deliciously complex and are revealed to us slowly – Don Draper (John Hamm), a talented but tortured copywriter, is the main player, but other characters are coming to the fore as the series progresses, particularly the weaselly, snivelling Peter Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). The impatient amongst you may download the first season from somewhere on the internet, but I’m going to be following it as the weeks go by, with every confidence that it is going to blossom, before my eyes, into a work of great importance in modern television. Another programme that does not pander to its viewers and is an adult work, brimming with snappy dialogue, startling period authenticity and with alot to say, not just about then, but also about now..

Ed Norton’s Hulk trailer..

Posted: March 19, 2008 in Uncategorized
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The Mars Volta live at the Brixton Academy

Posted: March 18, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Myself and a friend trekked excitedly across the water to see The Mars Volta bring their unique sound of glorious, pretentious, engaging, disorganised, periodically unlistenable, often incredible (both good and bad) kind-of-progressive rock musicianship to the Brixton Academy in London after they had failed to announce an Irish date for their current tour promoting their poorly received recent album The Bedlam in Goliath.

It has to be pointed out, to Irish music fans in particular, that the venue was simply fantastic. The Tube zips to Brixton from any central-ish London location (we were in Kings Cross) where, on arrival, we collected the booked-online tickets.
If only we could have a place like this over here.
With a capacity of nearly 5,000 (huge but strangely navigable, quite different to the bastard soullessness of The Point in Dublin)and a kind of Roman-design finish (all pillars and white stone) this is a brilliantly-lit arena with a roof that at times looked like the night sky.
We entered the arena just before 8.30pm and the band had just come on. We then wormed our way quickly down the side and were soon only 30 yards from the stage.
From that point on, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez pummelled the crowd with a nearly-three-hour set of new and old tunes, performed by their eight man troupe that included a demonic, muscular drummer (Thomas Pridgen) and a multi-instrumentalist on the left (no idea) who seemed able to play any, and every, instrument available. Probably at the same time.
With a slightly frustrating commitment and focus, the band did not pause for a single word to the crowd until the very finish. The set was dotted with major 20-25 minute wig outs (notably during Aberinkula and Goliath) and jazz/prog noodlings, never once pandering to anyone but themselves and receiving a few hostile crowd roars, as well as some walkouts 90 minutes in.
But to expect anything else from the group would be naive.
The twiddlings allowed the audience to engage with the band in a different manner to the usual ‘Hello, London/Dublin’ rockstar platitudes. Zoning out during these jams only made the re-entry to the song more powerful and despite my total bafflement at times, the songs were intricate, wild, aggressive and detailed.
It would be ridiculous to suggest that at least half the gig wasn’t indulgent and I won’t say it wasn’t. Neither will I pretend that much of The Mars Volta’s lyrics aren’t stream-of-consciousness onanistic gibberish. But it is a long time since I saw a band put in a performance as dedicated as this. I stood beside one die-hard fan who knew every lyric, lick and beat and seemed utterly enthralled by everything that was happening onstage, so much so that I felt guilty for, at times, being unable to keep up.
Whether most people, besides The ‘Volta themselves, ‘got’ the performance or not (including myself) is another matter…but I’m still running it through my head almost a week later. And if this review seems highly confused at times, try heading to see the Mars Volta next time they’re in Europe..

Anthony Minghella RIP

Posted: March 18, 2008 in Uncategorized
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News just in that The British director has passed away.
…Peter Bradshaw, later in the afternoon, summed Minghella’s legacy up well in this piece.

Jollydaying idiots

Posted: March 14, 2008 in Uncategorized
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SXSW…I know..I wish I was there too

Posted: March 14, 2008 in Uncategorized
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As well as all the blogging going on, check out the comprehensive coverage of SXSW over at Pitchfork, with loads of pix aswell as covering nearly all the gigs it seems.

A rare weekend away..

Posted: March 13, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Heading across the water for the weekend with J, to see The Mars Volta and, most likely, die in some kind of horrific prog-induced accident..
That’s tomorrow night in the Brixton Academy, then it’s Saturday at the Jazz Cafe in Camden to see Steven Reid & Kieran Hebden (hopefully not drunk/lost/exploded by then) and possibly fitting in Millwall vs Leyton Orient(?) since we’re in England. That said, the rugby’s on so may just watch that. See ya.