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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Best of 2016 - Mid Year Round Up Part 2

Here's another 23 tunes to complete my mid year round up of favourite music on the show in 2016 so far. It's the companion piece to the July 26th show making 41 tracks altogether. Even at that, I'm sure I've forgotten a few.

For now enjoy.

Rozi Plain - Marshes
Morgan Delt – I don’t wanna see what’s happening outside
Nick Garrie – The nightmare of JB Stanislas
Damien Jurado – November 20
Nadia Reid – Reaching through
Nap Eyes – Lion in chains
Pedro Soler & Gaspar Claus – Cuerdas al viento
Brigid Mae Power – It’s clearing now
Kevin Murphy – Your heart’s a circle around me
Emma Pollock – Intermission
We Show Up On Radar – Rockety rock
This is the Kit - Les plus beaux
William Tyler – I’m gonna live forever (If it kills me)
Giorgio Tuma – Maude hope
Tindersticks – Second chance man
Lake Ruth – The inconsolable Jean-Claude
Astronauts – Civil Engineer
Man of Moon - Sign
Ulrika Spacek - Porcelain
Melt Yourself Down – Dot to dot
The Comet Is Coming – Space carnival
Holy Fuck – Xed eyes
Todd Terje & The Olsens - Firecracker

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Moles – Tonight’s Music (Fire Records)

A brilliant restatement of alternative rock values from Richard Davies and friends, the first new music in too many years following 2014’s superb retrospective compilation Flashbacks and dream sequences.

It’s a sprawling 24 track opus full of fuzzy or jangly guitars, searching lyrics with a cut up sensibility and a restless garage band spirit.

The tone is refreshingly antsy with a core of the band’s 80s Flying Nun jangly/droney roots (‘Beauty Queen of Watts’, ‘Artificial heart’, ‘Needle and thread’, ‘Slings and arrows’) with some 90s US GBV-ish offshoots (‘You’re in my band’, ‘Highbury & Islington’) and Flaming Lips style weirdness (‘Strange summer’).

Interspersed among the killer tunes are doodles, jam room excerpts and interludes which resemble beat poetry fed through a punk or lo fi filter. ‘Highbury & Islington’ in particular seems to be an attempt to find the Shakespearean subplot in a tube journey among rival Spurs and Arsenal fans (Montagues and Capulets).

The killer tunes are memorable – the beautifully bittersweet ‘Beauty Queen of Watts’, the chiming slowburn of ‘Chills’, the one note intensity of ‘Needle and thread’, the summery fuzz of 'Dreamland', the inspiring post punk of ‘Damien Lovelock’.

All in all, it’s a very very beautiful thing.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Jherek Bischoff – Cistern (The Leaf Label)

I was a huge fan of Jherek Bischoff’s first album ( which featured a host of great vocal cameos from David Byrne, Caetano Veloso, Zac Pennington, Carla Bozulich and more. His second album is an instrumental affair but it packs tons of drama into the orchestral arrangements without use of words.

Key thing to know – the album recordings were begun in a giant underground water tank (now empty) located at Fort Worden, an old army base in Washington state. Bischoff took himself and computer with a couple of friends down into the depths for some initial improvising and recording. The intriguing thing from this exercise is that the sounds produced informed or even directed the overall album. The length of the reverb decay in the “cistern” – 45 seconds supposedly – forced the arrangements to be slower, more measured. As he says, “I found it so interesting how much the space itself seemed to tell us how to play, in essence becoming a collaborator. Things certainly worked best when we slowed down and gave the room time to sing.” Following these intitial experiments, the album was completed above ground at Future-Past Studios in Hudson NY with the help of New York ensemble Contemporaneous.

The lasting flavour of the album would be more post-classical than chamber pop, and the long tailed ambient bleeds might remind you of groups like A Winged Victory For The Sullen or some of the work of Olafur Arnalds. Like the sweeping grandeur of the title track. The reaching suspended quality of opener ‘Automatism’. The deep string undertow of ‘Lemon’, acting like a miniature sea portrait in sound.

Given the provenance of the recordings, the sound is predictably huge. You could take this as ominous, as it is on ‘The wolf’, or simply as an indication of the vastness of the world we’re in. Throughout, the rolling watery pulse of the sea is implied in every string swell and subterranean rumble, culminating in the wonderful two note majesty of album closer ‘The sea’s son’, with the power and poise of Gavin Bryars about it.

A magnificent moving tribute to the sounds of the universe and just a great record.

The Fiction Aisle – Fuchsia days (The Chord Orchard)

A wonderful album of drifting orchestral pop from the former Electric Soft Parade man Thomas White of Brighton and friends.

It is a collection of pieces unhindered by percussion or rhythm in the conventional sense. Instead each song drifts as if free of gravity and there is very much a sense of suspension above the earth in the bed of synth rumbles and drones.

Opener ‘Dust’ has immediate shades of baroque in its vocal layers and meaty chords, although that feeling is soon overtaken by spacey bleeps and whines.

The atmosphere of ‘Salt in the wound’ is akin to drifting in space, with echoes and whispers and asteroid trails, before a booming church organ launches behind the words “You don’t know what love is”. It’s as if White has embarked on the ultimate interplanetary journey to escape the pain and loss of earthly existence.

‘The dream’ has an unmistakeable Beach Boys flavour, a reaching chord-shifting quality similar to something like ‘A day in the life as a tree’ from Surf’s up.

The elegaic near-instrumental ‘Tonight’ is reminiscient of the outer reaches of Paddy McAloon, as White hums along to an irresistible meandering synth symphony. It’s 12 minutes long but the minutes fly by in a kind of extended rapture.

The ambient space hum of the title track, replete with choral and cosmic undertones, is another heavenly 14 minute kosmische drift of endless possibilities.

There’s even a cover of a Camera Obscura song, ‘Country mile’, as if the album wasn’t glorious enough already.

I’m not sure if melancholy is the right word but there is a definite sadness running through the record. However it is wrapped in such gorgeous and intriguing musical forms that it doesn’t seem to define the record.

Which makes this an uplifting and triumphant record.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

William Tyler – Modern country (Merge)

Sublime, wistful, stoic American folk and country instrumentals and no greater antidote could you find this weather to the oily pantomime of Trump.

The album was informed by (back) road trips around the US over the last few years and there is a motorik pulse to be found in tunes like ‘I’m gonna live forever (If it kills me)’ and the synth drone of ‘Kingdom of Jones’. There’s a glorious ambient hum at work in tracks like ‘Gone clear’ and ‘The Great Unwind’.

The tunes are maybe sombre but always hopeful, looking up, often uplifting and inspiring.

Tyler’s mastery of the surge and drift of these wordless songs (instrumentals being no longer sufficient at this point) is a constant joy. There is a sense in them that familiar caricatures of the US are not to be trusted, a reminder that numerous nooks and crannies exist in Americana (as in America) that are beneath the radar of stereotype.

Another absolute triumph for pop music and humanity.

Lake Ruth – Actual entity (The Great Pop Supplement)

A lovely album of several appealing and different shades of baroque psych from the New York trio...

...from the heartlifting Byrdsian guitar flutter of ‘The only one who knows’; to the bass swagger of ‘The Greenfield industrialist’ reminiscient of JC Vannier; to the dreamy organ swirl of ‘Dr Snow and the Broad Street Pump’.

There’s something about the vocal melodies of Allison Brice that brings to mind Morrissey, something in the swoop, the bend, the rapid descent – ‘Helium’ is a prime example.

Look, it’s a new game show quiz
Oh...let’s do what is sensible

Or this intoxicating sequence from ‘Cabin fever’.

And I know, and I know
It’s not a shadow
It’s something in the trees
Lying in wait for me

Her serene singing is placed over often frantic musical arrangements, featuring chiming tick tock guitars, restless organs, busy offbeat drum patterns. Even the pastoral ‘One night as I lay on my bed’ (a traditional folk tune not a million miles from ‘Scarborough Fair’) has a baroque undercurrent, another searching organ apparently borrowed from the anguished section of some Mozart fugue.

This balancing of baroque and psych elements gives more of an overall psych taste, something similar to last year’s equally lovely To where the wild things are by Death & Vanilla.

This album follows on from their earlier single ‘The inconsolable Jean-Claude’, another reference to JC Vannier and a song which utilised brilliantly his palette of baroque keyboards with groovy rhythm section.

It’s gorgeous stuff, by turns dreamy and unsettling.

Playlist 412 - July 26 2016

The last show before the summer recess was a round up of my favourite music of 2016 so far.

Cate Le Bon feeling the joy of wonky
Tortoise being a delicious groove beast
The Fiction Aisle making gorgeous gloomy orchestral pop
A Dyjecinski making lugubrious soulful and sexy
Iggy Pop, Tarwater & Alva Noto taking Walt Whitman downtown for some treatment
Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld creating the most beautiful brooding chamber atmospheres
Whyte Horses in the embrace of bouncy Franco sych pop

More on these pages and watch out also for a 2nd instalment of this mid year review, coming soon.

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed
Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 412
Tues July 26 2016
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Cate Le Bon - Wonderful (playing Workman's Club, Dublin, Oct 20)
Yorkston Thorne Khan feat Lisa O'Neill - Little black buzzer (playing Cyprus Avenue, Cork, Aug 2)
The Fiction Aisle – Salt in the wound
A Dyjecinski - Dead horses
Robert Rotifer - Calais
Lail Arad - Milo
Whitney - No woman (playing Green Man Festival, Aug 21)
Britta Phillips - One fine summer morning
Iggy Pop, Tarwater & Alva Noto - Leaves of grass
Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld - The empty boat
Victoria Hume - Closing
Tortoise - The catastrophist (playing The Dome, London, Nov 15)
Dieterich & Barnes - Parasol gigante
Cavern of Anti-Matter feat Bradford Cox - liquid gate (playing Liverpool Psych Fest, Sept 23-24)
Maria Usbeck - Moai y yo
M Ward - Slow driving man
Whyte Horses - La couleur originelle

*the next week show is on Tues Sept 6 after the summer break

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Conor O'Toole,
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