MAP: 22 tracks of ‘Ireland’

February, sadly, was the very last edition of long-standing global music project Music Alliance Pact, for which I’m really proud to have represented Ireland for the last three years or so. Scottish-based blogger The Pop Cop has decided to fold his blog after a decade, and as the project coordinator, taken MAP – which was undoubtedly a heavy monthly workload – with him.

It’s been an absolute pleasure listening to some of the stuff that’s come up over the last few years: few things liven up a weeknight like a carefully curated dose of Indonesian pop punk, Mexican trance or South Korean indie. There are well over two dozen entries from MAP to be found elsewhere on this blog, featuring all the international content (hundreds of tracks a year). Before I took it on, Ireland was also represented by Nialler9 and Harmless Noise.

These things can’t go on forever, but it’s been a huge pleasure putting together this stuff over the last few years, so in a little nod to that, here are most of the songs – the ones I’m free to post – that have represented Ireland under my watch. Thanks to every one of the acts for taking part…

Music Alliance Pact: December 2015

music alliance pact

Kingdom of Crows have just released their debut album ‘The Truth Is The Trip’, which is available as a free download here. They first came to my attention through a gorgeous cover of Blondie’s ‘Call Me’, and remind me a little of the operatic, dramatised styles of the likes of Placebo and the acts that soundtracked Donnie Darko: deep, brooding rock.

‘Elizabeth’ is taken from the album, and you can grab it below alongside sixteen other tracks from around the globe. Why wouldn’t you…

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 17-track compilation through Dropbox here.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing
Kingdom Of CrowsElizabeth
A dark, conceptual rock band working with soundscapes that fall somewhere between Placebo and Kate Bush, Kingdom Of Crows are a Dublin act on the rise. Debut album The Truth Is The Trip arrived on Halloween, and its heavy yet stripped back sound is making suitably slow-building waves. One for a moody day staring through rain-spattered windows.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Rubin y Los SubtituladosAdiós, Torino
This year marked Zonaindie’s 10th birthday, so for this last MAP of 2015 we wanted to share a track from Rubin y Los Subtitulados’s first album, Esperando El Fin Del Mundo, which was released during our first year as a music blog. Adios, Torino is a beautiful ballad and one of our favorite songs by this great songwriter from Buenos Aires. We recommend all of his discography, which is avaliable on Bandcamp.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
JaalaSalt Shaker
Salt Shaker is the second single from Melbourne art-punk Cosima Jaala’s debut album, Hard Hold. It tracks the troubles Jaala has coming to grips with her upbringing in a far-flung suburb on Brisbane’s coastal fringe. The lyricism of this track is emblematic of the raw earnestness you hear across the entire album, with Jaala seemingly pulling melody out of thin air. The unpredictable spikes and troughs keep you engaged throughout, as if you needed any more reason other than her finely executed vocal gymnastics. The track is a refreshingly honest account of a troubled time that avoids indie tropes and turns complex emotions into a beautiful song.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Alice CaymmiComo Vês
Como Vês is the opening track of Alice Caymmi’s 2014 album Rainha Dos Raios. Born into a family of famous musicians, Alice is surrounded by some of the most prominent artists in Rio de Janeiro and contributes to Brazilian pop music (known as MPB) with contemporary electronics and experimentation.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo
TennysonLike What?
Tennyson are the adorably young brother and sister duo Luke and Tess. Creators of playful electronic music, they recently appeared on Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs series and come from the same management camp as Hemsworth and BADBADNOTGOOD. The young people will take over the world.

Music Alliance Pact: January 2015

music alliance pact

When I first came to Ireland, I was very focused on the Dublin scene. There just seemed such an abundance of good acts for a relatively small city, and so much to absorb every night. As I became familiar with the heavier acts, though, I found many of them referenced counterparts north of the border as some of their greatest influences: the likes of And So I Watch You From Afar, Therapy?, Fighting with WireNot Squares and an artist I’m very proud to introduce to MAP this month, Axis Of

The trio hail from Portstewart, on the northern coast of our island, and are signed to awesome Northern Irish record label Smalltown America. Brash single Port Na Spaniagh from debut album Finding St Kilda first drew me to them, but this track ‘Munro Bagger’ is every bit as ear-wormy. It’s taken from sophomore album ‘The Mid Brae Inn’, out next month, Download below, or snap up the whole lot in advance of its February 2015 release, here. Enjoy!

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 18-track compilation through Dropbox here.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing
Axis OfMunro Bagger
Having dropped their metal edge in favour of a rough-around-the-edges melodic punk-rock buzz, north-coast Northern Irish act Axis Of look set to explode in 2015. Famed for their vibrant live show, the three-piece were described by UK magazine Rock Sound as “the most exciting act to come out of Northern Ireland, possibly ever”. Second album The Mid Brae Inn, out this month, features this vicious, craggy melody and plenty more worth getting your teeth stuck into.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Mariana PärawaySirena
Somewhere between Mendoza and the Andes, Mariana Päraway becomes a mountain siren who sings about entangled fates in her latest album, Hilario. Mariana’s music navigates through pop, folk and electronic landscapes resulting in a deep, refined sound exploration.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Sydneysider Travis Baird is a multi-instrumentalist who earns a living scoring video installations, playing as a session musician and performing on tour with the likes of Melodie Nelson and Sounds Like Sunset. AFXJIM is Baird’s solo project, which consists of home recordings pieced together from loops, drum machines and field recordings of everything from kindergarten classroom chatter to police radio transmissions. It’s a subtle fusion of experimental electronica and acoustic songwriting, falling somewhere between Tortoise-inspired post-rock and the folktronica of early Four Tet. Distant is the title track of AFXJIM’s second LP. Carried on a bed of slide guitar and rumbling percussion, the track’s centrepiece sample features singing “recorded to MiniDisc in a bus-top karaoke bar in the Costa Rican backwoods”.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Aproveita is the first single from Duani’s debut solo album, which will be released this year. He became famous in Brazil in the 90s, playing forró (a very danceable rhythm strongly related to the Northeast culture of the country) with the band Forroçacana. In this single, he plays all instruments and sings. The lyrics are a manifest about comprehension in love and its different ways of desire, packaged with black music and soul.

Farewell Hideaway House

The end of an era in the Dublin DIY gig scene

“Yesterday I went in to tell my elderly next door neighbour that I’d be having another gig in the house. She asked me if I needed any chairs.”

Four years after he first opened up an unassuming Dublin semi to nights of DIY gig madness, The Hideaway House’s 20-year-old promoter Dylan Haskins is calling it quits and moving on. AU went along to the last ever gig – the line-up a tantalising secret – for a chat with Dylan, and to savour the place before it’s gone forever.

When AU rocks up outside a shabby suburban semi in Blackrock, South Dublin , there’s already a festival-like, summer sunshine vibe doing the rounds. Spiky-haired punks and flowery hippies drift about sharing nods and winks, whispering about possibilities for tonight’s secret line-up and sharing information on just how to track down a venue that’s something of a Dublin urban myth. It’s a Monday night, we’re 40 minutes from the Liffey and we have no idea who we’ve come out to see. This, according to founder Dylan Haskin, is life. “When you’re involved in a music scene for long enough, you experience these rare moments of raw passion and get this feeling, an affirmation that this is what it’s all about”. Welcome to The Hideaway House.

Bring the Punk, Bring the Noise

Publisher Museyon have kindly given me permission to reproduce a small part of my contribution to their new book ‘Music and Travel: Touring the World through Sites and Sounds’ on my own website. In the book, writers and artists with insight into particular musical scenes give a guidebook style tour through their city, describing the music, it’s origin and where to go and see it. My own part describes the trad. influenced punk scene in Dublin (and beyond), exploring bands like Blood Or Whiskey, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, The Dubliners and Paranoid Visions. Here is a brief taste of what to expect:

The roots of Celtic Punk date back to 18th-century agricultural Ireland, where—as a break from lamenting British imperialism— folk music helped pass the drizzly winters. Much of this was first performed by solo singers, but by the time it drifted to Dublin, piercing penny whistles, staccato fiddles, and twanging banjos had been added to the heartfelt vocals. At its peak in the late 1950s, Irish folk music was an international success, and more orchestral acts like the Dubliners and the Chieftains created a spinoff genre, Celtic Fusion.

Famine, war, and economics have long led the Irish to travel—often within the bosom of their Imperial neighbor—and it was amongst expats that Celtic Punk took shape. In the 70s and 80s émigrés gathered in London’s Irish bars, celebrating their heritage with traditional music nights. Around the same time, of course, punk rock was being imported across the pond from New York City. Acts like the Pogues (a London-based group with Irish heritage) and the Skids (based in Fife, Scotland) were the first to combine the propulsive drumming and rich melodic clatter of Celtic folk with the full on electric assault of punk. The Pogues in particular made a big impact: it didn’t take long for their sound, essentially the template for Celtic Punk, to return to its spiritual home.

If that taster’s wet your appetite, then you’re going to have to hold your breath until the end of the month (disclaimer: I’ll not be held responsible if you take that literally), when the book will be released, for more. Other scenes are set to include Indipop, Berlin Trance and the haunting sounds of Istanbul.

You can order the title on pre-release here (UK – Amazon)

or here (US – Direct from the publisher)

Exert copyright Museyon Guidebooks New York, 2009.

Young Koreans look to Ireland, U.K. for school

DUBLIN, Ireland – “As a little girl, I always had an image of England as a place where people wear top hats and dandy suits, and walk around umbrella in hand,” said Kim Do-young.

“I always believed there was something out there in a foreign country, just waiting for me.”

At 26 years old, Kim lives by the motto “seize the day,” and has only returned to her native Korea twice in over ten years. She’s one of an increasing number of young Koreans looking to expand their horizons on foreign shores, seeking a different type of education and a slower-paced lifestyle.

Kim chose the United Kingdom – and the industrial town of Coventry – as her new home.

As the geographical center of England, Coventry is mockingly nicknamed “the car park of Great Britain,” and Kim admits she sees it a little like a “black hole.”

“For the locals, it’s the center of the earth,” she adds. “But you can get almost anywhere in a day, and the Cotswolds and other scenic farming areas are within easy reach.”

After going through school, university and now entering employment in the United Kingdom, Kim concedes “the longer I stay, the less likely it is I’ll ever go back to my homeland.”

But even after 10 years there are still things she misses. “I’m surprised how little fish English people eat, considering all four corners of the country are surrounded by the sea. I miss my family of course, and I’ve had to tone down my spice-loving palette. At the end of the day, though, people are the same in terms of living.

“They eat, they work, they watch TV, they laugh, they cry, they go to the toilet and they sleep. The difference is that in Korea everything happens faster with ten times the intensity. In Coventry you get to do everything slow.”

Of course most expats do intend to return home.

Ham Ryul-suk – a former Gwangju resident – chose Dublin, Ireland as his destination, and sees himself as a more short term resident. “I expect to stay two or three years,” he says. “Until I’m satisfied with my English level, I probably won’t leave. English is more important now than other things.”

There are other benefits too, though: “In Korea I earned about 1 million won a month. For that I’d have to work 40-45 hours a week, minimum. Here I can make double that, and I only have to work 20-30 hours a week. Of course, the price of living in Ireland is higher, but whether I spend the money or not – at least to some extent – is up to me.”

Having lived with his parents right up until his move to Ireland, Ham met a host of domestic challenges head on. “I have to make meals, wash dishes, wash clothes, clean my room … in Korea, my mom did all of that. I miss my family. Things are not easy at home, and I miss Korean food and friends too.”

Overall, however, Ham seems to enjoy his new life.

“Dublin’s very cosmopolitan. I speak to people from many countries every day, and I have to speak to them in English. Sometimes I don’t want to, but in the long term it’s always an opportunity and a great benefit. At first I used to freeze when I tried to talk to people in the street. In my first week I walked into someone, and I couldn’t think what to say.

“He said sorry even though I knew it was my fault. I think the people here are very kind, gentle and polite. I’m no longer afraid to talk to foreigners. I have changed my life, and my personality. Now I feel brave, I believe I can do anything.”

The cosmopolitan streets of English-speaking Western Europe, it seems, are a new refuge for Korea’s enthusiastic youngsters to seek out an education in languages and culture, with many looking increasingly likely to stay put.

As Kim puts it, “I could write a book about it. Every day’s an experience. I still have problems sometimes. Like at university, when a friend told me a professor was going on sabbatical.

I confused the word with ‘Sabbath,’ and said I didn’t know the professor was Jewish. But we all laughed about it. I still think the biggest challenges are yet to come, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

As published in the Korea Herald, August 25th 2009.

link: this article on the Korea Herald website

Top 10: Day Trips from Dublin

…..1. Howth
Perhaps the perfect place to blow away a Dublin-induced hangover, the pretty port of Howth and cliff-side walks around it are a short train ride from the city, and a great way to spend a Sunday. Only the steady-of-foot should attempt the stroll around the headland, which is unfenced and has a hefty drop. On a clear day the aesthetic rewards are stunning, especially the surprisingly turquoise seas. There are plenty of other attractions, too, including a castle, a monastery and a crumbling church….

….8. Glasnevin Cemetery
Few places groan with the weight of national symbolism the way that Glasnevin Cemetery does. Founded by nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell in 1832, it has since become the burial place of a huge number of politicians, artists and soldiers of national note. The rows of Celtic crosses are harrowing and memorable, and a 160ft round tower (built in memory of O’Connell himself) rises over it all….

As Published by BakPak Europe in Summer 2009. To view article in full, click here.