O Emperor

7 01 2010

Beautifully arranged music that effortlessly avoids the toothless indie scene. Touted as one of the Irish bands to watch for 2010 (but don’t let that put you off). Their first single ‘Po’ commanded critics’ attentions but it’s the smooth and jangly ‘Don’t Mind Me’ (clip below) that caught my attention. Influences like The Band and Mercury Rev are easily picked up on but these guys don’t seem to be blindly following any particular scene.

O Emperor tour Ireland with hotly tipped UK bands Sons of Noel and Adrian and Alessi’s Ark before embarking on their English dates.

O Emperor Irish Dates

Jan 13th – Cyprus Avenue, Cork
Jan 14th – Roisin Dubh, Galway
Jan 15th – Electric Avenue, Waterford
Jan 16th – Whelans (Upstairs), Dublin
Jan 17th – Dolans (Upstairs), Limerick


Review: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble @ The Button Factory

27 10 2009

From Connected

After months of watching insipid indie-kids standing around languidly as some hipster in hipsters played with synthesisers, it was great to see people dancing so much that their collective sweat dripped from the walls
The Saturday night before a bank holiday Sunday doesn’t usually bode too well for pub owners or party goers. Not to mention the fact that that bastard of an economy has knocked the bollocks out of our leather wallets and sequined purses, people tend to save themselves for Halloween night so that they can blow €70 on an inflatable whoopee cushion costume in the vain hope of winning a plastic trophy and a bottle of sparkling wine down the local hotspot.

Imagine my surprise, so, when I arrived at the Button Factory last Saturday to see Chicago’s most successful buskers, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and found the place packed tighter than John O’Donoghue’s expense account. The thing about the Button Factory is you have to get there early otherwise you’re screwed, thanks to the ‘school hall’ shape of the room. Thankfully, Connected risked life and limb manoeuvring our way through the slightly agro crowd as they tutted, sighed and spilled warm beer on our heads, before nestling ourselves into a comfy spot between the sound techies and the stage (all for the benefit of you, our beloved readers, of course).

Only once we were in situ did the real energy of the place come resonate with us; though we did feel a little sorry for the poor sods who’d forked out €22 to stand down the back without so much as a glimpse of the stage. After months of watching insipid indie-kids standing around languidly as some hipster in hipsters played with synthesisers, it was great to see people dancing so much that their collective sweat dripped from the walls; such was the effect of the nine hyperactive Hypnotic’s on stage; eight of whom are sons of Kelan Phil Cohran, trumpeter with the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra and founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

The assemblage of trumpets, trombones, baritones, drums and that mighty impressive sousaphone is a sight enough in itself but to play those instruments with the panache and professionalism of the HBE takes some doing. Not to mention the fact that they move like Chippendales in rhythmic unison to the jazz/hip-hop/funk/soul fusion that appears to come so easily to them. As children, the eight Cohran brothers had wind instruments thrust into their mouths in place of pacifiers and, though they have grown up in a hip-hop generation, their primary sound has its roots in 60’s Jazz and 70’s Soul.

Their instantly recognisable second single ‘War’, which they dedicated to all of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, could be described simultaneously as a battle cry, thanks to its segmented instrumentation and overlying trumpet solo, or a contemporary jazz opus. Either way, the crowd went mental for it, as they did with the rest of a raucous, sweaty set. In fact, the only time that HBE seem slightly under par is when they allow their hip-hop influences to surpass their phenomenally disciplined musicianship. Calls to the crowd to “let me hear you say Hypnoticbrass.net” and an over-extended rendition of ‘ole, ole, ole’ came across as unnecessary and caused a bit of a lull in the night’s proceedings.

But now we’re really just nit-picking. Ideally, you want to be seeing these guys in their natural, organic environment: in front of a dressed shop window at Christmas, a sprawling urban park in Summertime or down a cobble-locked side street in the late evening sun. You can bet your bottom dollar that at least half of Saturday’s crowd turned up as a result of having seen this formidable band of brothers at Electric Picnic in September. For all their hip-hop stylings and “say yeeaah, say ho-ho” yammering, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are exceptional musicians and merit a distinctive setting for their music to be fully realised. Failing that, though, the Button Factory will do.

review: Sheena Madden


RIP Les Paul

13 08 2009

Antony and the Johnsons ~ Another World EP

27 11 2008

The pre-cursor to Antony and the Johnsons new album The Crying Light, due for release in 2009, is the 5 track Another World EP. Following on from 2005’s Mercury Prize winning I Am a Bird Now, Anthony Hegarty has kept us waiting for 3 years before giving us a taste of what’s to come. 

The title track to Another World is a delicate, heartfelt ode to our planet, that somehow doesn’t smack of insincerity. The intricate detailing of each and every thing that Hegarty will miss is beautifully portrayed as if it were a retrospective and regret-filled letter to a  past lover. For one so cynical as myself, this track really does break down those barriers that I have built up in response to pious environment songs by hypocritical ‘Save The World’ campaigners who’s ‘carbon footprint’ is bigger than Michael O’Leary’s. And I think that that’s due to it’s simplicity. No telling us that we need to ‘heal the world, make it a better place’, rather it simply makes us see all the beauty that we have already destroyed – like Marvin Gaye did with ‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)‘. I think that it’s this hindsight that makes the song all the more poignant, coupled with anguish so apparent in Hegarty’s voice.

The rest of the EP is compiled of the complicated soul/tortured genius material that comes with Antony and the Johnsons, with soft piano accompaniments and reflective interludes. Shake That Devil, the third track, breaks away from this format though with obscure lyrics (“That dog had his way with me, shake that dog out of the tree…. Shake that dog! Shake that pig!”) and a saxophone/drum snare combo reminiscent of a New Orleans blues club. 

Ok, so you’re not going to stick it on while getting ready on a Saturday night. Nor is it dinner party music. In fact, It’s one of those pieces of art, as opposed to just a cd, that you really have to give your full attention to. By no means is it easy-listening but this really is a beautiful and tentatively thought out EP that is more rewarding with each play. 



Another World EP

One thing that I feel needs to be mentioned here is the cover art of the EP. It depicts a Japanese performance artist in full drag with a shocked expression, as if having just unearthed some horrifying revelation. The cover has been interpreted as a longing for ‘another world’ that is more tolerant of the trans-gender community. What I find striking is the fact that the performance artist, who is dressed in old-fashioned and elaborate ladies clothing, and therefore a woman by all aesthetic purposes, appears to have just noticed the portrait of a woman some decades his junior hanging on the wall beside her. To me, the cover art seems to capture that moment when we realise that it is too late, that we have let everything that we took for granted slip away unnoticed. Whether that be our world or our youth or anything else that we undervalue. This more-so than the lyrics seems to Hegarty’s outlet for ‘the message’ to appreciate what we have before it’s too late, leaving the song to focus on mourning the impending loss. Just like she has realised too late that she will never be that young, beautiful woman in the portrait, irrespective of gender. This of course is just my humble interpretation and is probably way off the mark – but isn’t that what art is there for?


Clip for ‘Another World’ below. 


As Promised….

14 09 2008

…Elbow performing The Lonliness of a Towe Crane Driver at the Mercury’s. Oh god it gets better with every listen.

Orphans & Vandals

26 08 2008
This past few weeks I’ve become increasingly enthralled by London based band, Orphans & Vandals. I stumbled across one of their songs – Mysterious Skin – by chance on an oul mixed playlist recently and thought I’d unearthed an old gem from the mid 80’s. But no, Orphans & Vandals are a fairly new outfit, so new in fact that for some reason beyond my comprehension they have yet to be signed and seem to have been largely overlooked by the hype-machine in favour of safe, generic poppets like The Ting Tings and The Coronas. Try as I might, I can find nay a snippet of what I’ve now decided are my ‘new favorite band’ on t’internet bar their myspace page and one dodgy camera phone clip on youtube.

Rather than watching the aforementioned dodgy clip, listen to the lyrically ethereal Mysterious Skin on their myspace page. Lead vocalist Al Joshua’s heartfelt formulaic storytelling is nostalgic of Lou Reed and Whipping Boy and the rising orchestral mix of violins, piano, glockenspiel, toy piano and a host of instrumental oddities laid over a looping bass riff all serve to convey the songs crisp imagery of a story set in Paris. The song has the potential to border on arty pretension but somehow the genuine simplicity in Joshua’s voice powers through and the result is a 10 minute nostalgia trip of love, sex and loss.

Mysterious Skin truly is treat for the senses and one of the most heartfelt and genuine performances to grace my ears in a long time. I can’t stop listening to it.

A rare 10/10.