Guest Post: Landscape Strain with John from Solar Bears.

25 Jun 2012 — Tonje Thilesen

A few weeks ago, John Kowalski of the irish electronic duo Solar Bears asked us: when are someone going to write an article about all these irish sounds that have been popping up lately? As an almost natural reaction, we decided to give John the challenge to peak into the chaotic growth of irish sounds himself, and shortly after he also sent us an astounding catalogue of his experimental Holga photos, photos that have never seen the light of day anywhere on the internet before. Below you can get a brief insight into what's been buzzing on the green island lately, presented alongside glimpses of Ireland through the eyes of John himself. - The editors As of late, a nucleus of musicians and beat makers have changed the international perception of what Irish music is, with club tracks getting just as much critical acclaim as traditional instrumentation these days. Since starting a band, I have become far more informed about the music scene around here, as recessions bring creativity as well as hardship. Of the current pool, genres, normality and expectations are being rendered void, and as a result of that anticipation and expectation is rising all the time caused by the sheer quality on offer. There are countless young producers coming through on a monthly basis, inspired by and spurred on by each other, and it is humbling to witness and to be involved in this exciting evolution. I would like to take this opportunity to shine a light on what is going on here at the moment, even though I could do numerous versions of this article and still not cover a fraction of this ever-growing, sonic terrain of Ireland. Frank B has already been producing for a couple of years, but only recently returned with a new sound and new moniker - and this particular cut has been garnishing acclaim in many quarters. Without missing its novel elements, the influence of 80's Chicago House is highly evident in his music. "Chain of Fools" introduce us to a beautifully simplistic melody, building up the rhythm with sharp percussion and textural nuisances. Cutting up a distinct vocal is always a risky task, but Frank B pulls it off with ease, obviously having a large collection of records from that very era. This one was released earlier this month. Next up is an exclusive number from Lemonada. With an exemplary production, the 21-year-old Dublin resident has received much acclaim for his beat tapes, employing a new kind of cut-and-paste juke style. Chopping clips in this fashion is frequently associated with the likes of J DIlla and Daft Punk, but Lemonada has undoubtably added a personal touch to his glitchy beats. It takes a lot of skill to make compositions in these veins, taking a leaf out of footwork's morphing blueprint. As I've only recently discovered Clu (the Dublin-based, audio-visual duo comprised of Sean Cooley and Kevin Freeney), this slightly older track particularly caught my interest when browsing through their respective Soundcloud collection. The spliced vocal is both psychedelic and sun-kissed at the same time, giving a perfect example to Sean's arrangement skills and use of light and shade. Clu will be gigging in NYC this summer, so be sure to catch them there. Moving along to the other side of the spectrum, we meet the acoustic instrumentalist Cian Nugent from Dublin, that I originally came across at Elastic Witch, an independent record store in Dublin. It is not often you hear a guitarist as accomplished as Robin Williamson of ISB fame, such as his ability of finger picking on display. The supreme lack of contrived elements makes it all the more gratifying, too. With deep roots in disco and house music, I Am The Cosmos is another duo from Dublin. The streets of places like Saigon or Singapore seem strangely familiar when browsing their tunes — designing a sound that has an almost eastern tinge to it. Their recordings radiate colour and charm; harkening back to the greats like New Order or Depeche Mode. Check out the mid-section of "Take What You Want" for proof of their guile — one of the finest live shows I have been lucky enough to witness. Other than the music that has been released online up to date, little is known about Dublin's Faws. The atmospherics are pivotal to each track, creating a sparseness that embeds out a sense of isolation. Compared to most modern music, Faws work around a very cinematic sound — like post industrial landscapes under a veil of rain. Having just released their debut album, Forrests is (yet another) two-piece from Dublin, featuring past members from the previous band Channel One. "Billions" is reminiscent of a hybrid somewhere between M83 and Fuck Buttons, leaning on a krautrock-motorik groove. An understated approach is really appealing to me as most mixing and mastering engineers try to make everything as loud as possible. Sometimes subtlety and suggestion can be lost, but here it is at the fore. Rejjie Snow aka Lecs Luther is a prodigy of an immense talent with an exceptional flow. One of the hallmarks of a true artist is reaching out to other creators with a blank canvas, having no ego. In recent interviews he's done, it's apparent he wants to be an individual and be seen as such, even though comparisons have been made with the likes of Odd Future. I also appreciate how he approaches video directors and beatsmiths to elevate what he does. One of the success stories in Irish music over the last while has indubitably been Jack Colleran aka Mmoths, originally hailing from Newbridge but based in Dublin at the moment. People try to explain why things have gone the way they have for Jack, but then again some things should rather be felt instead of articulated and analyzed. Showing off a sheer sensitivity through his photography, his music tends to get a very 'human' touch, something that shines through both in his visual and aural works. This recent rework he did of Vacationer's "Trip" has a bit more of a pop slant than usual.  Signing off with Krystal Klear, this superb producer creates stunning tones and grooves in each number, having trained at RBMA in his earlier days. You can easily hear how his huge amounts of knowledge in funk, boogie and soul has been channeled through his music, having had parallels made with artists like Hudson Mohawke. This dude has his own thing going on, however. There are rumours of big collaborations in the future, so make sure to watch this space.Ten tracks barely do justice to the constant stream of beautiful music from our island, but despite the economic climate, things look brighter all the time. There is a tax on anything worthwhile in life just as there is an advantage to any hardship. I imagine in the time it took me to compile this list another young producer has uploaded a song on soundcloud that safely warranted inclusion. Trends come and go, but in the end it is the quality that echoes. --- Edit: Tonje Photos and words: John Kowalski