I'd rarely ask yis to do me a favour, but...

If you could help my lovely friends win a competition I'd be your best friend, for ever and ever. They are in a band called Ham Sandwich, who I'm sure many of you have heard, and are in a competition to play something called the Moo Sessions. Yes, that's right, the Moo Sessions. It has something to do with Ben and Jerry's icecream. If you click on the link below Maury the gurning moocow you can vote for them to play some huge cow/icecream/hippy gig where they get to support Doves in front of 12,000 people and some cows, I presume.

maury was delighted with his new dental treatment and rearing to go to the Moo Sessions

VOTE===========> The Moo Sessions

The sun the moon and the housing estates

There's lovely soft warm twilight around the solstice this year. I'm making the most of it by going out for long walks in the evening, sometimes through the town and sometimes out the Athboy road, over the recently constructed flyover for the M3 and onwards to a wonky barbed wire fence that permits a sly hop into a miniature wood with a rope swing in it. I tried to swing on it last week but ended up buckled over a log and, worse still, had my fake five euro converse from Dunnes ripped by a bramble. Your classic case of overgrown tool tries to engage in nostalgic childhood activity: fails pathetically. Regardless, when I was buckled over the log, I could see the sunlight make dappled emerald effects through the sycamore leaves. We are all buckled over logs, but some of us can see the sun shining through the sycamore leaves, amiright?

stoned out of his mind one night, Mikey considered the tayto bag on the pavement for over fifteen minutes. It was only then, looking at the smaller tayto bag in mr tayto's hand, and the smaller mr tayto represented there holding a bag containing an even smaller mr tayto (and so on), that Mikey first grappled with the idea of infinity

Small impressions hit a person when they're out and about walking and feeling receptive; poetic little moments. I rarely remember them - but I'm going to start taking a wee notebook with me and jotting or sketching those thoughts before they melt away. Stuff along the lines of the smell of small country towns on Summer evenings. Most smell similar, a mixture of petrol fumes and a strong ripe bottom note of cowshit from the fields beyond. Chips feature strongly too. But it's the smell of cowshit that sets the small town apart. No matter where you are in the town, smells and noises from the fields beyond - cows mooing, collared doves hooting, and lambs bleating in despair as they are penetrated by the curious looking fella in the denim jacket who was kept in sixth class for three years in a row - mingle with the vomitous revs of teen cars and garbled hollers of "ya cunt ya" from the doors of pubs.

Now - a song on heavy 'heap rotation:

MP3: Perfume Genius-Mr Peterson

Perfume Genius is a lad from Seattle called Mike Hadreas whose ethereal voice and lo-fi take on piano reminds me a lot of Guided By Voices' golden-era angel in residence, Tobin Sprout. The similarities end there though. Whereas Tobin Sprout's lyrics were obtusely melancholy and extremely abstract, Hadreas' lyrics are about as explicitly personal as lyrics get. This song is a crushing tale of a high-school romance he had with an older - manipulative? it's not entirely clear who is manipulating who - man who commits suicide. Sample segment:

"He made me a tape of Joy Division/ He told me there was part of him missing/ When I was sixteen/ He jumped off a building." 

The song's pay off ("I hope there is room for you/ Up above or down below") is an inspired moment of disorienting ambiguity which is completely at odds with the sepia toned instrumentation, and it left me feeling uncomfortable, moved, and deeply curious about this strange new talent...

Final bit - on my tumblr you can read a lot more of this sort of stuff in more bitesize form and even see the odd cack-handed drawings I attempt. Most recently I've been trying out gross new sweets from Marks and Spencer



Found this on my old Myspace page earlier. It's a blog post I wrote about chuggers way back in the mists of time when they were all over the place (2004 or something).

FAQ about a phenomenon that has disturbed me for some time - chuggers.

1: What is a chugger when its at home?
chuggers are the grinning lunatics who molest you on the street in order to get your bank details. They work for charity so they play on our guilt. But more of that later.

2: Woah, don't like the sound of them. How do I recognise a chugger?
If you're out and about in the city centre and some idiot with dreadlocks and a hi visibility vest who's not Mick Wallace comes capering towards you, then chances are they're a chugger. They will most likely be tap dancing two inches from your flabbergasted face/ making tootling noises and windmilling their arms like psychotic circus performers/ juggling/ covering you in a fine mist of spit/ taking your eye out with a stray dreadlock/ moonwalking/ making you trip over old ladies as you frantically try to avoid their sinister tricks. There will be some accompanying garbled monologue about sparing a second of your time but you'll be so horrified by their aggressive circus playacting the only noise you'll hear is the rising thud of blood inside your head.
Zach is one week's work away from his Goa trance/ circus skills holiday in Thailand

3: Ah, so thats a chugger. In a perfect world I'd avoid these cretins like the plague. How does one go about this?
You can't. Chuggers are everywhere. They have perfected the art of harrassment and stalk the streets in packs of six or more covering every last channel of escape in all directions. Like demonic spirits they seem to be able to move rapidly and often a chugger who initially appears 50 yards away will suddenly materialise on your coat-tails, so close that you can smell the fetid reek of the organic muesli flakes lodged in his teeth. Avoiding eye contact is no good because breaking free from the manic gaze of one chugger throws you straight into the gaze of another.

4: But maybe chuggers have a point. Maybe we should give to charity?
Hmmm. This is a complicated but answerable concern. Because a type of behaviour is being employed to serve a cause, should it really be the case that if that cause is deserving then its okay to act unacceptably? I don't think so. But that is the underlying philosophy of chugging and as far as I'm concerned it's not on. Invading someone's private space in the manner that chuggers do is for some people just a nuisance, but for others a complete nightmare. A chugger is a chronically shy person's biggest fear made flesh. A walking, leering harbinger of anxiety and panic. In short a pest that can upset someone to the point of ruining their day. Indeed, it is the shy and easily manipulated that chuggers prey on. A strongminded person has no problem with telling a chugger to shove it, but it is the shy person who can't say no and feels riddled with guilt for trying to escape their wiles. Shy people dither, hesitate and this is the moment that the chuggers opening salvo notches up a gear for the hard sell, where they get even more in your way, sometimes even directly blocking your route. This is no way to get people to donate to charity. In fact, I ultimately predict it will give charities such bad publicity that their good works will be tainted in the public's consciousness. To be honest, nowadays, every time I hear the word oxfam I shudder and think of a particularly malignant specimen of a chugger that swoops on you near eason's on O'Connell St.

5: What else is bad about chuggers?
Okay this is petty and personal but that's what I'm all about. I can't shake the thought that they're all doing it to save up for backpacking holidays in thailand where they can juggle on beaches and take photos of cute but starving children on 600quid digital cameras. PLUS they're nearly all fuckin Australians so they talk in that annoying phoney beach bum patter that ends every sentence on a musical note. PLUS, I know they can all probably juggle or do whatever useless shit people who waste their time are good at. PLUS, they think you're so sad that you might actually be attracted to them rather than repulsed, so girl chuggers approach men and vice versa. GRRR! I SAY CHUG OFF!!!


My favourite albums of the decade #7

Here we are again gang. Two and a half months later and 7 albums to go. I'm surprisingly glad I shelved this list for a while, and waited until now - not that I did it on purpose or anything. The interlude, and the distended nature of the whole affair, gave me pause for thought. My actual top ten is not going to look remotely like the top ten I might have written around December when all those other lists were being written. The illusionary importance of a lot of artists/groups held sway over me back then as I was already writing a list for state magazine and, as a result, thinking along the lines of what sort of albums might not only be important for me, but actually important, like influential - stuff for a magazine readership; stuff like Daft Punk.

Now that all that hype has ebbed back, I'm left with seven albums to go, and I think I can just about squeeze in the seven albums which were most important to me over the last ten years. From here on in, my list will be extremely prejudiced and extremely personal. Again, we are not talking about the most objectively great albums of the decade here (not that any dumbo list could stake that claim anyhow), but rather the seven albums that I got most mileage, pleasure, or satisfaction from since the year 2000. Also, I'm going to go at this shit like the clappers. Get it finished like.

That's right doubters...go swivel on this left over supersplit stick that I sucked, chewed and splintered after licking the last microscopic hint of orange out of it. The list fuckin' lives yo!
#7 Gas - Pop (2000)
So, Pop. No, it's not the most likely title for the fourth album in a series of ambient techno releases which aimed to overcome the association of the second world war and rewrite a new, purely apolitical, German contemporary music - all based on this one time, at German camp, there was this guy called Wolfgang, and he took a pile of LSD and wandered into the forest and imagined there and then that he would try to forge a new German music that drew on their classical heritage but not their 20th century history, like? Yah, I know! Wild. Later, he gave birth to 'Gas' and the 'Nah und Fern' collection of albums, which are, for the compost heap's money, the most astonishing run of ambient albums of our time. I wrote a bit about them on this blog so I won't go into much more detail, apart from a little on this album.

Voigt called the fourth album in the series 'Pop'. It's a name that means a lot. After three albums of microscopically sampled classical music tied down to drones deeper than a pacific trench and beats that seemed to be transmitted via submarine radar, a lot clears for this album. It's reflected in the cover too. The pine leaves have sunlight on them! (as opposed to looking like a still shot from a fiery battle in one of the Lord of the Rings books, or even worse, evil hallucinated twigs that know everything about the forest and, by extension, you - ya poor lost lamb). 

So 'Pop' lacks that seductively medieval sounding murk. Things ring clear. Samples can even be recognised straight out, such as the burbling water which reoccurs as a motif throughout. The classical music which underpins the endeavour is less obfuscated than before. Another motif is a keening, repetitive string arrangement - which sounds like embryonic memories (of what?) trying to assemble into a clear enough shape to communicate something deeply personal, perhaps sad, and definitely significant to the listener. The beats, though, are pure Gas. Sometimes sounding distant like an army trying out their war-drums on a foggy hill, and sometimes sounding close, but still muffled, like a heart.

'Pop' is a wayward end to a series of albums that history will surely judge as being among the most important of their time. It is the clearing in Wolfgang Voigt's LSD-conjured woods of Germany's past and present. It is a happier place to hang around than Zauberberg or Königsforst, but not without its own organic weirdness which begins to sprout throughout the later tracks. It is also a fine entry point to the series, which, to repeat myself like an utter gombeen, is as perfectly realised a vision of a true artist's musical intent as you could ever hear.

MP3: Gas-Pop 1



My deathly old friend the hag has paid me a couple of visits of late. You can read a modified old post I wrote about this baleful experience below...
Sleep paralysis, eh? It's so far removed from the bog-standard nightmare that it leaves their commonplace frights sitting like abandoned circus caravans at the foothills of some ruinatious shadowland of subconscious terror. (The place where Paddy Casey lives in a oily recess of a blackened cliff, sucking fish-heads for sustenance and planning on his next teleport to whelans).

Look at the painting above - spooky as fuck or whah? It's a more famous painting than its artist (the little known romantic John Henry Fuseli) because of what it depicts, a terrifying night-time visitation that is shared across many of the world's cultures. While it may manifest itself differently according to the culture, it is always felt to be baneful, dreadful and somehow not of this world - wrong, evil, pan-dimensional, full of intentions. The poor soul who suffers a visit from this presence remains paralysed in bed, unable to scream or move. Worse still, the presence, or one of its accomplices, sometimes sits on the victim's chest (like the creepy little gargoyle in the painting) constricting their breathing and weighing them down with all the dead weight of, well the dead. The overall experience can be so life-like and overwhelming that many believe they are actually visited by demons or aliens. Indeed, the most likely rational explanation for so-called alien abductions in the States is that the hallucinations were brought on by sleep paralysis, which is technically the mind waking up while the body continues to dream (dreams leak into reality and the body is paralysed as it is in REM sleep).

Like I said, it's culturally specific. In Ireland, many people are paid a visit by an old woman who is known in folklore as the hag. I suffer terribly with this condition. I've been paid visits by the hag - she hovers at my window while sheet lightning flashes silently across the sky behind her - and her cronies too. Floating green children with sunken faces who flicker restlessly like computer .gifs, luminous horses, a ring-ring-a-rosie of demented midgets wheeling around my bed, eyeless faces, mouths, the knuckledy twigs of a long dead tree chafing my face as hateful things on strings chatter in its sapless canopy - the whole heeby jeeby phantasmagorical works.

Perturbingly, each time this experience happens, the room around me is as it should be in almost every single detail. I can pick out tiny details that shouldn't belong in a hallucination. Yet so much is plain wrong. I can't move for a start. The air is heavy and old, tomblike. A bad light clings to things (sometimes greenish, sometimes grey) and the hag watches keenly whispering her stale nothings in the frigid air. All is evil to the core. My entire body is overcome by a feeling of the most unbearable dread. When I wake up, I find myself lashing sweat, whispering to myself in gibbering tongues, and looking at brownish stains beating their way back up the walls of my room as the light fills in.

Suitable spooky and paganish MP3 below (thanks ciarán)

MP3: Forest-Graveyard


Mental Irish music-gasm part one!

 Remember that time when I said I'd blog about Irish music? Yah, well, here we go. More Irish music than you can shake a tumescent appendage at...

There's a well of disheveled melancholy underlying Pavement's most brilliant moments. Squarehead successfully taps into said well on his pretty, melodic, yet ultimately defeated sounding song 'fake blood'. He wins some sort of imaginary awesome compost heap prize for best Irish indie song of the year.

MP3: Squarehead-Fake Blood

Henparty might have something to do with So Cow. Indeed, they might have something to do with Lolo who writes for this blog every two or three years. So as not to sound like an utter fraud by going on about them, I'll just state that, magnificently, one of their songs is called 'Dick Spring' and another is called 'Eugene'. You can take it or leave it from there folks.

MP3: Henparty-BBC2

No monster club used to be Dublin Duck Dispensary, who used to be Bobby of defunct but brilliant blog Hi fi popcorn. It appears that Bobby has written lots of deadly songs over the past couple of years, including the one below, which is about the lotto. He is now a member of Grand Pocket Orchestra, but hopefully that bushel won't hide his light entirely.

MP3: No Monster Club-the lottery

Lorem Ipsum is some sort of indulgent electronic side-project of foppish young brainiac Daniel Gray. I'd like to say it's a bucket of dilettantish shoite on a stick, but I'd be lying. It's brilliant stuff altogether. This frazzled piece of music is called Katherine's Hegel. Sweet.

MP3: Lorem Ipsum-Katherine's Hegel


Oh no he didn't

Sorry dudes, but this is one of those keeping things ticking over posts. It's that future islands review I wrote for AU Magazine a good while back. Fast becoming a favourite band of the year, these guys!

Future Islands: In evening Air
Thrill Jockey

For jobbing music journos tired of reading press releases beginning with the words ‘Brooklyn based...” as if that actually means anything, it’s always reassuring to see that a bit of geographical diversity remains when it comes to musical scenes in the States. Wham City, the Baltimore based collective swirling around electro-genie Dan Deacon, is one of the most exciting, creative and productive scenes outside of the dreaded New York borough, churning out release after quality release from the likes of Ponytail, Weekends, and these guys, a delirious sounding electro pop outfit with a singer who sounds like he eats lit packets of Benson and Hedges for breakfast.

While Sam Herring’s extraordinary morphing voice – perhaps best described as being capable of moving through the continuum of Tom Waits’ entire singing career in one verse before deciding to be Ian Curtis in the chorus – is the most immediately striking thing about their second album In Evening Air, it provides only one of the album’s many strange rewards. The group peddle a propulsive, New Order style electro sound that’s alternatively overlaid with melodic euphoria and seething, ornate weirdness. Songs such as ‘Vireo’s eye’ are lent their darkest shades from Herring’s grand guignol vocals, but when the rasping angst lets up there are moments of soft atmospheric beauty such as the wavering intro to ‘Long Flight’ and the rinsed-out Disney soundtrack stylings of ‘In Evening Air’. All this light and shade adds up to a heavyweight longplayer that will undoubtedly land Future Islands and their skronky-voiced marvel of a singer wham bang (geddit?) into the centre of 2010 in a big way.

Chooon, yeah?