Marissa Nadler – Strangers...

Another bewitching effort from Boston born singer songwriter Marissa Nadler.

Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe...

Let’s get this out of the way straight from the start – Julianna Barwick has just released the most hauntingly beautiful record of 2013 so far. Nepenthe is the follow up to her critically acclaimed 2011 album Magic Places and is an absolute delight from start to finish, a celestial wash of sound that beguiles and captivates. The decision to decamp to Iceland to record with Alex Somers from Riceboy Sleeps has been vindicated – whereas Magic Places relied almost exclusively on Barwick’s heavily processed vocal loops and chants to weave its spell, Nepenthe incorporates subtly aching strings and ambient sonic textures to add further colour to her wordless, beautiful songs. There are guest contributions from members of Múm and Amiina, and the influence of some of Iceland’s finest musicians has changed Barwick’s music in a way that feels like a natural progression from the Magic Places album, without relinquishing the essence of what made that record so unique. Fans of Sigur Ros, Riceboy Sleeps and Julia Holter will relish the solemn, ethereal grace of tracks like ‘Offing’ and ‘Look Into Your Own Mind’.  ‘The Harbinger’ features a gorgeous looping vocal melody underpinned by a pretty piano motif that ebbs and flows like a half remembered dream. ‘Pyrrhic’ is darker; low, rumbling cello notes and sinister vocal samples drag the listener from the sweet bliss of the opening tracks. ‘One Half’ features an actual discernible lyric but it’s no less lovely for this nod to a more conventional song-writing approach and there are echoes of Elizabeth Fraser and the 80s Goth dream-pop pioneers The Cocteau Twins on the very lovely ‘Forever’. There is always a danger with a record like this that it could fall into the wishy washy New Age bracket – Barwick...

Beach House Live @ Vicar Street 28 October 2012...

On the back of two of the best albums of the last five years, Baltimore duo Beach House returned to Dublin and a predictably sold out Vicar Street riding the crest of a wave. If third album Teenage Dream heralded their arrival as serious contenders, this year’s Bloom was conclusive proof that Beach House are currently at the peak of their considerable powers. They have built their reputation on a richly layered brand of hazy dream pop, anchored by the commanding voice and presence of singer Victoria Legrand.  With an expanded line-up of three for the live shows, Beach House delivered a competent set, but if truth be told, the show was a little bit disappointing, lacking any real major peaks or excitement. It is hard to pinpoint why it felt like something of a letdown –Legrand was in fine voice, the music was tight and the sound was pretty good. It just seemed to lack that special ingredient that turns a good live show into a great one. Opening with ‘Wild’, the bulk of the set was plucked  from their last two albums but there was a treat for fans of second album Devotion when they played ‘Gila’ early on. Crowd pleasers like ‘Zebra’,  ‘The Hours’ ‘Take Care’ and the wonderful  ‘Myth’ were all gleefully lapped up by their adoring fans with closer ’10 Mile Stereo’ going down particularly well.  The band returned for just one encore, the hypnotic ‘Irene’ and that was it. For the whole concert, Victoria Legrand remained rooted behind her keyboard at the back of the stage, radiating cool, icy detachment with the other two musicians stationed out front. While not expecting Iggy Pop like theatrics, there was no real sense of connection with the audience, and in a...

Dead Can Dance – Anastasis...

Formed in 1981, Dead Can Dance were one of the flagship bands for seminal record label 4AD, a label that made a huge contribution to the independent music scene throughout the eighties and nineties. Home to such influential artists as the Cocteau Twins, Pixies, Throwing Muses and the Breeders, 4AD quickly acquired a reputation for being a record company with a certain classy distinctiveness; the visually striking album sleeve artwork of in-house designer Vaughan Oliver and their commitment to the ideal that a record was something more than a piece of vinyl set them apart from the crowd. Dead Can Dance fitted in perfectly with the 4AD aesthetic. Their early work was strikingly unique –singer Lisa Gerrard’s shrieking banshee wail set against a backdrop of mysterious, ethereal quasi-Goth complimented the emerging 4AD identity at the time. Anastasis is very much their comeback album –their first since Dreamchaser in 1996 and their subsequent split in 1998. Their sound has evolved since those early 4AD releases – gone are the more glaring Goth leanings to be replaced by a more exotic, lushly produced tour of World Music, drawing on Greek, Egyptian & Middle Eastern influences. It is all very pompous and po-faced  – on songs like ‘Kiko’, you could be listening to something off the soundtrack to movies like ‘The Mummy’ or some New Age documentary.  Opening track ‘Children of the Sun’ contains the kind of lyrical mumbo jumbo that is so hard to take seriously –‘We are the children of the sun, Our journey’s just begun, Sunflowers in our hair..” ‘Anabasis’ is all snaking Egyptian mysticism but whether you will like this album or not, really hinges on one thing –can you buy into the New Age melodrama that permeates every single note of this...

Sigur Ros – Valtari...

Ambient masterpiece from the Icelandic innovators.