[Originally published on GoldenPlec]

Sim Simma is, ostensibly, just a club night. A club night which narrowly escaped the fate of being called “Rice and Peas”, but a club night nonetheless. This is perhaps why, when describing the development of the colourful Sunday evening celebration, there is an abashed hesitancy to founding member Tadhg Byrne’s claim that, It feels like something more now… like a way of life?”

Starting out last year as a fun venture just intended to last the summer, Sim Simma allowed a group of friends – initially consisting of Byrne, Tim Nairn, Johnny Carroll and Frankie Grimes – to come together every week in the Twisted Pepper loft to play the Reggae, Dancehall and Afrobeat records they loved. Now coming up to its first birthday though, Byrne – also known as “Byrna Boi” – isn’t wrong to suggest that Sim Simma has indeed become so much more.

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[Originally published on GoldenPlec]

From the very first track there is an arresting beauty to Anna Mitchell’s debut album. Released earlier this year, Down to the Bone is noteworthy in its subdued nature; the way it sways unassumingly, all blue and yearning. Indeed, said opening song – ‘Paradise’ – sets the tone for what at times can be a quite majestic listen.

Despite hailing from Cork, Mitchell showcases an echoing Americana sound that swells almost ominously around tracks like debut single ‘Let’s Run Away’ and ‘Long Time Gone’There is a rustic sense of world-weariness to her tone, which belies the singer’s age – indeed, the 24-year-old’s voice is at once tremulous and unfaltering, whilst retaining a pronounced soulfulness throughout the album – notably on slower, achingly evocative numbers like ‘Songs of Love’.

For all that is impressive about the record, however, there are times where a bit more variety might have been welcome, as the pace in the second half begins to feel a bit repetitive (if never quite listless).

The poppier stylings displayed on ‘When My Ship Comes In’ sound somewhat disingenuous with its cloying country twang, particularly when compared with the stark honesty of the folk-tinged songs otherwise in evidence on the LP.

At her best moments, though, there is no denying Mitchell’s talent. ‘Tennessee’ is all affirming, gorgeous piano and melancholy, and rich vocals longing for elsewhere. “Let’s go to Tennessee / there’s nothing left for us here anymore”, the singer laments.

And perhaps that is what is striking and, at times, seemingly incongruous about Down to the Bone. Mitchell’s passion for that roots-y Americana sound is so encompassing that, in her music, she is reaching out for a sweetly idealised notion of the Deep South. While the swathes of country might seem ill-fitting to the humble folk stylings of this Irish artist, one might concede that, overall, Mitchell’s dream of escaping to her hallowed America is sonically realised here.

What’s more, it is realised with an impressive passion that makes us intrigued to hear more.


Do you remember being 12? Let me rephrase, in fact: do you remember being in any way genuinely cool aged 12? I for one am pretty sure I was significantly lamer than I am now (hard to imagine, I’m sure), but I have always liked to think that this was something of a universal – awkward preteen years aren’t kind to anyone. And yet, there are guys like Wayne J who, at 12-years-old, is releasing some astounding jams on the Kingston dancehall scene.

In ‘Any day now (Ben10)’ the child prodigy references Scooby Doo and Ben10 as though he is some normal kid, but – if Aaliyah taught us anything – age ain’t nothing but a number, and his lyrics run deeper than you’d think. As he explained to Dazed, he wants to be a role model to his peers, singing about “positive stuff. Like, staying in school. No underage smoking and drinking.” And his vocals are as wonderfully sweet as that aim might suggest, at times recalling the smooth and chill voice of Billy Boyo; and yet there is a striking presence and command to his style that goes beyond said sweetness, underpinned nicely by the fiery passion of the instrumentals on vehemently charged tracks like ‘Slacky Mouth’.

His father Wayne Senior, himself a DJ and singer, was the 12-year-old’s inspiration, and the two of them have been writing tracks together for the past couple years. Since his first release, the intensely uplifting number ‘Stay Ina School’, Wayne J has turned local hero, rightly making waves on the dancehall circuit with his assured delivery, catchy, danceable songs and his generally good vibes. I’ll forgive him for highlighting my ineptitudes aged 23, let alone at 12, because this guy is ridiculously exciting and a welcome addition to an increasingly impressive scene.

Pay close attention: the future is looking bright, and Wayne J might well be next in line to the dancehall throne.


In continuing with the theme of rehashing pieces I’ve already written and posting them here as though they are new and exciting, here’s a longer, improved version of a column I wrote a couple years ago on the link between Lagos and the development of my beloved Afrobeat. Having spent this pleasantly sunny afternoon half-heartedly attempting to pack a suitcase whilst blasting out the Fela, it seemed pertinent to post this edited tn2 piece up:

Though its founding fathers can be linked with many cities, it is only right to trace the development of Afrobeat back to Lagos, Nigeria. In 1963, after several years in London studying music whilst playing jazz and highlife, Fela Kuti returned to his native Nigeria seeking to form a band. Kuti asked drummer Tony Allen to join his new band Koola Lobitos, having previously played with him around the Lagos gig circuit. Allen was an unusually talented percussionist, effortlessly playing an eclectic blend of traditional Nigerian yoruba rhythms and Western jazz – it is no coincidence that Damon Albarn famously sings “Tony Allen got me dancing” in Blur track ‘Music Is My Radar’.  Allen’s was an unprecedented mix of rhythms which, along with Kuti’s fantastic musical fusions of soulful Western funk and African grooves (topped characteristically with pidgin English), would form Afrobeat.

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Exciting Irish DJ/Producer Krystal Klear — named thus because “once I thought of it I didn’t want to think of anything else” — brought his wonderfully house meets disco meets that-amazing-time-he-remixed-Justin Timberlake sound to Dublin’s Trinity Ball last month. I had a quick chat with the man behind that Sky Ferreira remix.

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[Originally published on GoldenPlec]

Live instrumental music – particularly that of the acoustic variety – is always kind of fascinating. People can’t exactly sing along, and so the audience is left to immerse themselves in the sounds. You engage with the music in a way that is perhaps less immediately comprehensible. This is especially interesting when the venue is the Twisted Pepper, and the instrumental musicians in question are the captivating duo of saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Neufeld.

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Big things are on the horizon for Karen Cowley, Saoirse Duane and Caoimhe Barry, the three members who comprise Wicklow group Wyvern Lingo. Their speciality lays in stunning vocal harmonies and propulsive, sweet melodies that seem to infuse healthy doses of pop, rock and R&B in equal measure. The girls might be familiar to you via their associations with Hozier (they recently toured with him and used to provide his backing vocals), but having just completed their first Ireland-wide tour, the trio are very much worth paying attention to in their own right. I had a chat with lovely vocalist and percussionist Barry ahead of their Trinity Ball set:

Can you tell us a bit about how Wyvern Lingo first formed?
We got to be friends in secondary school, we all bonded over music […] I guess initially it was stuff like Led Zeppelin and Joni Mitchell, Thin Lizzy, Queen – you know, like 60s, 70s rock and folk. And then also R&B stuff – so stuff like Lauryn Hill, Destiny’s Child. And then I guess we’ve always been playing music together.

How did coming to college affect the group?
We got the band name while we were in secondary school but we’ve really only been the band that we are now for, say, the past two years. We all kind of did the college thing, and then Karen and I did the backing vocals with Hozier. I should be in the fourth year of college right now, but we went on a touring stint with Hozier and I just didn’t go back to college. I decided to give being in a band full-time a go – we’re all doing it full time now, and we’re all giving it our best effort!

How was the Irish tour?
It was amazing! They were intimate gigs, and everybody that was there was really involved, we got to talk to people afterwards. It was a lovely experience, a really nice first touring experience – we had a lovely crew and we just had the best time! I think it’s just our favourite thing to be doing right now – to be on the road, playing gigs, having the craic!

What can we look forward to in terms of upcoming releases?
We’re gonna do another EP. We started recording that at the end of last year, but these things always kind of get knocked on or they don’t always go to plan. The plan was to release the new EP in spring time, but now it looks like it’ll be summer time – hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

How will the new EP differ from the last one?
I think our sound has matured a bit, or certainly changed from the last EP. Just before we started to record that EP I had literally just started to play drums properly, about two weeks before. I always had a drum kit – I spent my confirmation money on one – but I live in a terraced house so it was just kind of sitting there. We did a gig in October and it was the first time Saoirse played electric guitar at a gig, Karen just got her synth bass. We were getting session musicians in on the last EP, but we’re making the sounds happen ourselves on this one – we’re getting really excited!

Would you have been to Trinity Ball before? Do you know what you’re in for?
I’ve never been, but Karen did the orchestra thing a few times. I have heard that it’s an interesting affair! To be honest I have no idea – I imagine it’ll just be like a festival, except everyone’s wearing suits.

What can we expect from your set?
We’ll try to keep it energetic – a lot of the stuff that we’ve been writing is possibly a lot more energetic than the last EP, so this is definitely going to be upbeat. We’ll do one or two new songs, but some of the old ones too, which we’ve kind of revamped. It’s definitely gonna be a fun gig.

Who else will you go and watch?
I’d really like to see Basement Jaxx, that’d be deadly. I know Little Hours are playing too, and they’re always class. I’m looking forward to it!

Photo by Ellius Grace. Interview originally for the Trinity Ball Guide.


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