[Originally published on GoldenPlec]

There is a palpable air of excitement in the Sugar Club. The seats are filling up, the drinks are flowing, and fairylights are glimmering around a stage laden with the instruments of much-lauded Wicklow trio, Wyvern Lingo.

Opening with the charming support of Loah (one of our Plec Picks of 2015), it is hard not to be blown away by the incredibly talented, always-smiling singer. Loah has a powerfully lilting, versatile voice, which is particularly remarkable when she sings in Sierra Leonean language Sherbro for the gorgeous ‘Cortège’.

“I’m just trying to impress my dad,” she grins, pointing him out in the audienceThese are sweetly intricate, rhythmic art soul songs. “Imagine having to follow that,” remarks someone sitting near us, and they have a point – playing after such a beautiful set certainly seems to be a daunting task.

As soon as Wyvern Lingo take to the stage, however, it is apparent that there is nothing to worry about. There is a seamless confidence in the way they burst into their first song of the night – the title track from their EP, The Widow Knows. It is immediately clear how much the group have progressed since the release of that EP last year. Everything is fuller and more polished somehow, and it’s a delight to hear.

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Ibeyi — pronounced “ee-bey-ee” — (something of course only discovered via embarrassing initial mispronunciation), is derived from ibeji, the yoruba word for a divinity of twins believed to have special, spiritual powers. This is fitting given that French-Cuban 20 year olds Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz are indeed twins, with a musical output that seems to reference the soulful Nigerian praise songs of their ancestry as much as it does contemporary, haunting electronic and hip hop. Signed to the prolific XL Records, their eponymous debut — out this month — serves as a reminder as to why, in an age of internet-induced, maddeningly short attention spans and Spotify playlists, the album format has retained its relevance. Captivating, cohesive, familiar yet entirely fresh, there is a strikingly accomplished sense of warmth and shiver-inducing elegy that listening to Ibeyi evokes.

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[Originally published on GoldenPlec]

The only New Orleans-style brass band in town, Irish eight-piece Booka Brass Band are renowned for their raucously engaging live performances. Their reputation for pop covers precedes them – we’re talking ‘Crazy in Love’, ‘Talk Dirty to Me’ and even a tasty little rendition of supreme Destiny’s Child hit ‘Survivor’.

All of which is why, on paper, the idea of this – their debut EP – might seem a bit hard to swallow: can the incredible, tongue-in-cheek vivacity of their live show truly translate into a cohesive original recording?

The answer, thankfully, is yes.

Right from the swelling intensity of opener ‘Make That Do Noise’ through to the swinging, spiralling richness of ‘Legion of Boom’the BBB EP certainly has a lot to offer. The former of these two is an absolute storm of a song. All fast-paced drums and stupidly danceable refrains, ‘Make That Do Noise’ recalls the likes of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble in its sheer enticing energy. Meanwhile the latter track starts all soulful and melancholy before crescendoing into something quite glorious.

It is apparent how clearly the group are aware of the potential of each instrument, and what works best to create the most striking, complementary harmonies. Indeed, from its forlorn, military-esque fanfare opening into the ending cascade of triumphantly forceful sounds, ‘Legion of Boom’ is everything you might hope for from said title.

The previously released ‘Nute’ is a sweet and subtle number, with its slow, nuanced build into an enthrallingly full timbre of sounds. All of this is underpinned by an intriguing, almost Bossa Novan sway in the bass. Title track ‘BBB’ is probably the jazziest song on the EP with its jaunty percussive shuffle. It is a pleasantly upbeat listen, though it fails to reach a satisfying conclusion.

As debut EPs go, the BBB EP is a solid start. It is a bold, brash and wonderfully polished early taste of an act with longevity beyond their live reputation.

We hope that the Booka Brass Band keep on making that do noise.

The BBB EP is available here.

It seems a fair assertion to make that there is no equivalent in Dublin — or, indeed, in Ireland — to eight-piece Nova Collective, with their gorgeously breezy bossa nova melodies and the smooth-as-honey combined vocals of Luana Matos and Dónal Kearney. The brainchild of pianist and composer Louis Ryan, the group’s initial incarnation was back in 2013 — “I was just out of college and there was this group of musicians I knew from Trinity […] and I suppose at that time I was listening to a lot of bossa nova,” Ryan explains. “The idea was that we’d start a project and maybe play in that sort of style, or at least be influenced by it.”

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For most people, awards season is a time to discuss things like Amal Clooney’s white gloves, Benedict’s Cumber-baby and whether or not Emma Stone is really as down to earth as she seems. Spare a thought, though, for drummer-composer Antonio Sanchez, who won’t be enjoying Oscar-time frivolity after his widely-lauded, Golden Globe-nominated score for Birdman was disqualified by the Academy. This was due to the intermittent use of pre-existing classical music that interspersed Sanchez’s own compositions, seen in the Academy’s eyes as undermining his original, captivating percussive work. This raises a lot of questions about the nature of music composed for a soundtrack and whether the film industry needs to re-think its somewhat archaic rules surrounding such scores.

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A cursory glance at don’t watch me dancing would perhaps have you under the impression that I haven’t really been listening to new music this year – a fair assumption given that I’ve written on the blog a grand total of I think 12 times in 2014. However, the end of the year seems a good time to round up what I was into, assorted fairly arbitrarily into the failsafe  genres of hip hop, pop and “misc”.

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There is a line in a T.S. Eliot poem where the narrator, one J. Alfred Prufrock, laments, “No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be.” The anxiety of merely playing a subsidiary, passive role in one’s own life is something that springs to mind when Dublin solo artist Stephen Tiernan elucidates the reasons for his choice of moniker: Participant. Speaking to us after a serene, fire-lit acoustic performance in the somewhat surreal location of an old Georgian house on Henrietta Street, Tiernan explains: “The idea comes from when you feel like you’re just a participant, like you’re just taking part in someone else’s life — a supporting character.” It seems a fairly bleak, if refreshingly honest sentiment. Tiernan continues, “I like the idea that I’m fronting something under the name that is meant to mean ‘taking part’, but it’s just my project. As soon as I started writing these songs, it was always going to be Participant.”

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