13th December, 2014
The special thing about Other Voices is that each day has its own rhythm and atmosphere. After Friday evening’s packed and brilliant programming, Saturday folded in another different strand – the conversations amid the music. Not the kind that most pubs have, but that of Foxy John’s and the Banter series. Curated and presented by Jim Carroll, this is Banter’s third year in Dingle, and Saturday afternoon was an eclectic, informative, and entertaining four hours, featuring music from SOAK, as well as interviews with large-scale mural artist Joe Caslin, author of Here are the Young Men Rob Doyle, RTE2’s Channel Controller Bill Malone, and Paul Galvin, among others – it is, in a sense, a spoken word extension of the Other Voices ethos. Paul Galvin particularly impressed, because of the different context we were seeing him in, it allowed him to track his position in Irish cultural life, from gifted, All-Ireland-winning Kerry player, to his work in fashion and design, to thoughts about the GPA, GAA, and Irish craft history, with still so much more to say – his sincerity was completely disarming, which can only happen in the right setting, which Banter tends to provide.
The Music Trail is a really pleasing addition to the Other Voices festival, immersing the whole town – for example, today you could have seen Jape play in the Dingle Brewing Company, August Wells in An Díseart, or Floor Staff in McCarthy’s. Meanwhile on the IMRO stage, the special guest was Derry’s talented SOAK, and this is all before we settle in to the cosy environs of St. James’ Church.
As we do, Philip King reminds us that this entire project is carried by over 100 production staff, only a handful of which are in the church, and that their dedication goes beyond the norm – this is acutely evident. This year, Welsh BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens has been enlisted for presenting duties from the church, as well as co-hosting the programme along with Aidan Gillen. His dry wit, and warmth is a welcome addition, as he recalls how his day has been, including a trip to “Linda the dentist”, and this lovely, slightly absurd detail, is the perfect foil for the first artist up tonight – Melanie De Biasio.
Revered in her native Belgium as their own Billie Holiday, De Biasio has constantly bucked what is expected of her. A classically trained flautist and singer, she filters these aspects through a smoky prism, retelling songs of deep loss – of faith, and love. Her interest lies in how people misunderstand each other, and the consequences of those misunderstandings, and as she twists and turns in the half-light, a dark, yet revelatory atmosphere descends on St. James’ and provides a truly transportive experience, bringing to mind notes of Portishead, and This Mortal Coil, David Lynch and Isabella Rossellini.
Damien Rice is next, and there is a definite sense of weighty expectation about this artist’s performance. Many have been waiting 8 years for a new record, and songs from his new record, My Favourite Faded Fantasy are stripped back and played as he had perhaps initially imagined them – just him, and his guitar, from The Greatest Bastard, to It Takes a Lot to Make a Man, as well as crowd-favourite Delicate from 2008’s O. He prefaces his last song Trusty & True, by suggesting that this is a “bonfire of a song”, for “all those things you haven’t let go of yet”, asking us to visualise all the men in Ireland on a “moundy hill” joining hands, and as they look upon the women of Ireland on the plains, they simply say “sorry”. For this one, Rice is joined by the Dingle community choir, who are in good voice to add to his quite singular vision. Overall it’s a sincere performance, punctuated by off-kilter stories from the Celbridge native, who received the warmest of receptions (especially when he later led the crowd at Benners Hotel in a rendition of The Auld Triangle).
As ever, with Other Voices, what came next was completely different, from another plain entirely. We went from the “moundy hills” of Ireland, to the urban-meets-gothic sprawl of Edinburgh, and Scotland’s Young Fathers. Supplied with ear plugs, we braced ourselves for the Mercury-prize-winning quartet, whose trio of frontmen Alloysious Massaquoi, ‘G’ Hastings, and Kayus Bankole are compelling, and intense, holding you with a vice-like grip, never veering from their sense of performance art-meets-punk-and hip-hop sound. It’s wonderful. Their sense of otherness and unity, is refreshing, challenging and powerful. Their record Dead is anything but, with a sense of vitality and life on Low, War, and Get Up, it’s partly down to their great percussionist, partly down to their intelligent, passionate take on the art of live performance. As they leave the stage, singing, and walking in single file down the middle of the church, there is a particular kind of excitable tension in the air, it is a different kind of coda to Ibeyi’s singing entrance from the side door the night before, but no less prayerful. Truly epic.
Young Fathers’ performance would be incredibly hard to follow for anyone, but luckily we have the immense sound and vision of Kendal’s Wild Beasts, with Hayden Thorpe’s beautiful falsetto flying around the deep baritone of Tom Fleming. They were previously here in 2011, and lit up the space – tonight is no different, as they play songs from this year’s Present Tense, which showcases an even greater musical intelligence. There are layers upon layers of sonic exploration, and intricate details, from Wanderlust to the baying, epic Palace, and at different turns they filter drum and bass, electronica, folk, synth-pop, and so much in-between. Like Young Fathers, their percussionist is key, providing a strangely meditative and immersive sound that sets Wild Beasts apart from their contemporaries. Their return to Other Voices is particularly gratifying – when they first performed here in 2011, they were explosive in their brilliance, and three years on, that explosion has deepened into true artistry. It all goes back to those thoughts from Foxy John’s about great craft.
12th December, 2014
It’s always a privilege to make the pilgrimage down to Dingle. For me, it has long been associated with summer holidays with my family, but around December 2003, my relationship with the place deepened further, when I set off from Dublin to take in Other Voices at St. James’ Church. That year, The Jimmy Cake were playing – an incendiary force of nature, they seemed to lift the roof off the church with their “space rock exploration”, while also lifting our hearts.
This has always been the beauty of Other Voices, understanding the poetry with which great musicians make their work, and providing the most sympathetic context for them to express that poetry in. Space is the place, as Sun Ra said, and An Daingean is that space.
Over the last few years, IMRO have collaborated with Other Voices to promote emerging voices with the IMRO Other Room – applications for a performance reach over 1000, each year, illustrating how special it is for artists to play at this moment, in this place, as well as the IMRO Stage at McCarthy’s Bar. Over the last few years, Other Voices has expanded, with their Music Trail, taking in many different places in the town with different musicians, Banter in Foxy John’s, curated and presented by Jim Carroll, and each evening, the main event – Other Voices, from St. James’ Church is broadcast to pubs and venues around Dingle, as well as streaming on the RTE player. This gem of a project and festival has unfolded over the years to reveal even more worth, yet its spirit remains the same.
This year, IMRO’s artists are; Cloud Castle Lake, Somerville, Booka Band, God Knows+mynameisjOhn, Ye Vagabonds, Staring At Lakes (viewers choice), Lethal Dialect, and Floor Staff, with Lethal Dialect playing a firebrand of a set last night in McCarthy’s pub, introducing Dingle to some of his most recent record, 1988. While Paul Alwright was raising the roof at McCarthy’s, over in St. James’ Church, a raft of musicians were endeavouring to do the same. Ben Howard had to cancel due to poor travel conditions, so the young, Leeds-based songwriter Eaves stepped into the light. It is a heavy yoke, to open the thirteenth Other Voices, but he wore it lightly, playing guitar and piano with equal care. Signed to Heavenly Records, his debut EP – As Old as the Grave came out a little while ago, and its title song was the set’s highlight, managing to be both sentimental and weighty.
He was followed by one of the beacons of Scottish independent music – Kenny Anderson – King Creosote – hailing as he does from the Kingdom of Fife. Along with his stellar band, he delved into his massive back catalogue of guitar-drenched beauty, performing the moving, beautiful Favourite Girl – (written around 2005 for his daughter), and, in true King Creosote form, matched this with a more recent song about his friend Ziggy’s (Scottish art-pop wonder Ziggy Campbell) “drunken alter-ego” Wayne, who features heavily on the song For One Night Only (from this year’s From Scotland With Love), it’s a rampaging kind of a song, a swaying, lolloping, big-hearted wonder, much like King Creosote himself.
The idea of kings also filtered into the The Lost Brothers brilliant set, with Oisin Leech remarking that Other Voices “treat their artists like kings”, and that he and his musical partner Mark McCausland had only “been polishing their crowns” the night before. Everything about their performance reminded us why Other Voices is so important – Leech took us through a potted history of their journey as musicians, from struggling and busking in Liverpool as “The Weirdoes”, to getting the chance to go to Portland, Oregon to record their first album, getting a tape in the post from one of their favourite bands The Coral, offering a song, to basing their most recent record New Songs of Dawn and Dust around that very song, and having that record produced by Bill-Ryder Jones. They are a band that had almost given up, but didn’t. And because of that, their set was quite emotional – this was a sort of homecoming, as they have essentially come off the back of touring for two and a half years. At different turns they invited up on stage the wonderful Colm Mac Con Iomaire, and Steve Wickham, collaborators with The Frames and The Waterboys, respectively. Described by Leech as “two beacons of lighthouse” in their journey, they complemented their great musicality. They mainly played songs from their new record, including the sad, lovely Soldiers Song, penned in a hotel somewhere between waking and sleeping, the rousing Poor Poor Man, Derridae, Stones Throw, and a reimagining of the great blues standard Corrine, Corrina – which has been covered by everyone from Bo Carter to Muddy Waters, and the Mississippi Sheiks to Bob Dylan, and Dylan is how Leech and McCausland first came across it, joining the dots once more between not only blues and folk music, but community and legacy.
Then it was time for something completely different. New York’s Buke and Gase were exceptional in both tone and content. Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez’s music is an experimental kind of hybrid, as their instruments are (ukelele/guitar, and guitar/bass), and they sound like Pavement-meets-PJ-Harvey-through a grimy melodic blender. The duo have been signed to The National’s record label, and they strive to stretch the instruments and voice’s capabilities, with a vast array of effects pedals, and wry humour – with Dyer messing around with effects on her voice superbly, including a funny segue where she introduces a song with a deep baritone. Their epic song Houdini Crush was mind-bendingly good, essentially forcing you to look on aspects of music anew.
This is certainly the same kind of palette that the French/Cuban twins Ibeyi (which means “twins” in the Yoruba language) create from. Walking into the church from the side door, while singing, lighting two candles as if in prayer, the audience knew that this time with Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz was going to be special. The twins’ father was Anga Diaz, a member of the Buena Vista Social Club, and when he passed away, the twins, who were by then 11 years old, learned to play his instrument, the cajón, filtering the folk songs of Yoruba – a Nigerian language that travelled to Cuba through slavery in the 18th century. Listening to the Yoruba language being sung or spoken by these women is pleasingly dislocating, creating a particularly electric atmosphere, and this gaeltacht area is a strangely perfect place to experience it. Every song is powerful, as they mingle piano, harmonies, and percussion that takes in everything from afrobeat to hip-hop, to create truly interesting art. Their sound is a mingling of the ancient and modern, from the Yoruba language, to jazz and electronic. They cover Jay Electronica’s Better in Tune with the Infinite to dizzying effect, and somehow that great lyric, “The church you go to pray in it, the work is on the outside/ Staring out the windows is for love songs and house flies” seems even more pronounced in this setting. Mama Says (dedicated to their mother in the audience), and River, were other standouts, but it was a standout performance. Just before we leave, we find out that the twins turn 20 at midnight, and as a cake is produced, and everyone sings Happy Birthday, the sisters seem overwhelmed with emotion, but then so are we.
This week the Church of St. James’, Dingle, will open its doors to Other Voices from 12th – 14th December. All the signature elements that make Other Voices so special will be there in abundance. The full lineup includes performances from Ben Howard, Buke & Gase, Ibeyi, King Creosote, The Lost Brothers, Damien Rice, Melanie De Biasio, Wild Beasts, Young Fathers, All We Are, Delorentos, Jessie Ware and Walking On Cars. This year the Other Voices Music Trail will be bigger and better with over 30 new and more established bands playing in venues and unusual locations around Dingle, ranging from Trad to Hip Hop and beyond. Surprise guests are always a feature. All Music Trail events are free and take place before and after the church performances. For the full line-up including bands such as Lethal Dialect, Hawk, Somerville, Jape you can click on the link above or click join on the Facebook event page. Jim Carroll’s Banter Salon will be taking place in Foxy John’s Bar on Saturday and Sunday and full details on all speakers can be found on Other Voices’ Banter page.
Each year, Other Voices and RTÉ provides a TV and online platform for new acts in the IMRO Other Room. Applications for a performance slot in the IMRO Other Room were received and a shortlist of five acts were compiled – Come On Live Long / Staring At Lakes / Little Xs for Eyes / Wyvern Lingo /Zaska with the public choosing Staring At Lakes as the Viewer’s Choice for the IMRO Other Room. Each year, Other Voices and RTÉ provides a TV and online platform for new acts in the IMRO Other Room – Joining Staring at Lakes are Cloud Castle Lake, Somerville, Booka Brass Band, God Knows + mynameisjOhn and Ye Vagabonds.
All acts will all be filmed as part of next year’s series. Tickets, once again, will be free and can be won through various online and media competitions so keep an eye on othervoices.ie. To stay up to date with announcements follow on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat & Twitter with the hashtag #othervoices. The music from the church is streamed live to venues and pubs around the town each night. Other Voices is supported by RTÉ, Fáilte Ireland, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and IMRO.
For more than ten years, Other Voices has welcomed some of the world’s most eclectic music-makers and captured on film scores of unique, one-off live performances. Beginning in the humble St James’ Church in Dingle, Co. Kerry, the show has recently branched out to Derry-Londonderry and London. As part of the series, Other Voices provides a TV and online platform for a collection of emerging musicians and bands in the IMRO Other Room. The IMRO Other Room aims to shine a light on these rising home-grown talents and give them an opportunity to be seen and heard by a global audience. For information and full submission details for the ‘Viewer’s Choice IMRO Other Room’ initiative, please go to othervoices.ie