Landers – Washing with Water review

In an era where it’s easy for any reflecting person to lapse into agonised scrutiny of our fraught and dangerous times, the art that seems to have fared best has been that which has markedly distanced itself from the uncertainties of our lives.  Landers are an accomplished trio of musicians who offer sweet relief from the daily tumult with an alluring span of music, which ranges from clear-eyed folk to experimental jazz. 

Defying the impulse to create and upload content instantly, Landers, consisting of Dubliner Christopher Colm Morrin on vocals and guitar, and the Berlin born rhythm section of bassist Paul Breiting and drummer Max von der Goltz, have been steadily releasing the fruits of a productive pre-Corona recording session at KAOS, a warehouse on the outskirts of Berlin, in the form of four singles. Together, these releases paint a captivating portrait of a band who manage to infuse a folk core with a tantalising potpourri of textures and soundscapes.

From left to right; Max, Chris and Paul.
© Daniela Elorza

Their first two releases, Clear Blue Sky and Just Thinking, already showcased their limber musicianship and aptitude for writing limpid melodies: the former showcasing Morrin’s gorgeous falsetto over an elegant bass riff; the latter demonstrating a Motorik beat redolent of Kraurock legends Can, over which Icelandic guest musician Sölvi Kolbeinsson provides elegiac saxophone.

But the other tracks from each release have been just as intriguing –  Nothing to Say (Pt.3) from Clear Blue Sky displays the music school credentials of the rhythm section, with Breiting’s distorted bass dancing alongside von der Goltz’s crisp, inventive drumming, over which Morrin adds hushed reverb-drenched vocals and guitar textures in something far closer to experimental jazz than folk; and Heart is in the Land – Reprise, from Just Thinking, conjures an ambient wall of reverb and delay over which cymbals fizzle and bass chords hum, recalling post-rock legends Explosions in the Sky.

Latest release Washing with Water adds further nuance and intrigue to their sonic palette and continues a trend of coupling a catchy title track with a compelling counterpoint. When interviewing the band late last year, I was struck by their absolute lack of ego, and the dedication of each member to serving the overall sound rather than saturating the music with individual contributions. Nothing epitomises this approach more than 22, Washing with Water’s opening track, where the band are happy to sit back entirely and allow friend Vincent Audusseau to take centre stage in an ambient sound collage which layers fragments of acoustic piano originally recorded for the title track with squalls of delay and feedback. This Brian Eno-esque piece recalls Moss Garden from Bowie’s Heroes album, with piano chords trilling and splashing like cooling rivulets of water, before being smothered by buzz saw jets of white noise, with nods to Revolution 9 by the Beatles in its disconcerting texturing.

22 serves as an enigmatically cinematic prelude to the beautiful Washing with Water, which opens with a chiming 6/8 acoustic guitar figure, over which Morrin wistfully sings: “Floating in this lake/ Feeling the world go by, go by/ Drop after drop/ Smile after smile, after smile.” Tapping into our need for release, renewal and escape, the song undulates with unhurried grace, before being borne on the wings of Breiting’s sensitive bass playing, and von der Goltz’s understated drumming. Audusseau’s piano is again employed to shimmering effect, with cascading piano chords completing the picture of a lakeside idyll far removed from the uncertainty of our times.

With their latest release, Landers once more prove their remarkable ability to blend a mix of influences into two tracks defined less by individual showmanship than by sonic adventurism and musical selflessness. In doing so, they continue to display their knack for conjuring an array of moods and soundscapes and offer an enticing promise of what’s yet to come.

Washing with Water is available to listen to now on Spotify 

As with their previous EPS, their latest release is also available on hand made limited edition tape cassette here, designed and crafted by Berlin based artwork and graphic designer Daniela Elorza.

Ireland in Frame – Retrospective

We find ourselves in an era of postponement – the postponed holiday, the
postponed gig, the postponed return to the hedonistic abandon of our favourite clubs
and festivals. Yet some global trends continue at an unabated pace – the shift to a
digitally-based world, the obsoletion of traditional jobs and ways of life, and the
changed appearance to our city centres. Where does art fit into all this? Usually it
serves either to provide escape from the worrying aspects of our lives, or to provide
cultural edification and sustenance in times of turmoil. We need it more than ever to
provide clarity, substance and guidance to navigate the knotty, changing realities of
our everyday existences. But where can we find art in these days of social-distancing
and uncertainty?

Ireland in Frame is a street photography exhibition trail that has cleverly
circumvented the strictures of lockdown to give us cultural nourishment in our
troubled times. A striking photographic survey of modern life in Ireland curated by
Berlin-based musician Candice Gordon, who stepped into the role of cultural officer
at the Irish Embassy in Berlin earlier this year, the exhibition has a clear objective in
mind: to depict an Ireland devoid of clichés for curious Berliners, and online for a
global audience of art lovers. Candice manages this by assembling the works of six
photographers, whose collective work gives a startling, cross-demographic glimpse
into the lives of Irish people against a multitude of shifting rural and urban backdrops.
And rather than confining the work to one location, the exhibition scatters the photos
between screens in six Irish-run establishments peppered around Prenzlauer Berg,
Neukölln and Friedrichshain. This pulls off the feat of allowing us to enjoy a spectrum
of photography in six appealing cafes, bars and shops, meaning that what sets out to
be a window into real Irish life doubles as a Covid-friendly, miniature tour of some of
Berlin’s most celebrated districts.

Wheel of Life by Laura Jean Zito

Thrilled by the prospect of getting to visit some of my favourite parts of Berlin in one
day, I embark on the exhibition trail with fellow Irish Culture Berlin writer John one
windswept evening in September. We start off at Curious Fox, a cosy bookshop
situated between the dozy languor of Tempelhofer Feld and the multicultural splurge
of Karl-Marx-Strasse which turns out to be a fitting setting for the photography of
Laura Jean Zito, whose dynamic photos of fishermen in the mists of the Arans and
shepherds in Connemara are juxtaposed with schoolchildren on Achill island. The
photos effortlessly evoke the passing of time, detailing our former reliance on fishing
boats and horses and their supplanting by bicycles and cars. One picture in
particular encapsulates this generational shift: a boy cycling past an elderly man with
a wheelbarrow laden with wood on a country lane, showing a literal overtaking of old
traditions by modernity.

Croagh Patrick By Kenneth O’Halloran

In some ways, “motion” and “change” comes across as prevailing themes in the
photos we see on the trail, and pervade the works of Kenneth O’Halloran, whose
pictures are screened above a shelf of spicy wares at Crazy Bastard Sauce, our next
port of call. A young, hip clientele dine and chat away while the photos flicker from
the television above, depicting pilgrims to Croagh Patrick and chic young attendees
to the Trinity College Ball in Dublin. Echoing the vibrant splurge of cultures and
identities in Neukölln, O’Halloran’s photos are cinematic in scope, distinguished by
their bold colours and presentation of an array of people from different walks of life.

By Eamonn Doyle

As the sun sets, John and I set off for Friedrichshain, where we take a drink in the
spartan, low-lit bowels of the third venue on our trail, Badfish bar on Krossener
Strasse. Badfish dispenses with decorative frills, concentrating rather on craft beers,
cocktails and whiskey. And the accompanying photos here, courtesy of Eamonn
Doyle, are all in gritty, high-contrast monochrome, showing a multi-ethnic community
of Dubliners, usually in profile, against a series of soot-black buildings and
monuments, nicely echoing the equal importance of Friedrichshain’s aspirational and
multicultural population to the district’s identity as its rapidly gentrifying architecture.

Meath Street Salon by Lorcan Finnegan

With this in mind, we cycle on to Prenzlauer Berg for the final three venues on the
trail, where the warm, lamp-lit cobbled streets seem even more jarringly contrastive
to the run-down charm of Friedrichshain than usual. Shorn of the the rough-and-
ready punk aesthetic of Friedrichshain, it’s nonetheless easy to forget that
Prenzlauer Berg was originally a predominately working-class district, and its
reputation as a swanky, ‘bourgeois’ neighbourhood is still relatively recent. This
conflicted identity in some ways makes it the perfect setting for Lorcan Finnegan’s
collection, which beams from a television outside the original, flagship Badfish bar on
Stargarder Straße – a series of expressive and candid faces of predominately elderly
Dubliners in a city on the cusp of change. There is a sense of a colossal number of
stories waiting to be told in each face, just as a stripping back of each layer of paint
on a refurbished building may reveals something new and unexpected.

Italian Restaurant by Jeanette Lowe

The sense that a building has a huge story to tell and varies according to the eyes of
the beholder is central to the photos of Jeanette Lowe, whose photos are shown
outside Salt’n Bone, a gastro bar serving hearty Irish food on Schliemannstraße.
Lowe’s photos magically echo the sentiment of cosiness, showing cafes, bars,
restaurants and housing estates in Dublin’s centre with names omitted, and bathed
in pastel colours which bring the paintings of Edward Hopper to mind, exuding a
sense of timelessness and spirituality. The establishments come across as little
harbours of warmth and translucence in inky midnight blackness: small communities
of inner-city residents left to keep the depleted, pandemic-stricken centre alive, while
its usual office workers and shoppers are made to stay home in the suburbs.

Above image and featured cover picture both by Birte Kaufmann’ The Travellers series.

In some ways the final venue on the trail provides a perfect summary of the themes
explored in Ireland in Frame. In the warm and welcoming Misirlou bar on
Dunckerstrasse, in the midst of Prenzlauer Berg, which has long been celebrated for
its inclusiveness and internationalism,
Köln-based Birte Kaufmann’s striking photos of Irish Travellers shine a light on an
oft neglected and maligned aspect of Irish culture. The photos, shot in stark,
unblemished tones, show a world of caravans, horses and a shivering lack of
amenities. Yet it’s also a familiar world of dolls, dressing up and laughter. One
striking image shows two young children in school uniform, with a boy sitting on the
back of a caravan munching a biscuit, and a girl hanging up washing on a clothesline
lost in roadside brambles. It’s an evocation of a familiar childhood scene in an
unfamiliar setting. Where the photos here express societal isolation, they also show
instantly recognisable emotions that bind us all: boredom, uncertainties about the
future, kinship, and loyalty.

Put together, the photos offer a rich mosaic of sensations, traditions and
experiences. Just as it is impossible to reduce the sensation of living in Berlin to a
few words and images, the wealth of diversity shown in Ireland in Frame is an echo
of all our unpredictable, complicated, nuanced and ephemeral lives, and show that
there is far more to link us in our glorious multifariousness than separate us. By
showcasing such a wealth of talent while also drawing our attention to a handful of
standout Irish-run establishments in Berlin, Candice Gordon has achieved something
quite remarkable, demonstrating that cultural enrichment during this difficult year is
still possible when we dare to think outside the box.

Ireland in Frame ran in Berlin 18th September – 2nd October 2020
All photos from the exhibition can be viewed here:

Perlee – A Band For All Seasons

At times during the drowsy summer we find ourselves in, an uncanny sense of normalcy seems to cover Berlin, with so much outwardly reverting to “business as usual”. But then we are jolted back to our new reality of uncertainty, where fear for the future battles with our desire to escape into the untroubled haven of yesterday.

Following on from their majestic Slow Creature EP released in March, Perlee perfectly encapsulate such conflicted feelings with their gorgeous follow-up Half Seen Figure. Consisting of old demos made in Ireland which have been dusted down and remixed during lockdown in Berlin, the duo fuse a sense of familiarity with subtle additions to their sonic palette: three songs that flit gracefully between unease, restfulness and yearning, providing sinuous, gauzy “Kopfkino” for the world outside.

Artwork by Christopher Morrin

Starting with an ominous crackle and a serpentine, Elliott Smith-like guitar figure, first song Sticky Blood uncoils like a snake under a blood red sky, threaded through with Saramai Leech imploring you to “shed your skin, let the light in.” It‘s brooding, restless and tantalising; her voice a hushed, dancing shadow invoking you to unburden yourself amidst striking imagery of scalded hearts and sticky blood thickened and set into wax.

Recent single Slow Your Eyes comes into focus next, effortlessly flipping the mood to one of sun-kissed languor, with Cormac O’Keeffe’s chiming guitar heralding a simple, two-chord progression which melds with his whispered vocals and lush keyboards to suggest My Bloody Valentine playing Dear Prudence by the Beatles. The harmonic simplicity is perfectly accompanied by his soothing and reinforcing words: “you are a lens you can let the sun rise”, a gentle entreaty to turn off your phones and engage with the present.

This delicious sliver of serenity then dissolves into an aching portrait of yearning with Leech returning to lead vocal duties for the arrestingly beautiful closer Bird and the Statue. Ushered in by the stentorian tones of Ronnie Drew from The Dubliners reading a snippet of Oscar Wilde’s Happy Prince, this gentle lullaby pirouettes on a graceful piano figure, with the bird pleading to the statue to “give me the ground to fall at your feet, give me the words you want me to speak.“ The combination of the Wilde-inspired narrative, Leech’s heartfelt vocal delivery, and O’Keeffe’s sighing guitar accompaniment conjures a widescreen picture of impossible love and longing, once again displaying the duo’s knack for eliciting intense emotions with tastefully minimal instrumentation.

Footage taken from ‘Meshes of the Afternoon’, a 1943 American short experimental film directed by and starring Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid.

While so much of today’s music comes across as either cloyingly optimistic or contrivedly morose, Perlee continue to entrance with their masterly use of textures and striking lyrical imagery, accessing shades of emotion that manage to paint a full picture of the human experience. I had first seen the band enchant a reverent audience at the Fitzcarraldo Film Bar in Friedrichshain in January, their music providing intoxicatingly ethereal diversion from the howling winter outside. Half Seen Figure, which sweeps us seamlessly through feelings of unease, effervescent lightness, and elegant yearning in just over ten minutes, proves that Perlee are a band for all seasons.

Half Seen Figure is available now on Spotify and also on limited edition cassette over on Bandcamp.

Cover Image by Sofia Kent

June Hope EP review – “balmy, introspective dreamscapes”

Conversely, the downtime from live music and enforced introversion may be something of a gift for the creative spirit. Musicians around the world speak of prolific output under lockdown, and the current febrile atmosphere is ammunition for many songwriters. Following swiftly on from last year’s magnificent Commander of Sapiens, Galway psych-pop musician Eoin Dolan’s June Hope arrives as a sonic encapsulation of the conflicted feelings shared by many of us in these times. Its four tracks bristle with opulent orchestration recalling the likes of the Beatles’ White Album and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, creating balmy, introspective dreamscapes that oscillate between joyous abandonment at one moment, and weary uncertainty the next.

“June hope, where have you gone? Covered in a shadow” ponders Eoin in the reflective, titular first track over a shifting blanket of shimmering guitar chords redolent of The Beatles’ Julia, before resolving in a bed of flutes and mellotrons. “I can’t fault your timing” he sings in the chorus, suggesting both guarded optimism for the changing of the seasons, as well as uncertainty for what we have in store.

“Dolan conjures a sense of timelessness

Second track Supermacs turns the wistfulness up a notch, recounting idle days spent on Galway’s Salthill promenade playing slot machines. “I’d often fill my minutes up with nothing but looking out for you” Eoin sings, accompanied by mallet percussion, organs and chiming guitars. It conjures the fevered fantasies of adolescence in a blue-skied snapshot of youth. And with its uncanny ‘60s production, this depiction of bustling seaside idleness seems an age away.

We bounce then to the exotic Cairo Café with its promise of relief: “I’ll meet you at the Cairo Café, let all your problems be gone”. Cooing vocals meld with tremolo guitar, energetic bass and Latin percussion to evoke an effervescent sense of wanderlust and the promise of romance.

But this optimism is short-lived as we plummet back to Earth in the haunted closing track Gardening Magazines and Peppermint Tea, Eoin allowing himself to “sit back and fall into my dead domain”; the reality of a dreamer plucked from a dream and thrown into brooding, November darkness. The song, and the EP as a whole, manage the admirable achievement of both speaking to us about our precarious, confined circumstances, while conjuring a sense of timelessness, buoyed on by lush, retro-futurist orchestration and Eoin’s accomplished production. “Just the thought of a summer breeze and I’m reborn”, he sings, offering glimmers of hope amidst the murky skies. The world continues to spin on its axis, and tomorrow is another day; the palpable promise of a return to our uncaring, unfettered selves pervades the EP, and it’s this belief in tomorrow that will see us through these uncertain times.

June Hope is out now and you can hear it here now on BandCamp, or check out for more updates on Dolan’s work. Dolan is also donating 100% of sales from the EP to The Melting Pot Luck – Galway, a non profit community group set up in the west of Ireland to help bring about cultural exchanges between refugees, asylum seekers and locals.

Thumper – Exhilarating grunge pop for troubled times

The RAW-Gelände is usually a Valhalla for ragtag, DIY punk aficionados – a graffitied, rundown staple of Friedrichshain nightlife on Revaler Straße, where excitable young tourists and leather jacket wearing punks congregate for long nights of hedonism. But this is Thursday 12th March, and Europe is in the midst of putting public life on hold to tackle Covid-19, and the closing of Berlin clubs and bars is an inevitability. As a result the music venue Urban Spree is ghoulishly quiet. The former locomotive sheds of the RAW-Gelände are eerie in the absence of the usual throngs of people. Even the drug-pushing sentries seem denuded in numbers, and half-hearted in their entreaties to the small pockets of party-goers to buy their illicit wares.

Artfully-executed grunge pop

Everything is about to close down. But before it does, there‘ll be one more blast of “bubble gum grunge” energy, courtesy of Dublin-based noise pop sextet Thumper, who pound through an intoxicatingly fun set of music that manages to distract the crowd from uncertainties outside. Their music fuses the indie rock riffs of bands like Wavves and Parquet Courts with the scuzzy, fuzz-pedaled guitar sound of Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth – a coalescence of influences that seems purpose-built to wow packed audiences in venues like Urban Spree. In normal circumstances there would surely be a sweaty crowd moshing together. But tonight there is a smattering of people in attendance, understandably careful to maintain their own space and avoid physical contact, but treated nevertheless to a course in artfully-executed grunge pop.

Having cultivated a dedicated following back home in Ireland, Thumper played sold out shows in London earlier in the tour, but crowd sizes in mainland Europe have differed. “We played to a full room in Brussels the other week“ says frontman Oisin Leahy Furlong to us after the show. “And then to six people in Cologne yesterday“. Inconsistencies in audience numbers don‘t seem to visibly sap the energy of the band, who grin throughout the set, although offstage they tell us about the physical toil of heavy touring. “I‘ve already needed my neck massaged twice“ says bassist Dav, when we tell him about the cricks to our necks caused by headbanging for the last hour.

Image by Nicholas O’Donnell

With music this propulsive and catchy, it’s very difficult not to jump animatedly in appreciation. Starting as a one-man-band, their lineup has grown over the last few years to encompass a three-pronged guitar assault spearheaded by Oisin, bass, and two drummers. An augmented rhythm section ensures a relentless, metronomic beat that serves as perfect scaffolding for feral, fuzz guitar riffing. The band open their set tonight with new single Ad Nauseam to a crowd initially reluctant to approach the stage. But thanks to the bantering efforts of Oisin and the rigorous, relentless drive of the band, by the time we get to seven minute euphoric set closer Down, the crowd has given itself up to the wall of sound, converted to the raucous display of euphoric energy in front of them.

There are a surfeit of gloom-laden, introspective artists eager to document the horrors of the world outside, and ‘fun’ doesn‘t appear to be in the DNA of many bands right now. So the sight of this hirsute troupe of grunge rock lovers thrashing their guitars and pounding their drums so gleefully offers a welcome respite from a world turning upside down. But that’s not to say that the band members are necessarily carefree party animals offstage. “This is just one side of me” Oisin tells us while chomping on an apple after the show, when we remark on his theatrical stage presence, and predilection for running amongst the crowd. The other side is introspective and thoughtful. The band listen to Fionn Regan and Leonard Cohen on the tour bus, rather than The Stooges or The Melvins. Oisin‘s solo project, Anamoe Drive, displays gorgeous dream pop sensibilities redolent of Wild Nothing. He tells us how much he admires Leonard Cohen‘s ability to say so much in so few words, and the gleefully scuzzy guitar sound of Thumper disguises the agonised, arresting imagery of his own lyrics. “When I’m in my room milk curdles in the sun. When I’m in my room bring a magnet to the haystack. When I’m in my room cat eyes glare through the smoke. When I’m in my room alone” sings Oisin in In My Room as a plea for camaraderie in an anthem against solitude.

Time for reflection

And indeed Oisin exudes a natural gratitude and pride for being in a band of like-minded musicians that has allowed Thumper to tour Europe and gradually expand their fan base, spurred on by increasing radio coverage by the likes of Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephens, culminating in the release of last year’s excellent Out Of Body Auto-Message EP produced by Girl Band’s Daniel Fox. The band’s inexorable ascent to mainstream status might seem a foregone conclusion, but Covid-19 has clouded immediate plans in uncertainty. Before starting the show in Berlin, their gigs in Karlsruhe and Paris had been cancelled. So what does the future hold for the band now that their European tour has been curtailed? “We’re taking every day as it comes. At the end of the day we’re all in the same boat as other musicians” says Oisin. Their debut album is more or less under wraps, and he tells us there’ll be plenty of time to write album number two now. “I thought I’d be in Europe all month, so I had sub-let my apartment. I might not have anywhere to stay in Dublin when I come back now” he says half-jokingly.

Thumper are indeed just one of thousands of talented young bands whose ability to make a living by gigging has been cut short by the virus. We can only hope for their, and indeed all our sakes, that they have the conditions to return sooner rather than later. As we leave them to enjoy the after party of what will turn out to be the unexpected last night of the tour, we return home thankful for the exhilarating jolt of grunge rock energy they’ve given us. Because if there‘s anything that will see us through the necessary cultural shutdown in Europe, it’s the knowledge that there’s a world beyond our four walls, and that there are likeminded lovers of jubilant, scuzzy grunge rock waiting to be partied with.

Thumper – (You’re bringing me) down

Perlee – Stepping into the light

How quickly does a creature adapt to an alien, unfamiliar world? Moving to a new city can stimulate a full gamut of emotions – excitement and wonder in one moment can be overcome by alienation and regret the next.

Berlin-based indie pop duo Perlee cover a range of human sensations in their majestic debut EP Slow Creature. Having moved to Berlin a couple of years back from Meath, their songs convey both a sense of yearning for the rural beauty they’ve left behind, and a forward-thinking sense of adventure for the city they’ve chosen to call home.

Songs of longing and warmth

‘Conditions to Thrive’ opens with lush keyboard sounds and Saramai Leech reassuring us in our alien surroundings. ‘Stepping into the light’ she coos, embracing the listener in a shower of warmth, before being joined by Cormac O’Keeffe’s gorgeously spare waltzing guitar. If the listener is the titular Slow Creature, we are given space and time to flex our limbs in the unhurried cinematic beauty of this opener.

Introspection and wanderlust take over in Chain of Coral, where the duo sing of mermaids and a longing to be back to landscapes far removed from city, over a sonic palette of undulating guitars.

But we are then whisked swiftly away from this spectral sense of yearning with Charlie’s Song. Is that the sun on the horizon?’ sings O’Keeffe over guitar strums, before being answered with a resounding affirmative in the sun-drenched, soaring chorus, where Leech joins in with jubilant keyboards and harmony vocals.

Feeling Of Plenty round off the journey with delicate guitar picking and unison vocals merging to form a bed of reassurance and sense of fulfillment.

The cover for the album shows an empty, urban vista at night. It conveys a stillness and urban quietness – both lonely but serenely beautiful. It is unmistakably Berlin, but could basically be anywhere. And with Slow Creature Perlee demonstrate that beauty is to be found everywhere you want it to be.

Perlee – Charlie’s Song

Perlee play next in Berlin on Sunday, April the 12th alongside A.S. Fanning and Melts at:

Urban Spree
Revalerstraße 99
10245 Berlin, Germany

Paddy Mulcahy – “A cathedral of serenity”

One of the joys of the city is that every district has its own multitude of treasures. Wedding is one such place, where the energetic, multicultural pulse of Seestrasse transforms suddenly into the sleepy, streetlamp-lit Liebenwalder Straße, where Mastul, tucked into the corner, shines out like an artistic beacon. And the mellifluous, lyrical piano music of Paddy Mulcahy and Kelly Wyse gives many of us the soothing, transportive break from the hubbub of life in the capital that we need.

Limerick-based Paddy Mulcahy is here as part of the Modellbahn series, curated by Seattle-born Berlin resident Kelly Wyse. The series is described as a set of concerts of “experimental, improvised classical music“. This description might be a turnoff for some – isn’t experimental classical music supposed to be austere, impenetrable, aloof and cold? The venue, for a start, is anything but austere and cold. The pleasant bohemian chatter of Mastul’s bar area leads to a dimly-lit, cosily- wallpapered backroom, where lines of benches are placed before a majestic old upright piano with its myriad of hammers, pins, pegs and strings on display for all to see. And eagerly awaiting are a mix of wine-sipping classical music aficionados sat next to seasoned club-goers here to break a weekend of hedonism with some cultural enrichment. The overall effect is like being in a temple, with the piano placed like an alter before the expectant throng, a promise of spiritual reward from a higher source.

Recurring motifs around which dynamics undulate and harmonies evolve with slow-building intensity

Kelly Wyse is first to play. He charms the audience with a collection of pieces loaded with grace and beauty. His website describes his music as having been influenced by Ravel’s ‘Gibet’, a piece “where the same B flat octave ostinato remains constant while harmonies and dynamics change around it.” This concentration on repetition pervades his own music: recurring motifs around which dynamics undulate and harmonies evolve with slow-building intensity. Pieces such as ssSwan unravel from the piano unhurriedly and elegantly, whetting our appetites for Kelly’s solo album Pastoralia, which is set for release later this year.

A short break reminds the ensembled audience that they are in the backroom of a raucous Wedding pub rather than floating on a river at sunset, the door being opened to allow us to refill our drinks and mix with the joyful clatter of revellers at the bar. Then headliner Paddy Mulcahy takes to the stage, unfurling a Limerick flag to dampen the sound of the piano and achieve a muted, percussive tone that brings the audience to an awed silence. Telling us that he had fallen in love with sythesisers when recording latest album How to Disappear, Paddy adds the synthetic swooshes of a Korg Monologue keyboard and ambient delay of a Roland Space Echo to the mix, lifting us away from Wedding to an oasis of calm, wanderlust and orange-hued skies.

Paddy explains that this pared-down setup is a far cry from the heavy-duty one he uses when playing back home in Ireland. But it’s a mark of the music’s quality that motifs from pieces such as Sunset Connoisseur and When Away embed themselves in our brains like earworms, regardless of the setup in which they’re played this evening. And when, after the music has finished and this cathedral of serenity reverts to the smoky backroom of a hip Wedding bar, the music continues to resound in our heads. If ‘experimental’ piano music is always this intoxicatingly beautiful, perhaps Berliners seeking a break from the pell-mell of city life should consider introducing more ‘experimental’ music to their own busy schedules.

Cover Picture by
© Shane Vaughan

Perlee – transcendent dream pop balm for a cold winter’s night

The Filmkunstbar Fitzcaralldo has long provided a source of sanctuary from windswept evenings in Berlin. And ensconced in the DVD-lined basement of the bar, Perlee’s ethereally beautiful music dashes all thoughts of howling winds and Tuesday blues from the enraptured, seated audience, transporting us instead to a smoky dreamscape of moonlit skies and yearning.

Hailing from Meath but now based in Berlin, the duo fill the basement with cooing, dovetailing vocals underpinned by Saramai Leech’s lush, cinematic keyboards, and Cormac O’Keeffe’s delicate, reverb-drenched guitar. Opening with the sparse, tear-inducingly beautiful Chain Of Coral, and closing with forthcoming single Charlie’s Song, their set veers from haunted, fingerpicking wistfulness to sun-kissed dream pop redolent of Beach House and Slowdive.

“This feeling of plenty is in my bones”

The overall effect is less of watching a set of songs, but rather of being taken on a journey through a dreamworld, alternating between states of wide-eyed wonder watching whales under starry skies, to ineffable waves of longing and torment in shadow-cast post-apocalyptic landscapes. The duo manage this with seamless, carefully-crafted musicianship, where unison vocals splinter into spectral harmonies, and unexpected chord changes light up plaintive, autumnal moods with lingering rays of hope.

‘This feeling of plenty is in my bones’ sing the duo halfway through the set, mirroring the enchantment of the audience sat upon their upturned beer crates. Set to release their next single Charlie’s Song on February 21st, and their EP Slow Creature on March 27th, Perlee may soon be set to fill ever-bigger spaces with their delicate sounds. But on this cold winter’s evening in Berlin, they made the cosy candlelit basement of the Filmtheater Fitzcaralldo a haven for all in attendance.

Perlee play next in Berlin at Bar Bobu, Friedrichshain on March 7th 2020.

Cover Picture by
© Greta María Ásgeirsdóttir