WATCH: Ali Comerford – ‘Knots’

Kilkenny-based Ali Comerford has recently shared ‘Knots’, a beautifully understated meditation on anxiety. It’s the title track of her upcoming folk-based and classically inspired debut album.

‘Knots’ is poignant in its simplicity, with stunning raw vocals accompanied by tender piano arpeggios. Such barebones instrumentation creates space and allows us really to focus on the vocals and what Ali has to say; there are no distractions. The music is intimate, as though Ali were sat in the room playing just for you, providing comfort and reassurance that you are not alone. Of the track, Ali explains:

“‘Knots’ is a song I wrote about anxiety, something we all struggle with at one time or another. At the time, I was going through a stage of intense anxiety. I worried about the fact that I hadn’t released any music, about whether people would enjoy my songs or not and also over-analyzed every little thing I had ever done wrong. I wasn’t sleeping properly and found I was lying awake at night replaying old conversations and feeling ashamed and embarrassed.”

In the chorus, she sings: “Because I worry like no other / It’s always one thing or another”. It paints a bold picture of how we can all feel when our minds are full of anxious thoughts, whirring like an overworked machine. “It keeps me awake and it makes me wonder / If I am alone in this” – these final lines show how lonely it can feel in times of anxiety, but with Ali’s generous self-expression and relatable content, we can feel it together.

Ali Comerford has impressive musical credits, having toured the world, performing classical viola on stages such as the New York Carnegie Hall, the London Royal Albert Hall and Dublin’s National Concert Hall. Her years of experience in the classical music world have evidently been extremely valuable, teaching her to make every note count, as is showcased in this poignant latest solo offering.

Watch the lyric video for ‘Knots’ here:

Knots, the debut album from Ali Comerford, is set for release on 29th July.

Jazmine Kelly
@surfjaz

Photo Credit: Shane Hatton Photography

FIVE FAVOURITES: Sophie Hutchings

A talented composer who produces mindful piano-led music, Australian artist Sophie Hutchings uses sound to ease the anxieties of everyday life. She recorded her recent EP, Love & Keep, between the hours of 12-4am, embracing her insomnia and offering her listeners a moment of stillness and serenity amidst her restlessness.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Sophie to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that have inspired her song-writing techniques. Check out her choices below and scroll down to watch her video for recent single ‘Light Over The Moor’ at the end of this post.

Sophie: “I find it almost impossible to choose 5 favourite pieces, so I’ve chosen 5 of my favourites that had a significant impact on my formative years. Even though they are all quite different from each other, there’s a common ground of repetition in these pieces which I’ve always found quite hypnotising in music.”

1. Brain Eno – ‘Discreet Music’
I love Erik Satie’s invention and coining of the term “Furniture music” – sounds that were designed to be heard, but not listened to. Brian Eno fans will know this is the whole aim with ‘Discreet music’. It’s intended to blend into the ambient atmosphere of the room rather than be directly focused upon. This, to me, has got to be one of the most soothing ambient pieces I’ve ever heard and has always been one of my favourite go to late night listens. I grew up listening to a lot of Brian Eno but this one really stirred me. It always felt like a musical bedtime story. There’s a dreamy placid beauty about it that allows you to float and drift outside yourself without you even realising.

With a very simple organic layering of melody the piece never really changes which is what I love about it, yet it constantly and subtly evolves with the accession of various decay as the piece gradually and quietly repeats its motifs with all the sounds remaining continually tranquil and peaceful. It’s one of those pieces that feels like it could go on for infinity. It’s music that doesn’t demand your attention though still evokes a delicate sense of emotion.

2. Arvo Part – ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’
The first time I heard ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ it put a massive lump in my throat. I’ve listened to it countless times and there’s not a moment when it still doesn’t raise the same stirring response. Again, this is one of those hypnotising pieces due to the unchanging nature of recurring motifs in the piece and beautifully long sustained notes. I love how the minimalism relies on atmosphere and not on building towards a climax like a lot of classical music does.

Arvo Part is a true example of introspective music. It’s not how many notes are played but how they are played. It’s also about the space in between. Silence in music speaks and I find there’s almost as much strength in the pauses and space in music as there are notes. ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ hangs on the edges, yet there’s a restlessness over the quietness that balances the fragility in this piece of music and I guess being a sentimental person you don’t tire of this kind of beauty in music.

3. Susumu Yokota – ‘Traveller In The Wonderland’
Discovering Susumu Yokota was like discovering Alice In Wonderland as a child all over again (which I’m slightly obsessed with). I find him the true master of ambient electronica. Sadly, I only discovered him just before he died and I would love to collect all his albums on vinyl, which are few and far between. There’s a lush fanciful playfulness to this piece. It’s almost like nature talking to each other.

Yokota taps into the senses through melodic remnants taken from historical old classical pieces on his album Symbol, and in this instance on ‘Traveller In The Wonderland’ there’s some beautiful Camille Saint-Saens and a little Luigi Boccherini which gives it this mystic whimsical edge – still he reveals it in this almost anonymous way – placing a sense of nostalgia of some long lost place weaved throughout his dreamy melodic textural synths, wordless dreamy vocals and drum loops with romantic musical pathways of middle eastern tonality resonating around the circumference. To me, it’s like being under the trance of a magical child-like spell which takes me back to my Walt Disney imaginative heydays.

4. DJ Shadow – ‘Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt’
DJ Shadow was a revelation in my early adult years. He enthusiastically rocked my world. There’s this clever combination of moody and intense rhythmic melodious energy that just brings everything so alive in this piece. The haunting atmosphere that’s accentuated by the repetitive hypnotic group vocals, rich off beat bass and the urgency and drive of the eerie piano riff. I’ve always affiliated with a certain amount of intensity in music and hearing this song for the first time was like hearing an unexplored wilderness of dynamic addictive melody. I love how he brings to life all these old vinyl treasures and re-creates layers and collages of sound. It’s enticing, energetic, ethereal and ambient all in one – where happy and melancholy are competently one – it’s an intoxicating and timeless listen.

5. My Bloody Valentine – ‘Soon’
I grew up being surrounded by a lot of noisy indie rock and shoegaze music and as much as I don’t listen to this kind of music as much as used to, this piece stuck with me and was one of my favourites that bounced off the family household walls at high decibels thanks to my older brothers. I would always have a good dance to it!

If there’s ever a blurred latitude of noisy dreamy sound with a rhythmic propulsion, I say this is an iconic one. It’s one of those songs that feels like you’re lost in a sonic labyrinth which one will either grapple with or be enlightened by. I just listened to it again for the first time in years and it took me back to days of going for walks and blaring it in my headphones. When embraced, it’s like entering a woozy euphoric daze that you can get totally lost in and it taught me that you don’t necessarily have to always interpret music as long as you feel it – then to me, you understand it. Not everything in music needs an explanation to be felt.

Thanks so much to Sophie for sharing her favourites with us!

Watch her video for ‘Light Over The Moor’ below.

Photo Credit: Luke Dubbelde

LISTEN: Naoko Sakata – ‘Improvisation 3’

Gothenburg-based Japanese musician Naoko Sakata has now announced her new piano solo album Dancing Spirits, set for release next month via Pomperipossa Records, a Swedish label that has established itself as a beacon for avant-garde, drone, ambient and experimental music and is led by esteemed artist Anna Van Hausswolf. This will be Sakata’s second solo piano album and consists of seven free improvisations. It was recorded in August 2020 in Annedalskyrkan, a church in Gothenburg Sweden, and played on a Steinway grand piano.

Improvisation 3’ is the taster single from the album and is a glistening sign of things to come, being entirely free and spontaneous in character. It showcases Naoko’s innovative style, combining peace and chaos into sound. It begins with discordant, allegro piano keys signifying confusion, before becoming slower and more tranquil. It mellows out to an enchanting, light classical piece, becoming pastoral, gentle, and hymnal in turns. Oozing a graceful majesty as the twinkling keys flow, it builds to a perfectly soothing soundscape. 

Even if you might not usually listen to avant-garde piano pieces, here is your chance to open your ears and mind; let the pure expression of the music captivate you. A unique window to the world of Naoko Sakata and her intriguing interpretation of the meaning of art. A meaning that can only be heard, but not explained further.

 

Dancing Spirits will be released on 26th March via Pomperipossa Records. 

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

Photo Credit: Gianluca Grasselli

LISTEN: Susanna – ‘The Dancing Snake’

In a stunning and sorrowfully emotional unfolding it seems unjust to describe ‘The Dancing Snake’ the latest offering from Norwegian artist Susanna, as anything but a treasure.

Inspirited by the ghost of the late poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-67), Susanna brings the cynical gaze of a wandering civilian reflecting upon the universe around him to her majestic songwriting. With a captivating performance of dark, velvet-like piano, ‘The Dancing Snake’ and its shivering essence seems to rotate through the soreness of Baudelaire’s historic perspective.

Floating above the instrumental, Susanna’s voice emerges ‘The Dancing Snake’ to move in modern times with a fluttering vocal dreamscape that is anchored to the earth by its ringing chords and escapist lyrical content. Images from “I breathe the tang of the ocean / in the deeps of your hair”, to “my dreaming soul casts off and sets its course for distant skies”, take Susanna’s listeners on this strange fantastical journey where they are whisked away to hear the harmonious marriage between immaculate musicianship and storytelling.

‘The Dancing Snake’ is a skeletal arrangement of a tune that needs no more than itself. With early influences, from the earnest Bob Dylan to the more contemporary Mothers, Susanna has thrown her work into a blender – derived only from the best of folk, classical and art – and created an exquisite soundscape. ‘The Dancing Snake’ is an exhibition in itself, of impressionism and the pondering experience of being alive.

Baudelaire & Piano, the upcoming album from Susanna, is set for release 11th September via SusannaSonata.

Jill Goyeau
@jillybxxn

Photo Credit: Martin Rustad Johansen