Northern Irish Albums To Get Excited About
From And So I Watch From Afar to SOAK, our pick of which local releases to start counting down the days to
And So I Watch You From Afar – Heirs (June 20)
North-coast post-rockers ASIWYFA have been touring as hard as ever since the release of their third full-length All Hail Bright Futures in 2013, their incendiary instrumental rock having taken them to India and back to the Far East. Fourth album Heirs is a moodier beast than the bright and colourful All Hail, falling somewhere between there and the dark, knotty Gangs. Expect guitar pyrotechnics and more vocals than ever before…
Ash – Kablammo! (release date TBC)
Back in 2007, Ash declared the traditional album dead and vowed never to make one again, instead embarking on a year-long series of 26 singles. Eight years later, they've gone back on their word, but no-one who heard comeback single 'Cocoon' is complaining. A short-sharp-sugary blast of power-pop, it's the first taste of sixth album Kablammo!, a record described by drummer Rick McMurray as 'a streamlined blazing guitar record.' Like Tim Wheeler's recent solo album, the album is being crowdfunded at PledgeMusic.
Malojian – Southlands (May 18)
Stevie Scullion makes Americana-tinged indie-folk and, slowly but surely, he's been building a substantial fanbase since the release of his debut album The Deer's Cry. So much so that he reached his PledgeMusic target for his new record Southlands after just 10 days of its campaign. But then, with a single as strong as 'Communion Girls' and high profile supporters including Gary Lightbody, Lauren Laverne and Bob Harris, maybe that's not so surprising.
The Olllam – title and release date TBC
Transatlantic supergroup The Olllam consist of Belfast uilleann piper John McSherry and Detroit natives Taylor Duncan and Michael Shimmin. Their self-titled 2012 album was an example of what they term 'neo-acoustic Celtic post-rock' – an innovative, stylish mix of trad, jazz and experimental rock – and recent Facebook posts have confirmed that the band are back in the studio for another reel around the fountain.
Gama Bomb – title TBC (due out around Halloween)
Newry/Dublin thrashers Gama Bomb are onto their fifth album – good going for a bunch of lads barely into their 30s. But then they have a worldwide fanbase keeping them going, and a schlocky fixation on horror and action movies that sets them apart from the speed metal field. Frontman Philly Byrne told us, 'Instead of sinking into clichés and getting lazy we're making our catchiest, most energetic, boldest album yet. I think the title and the songs, everything about it, goes in the face of predictable thrash. We've outlived the thrash revival, now we're building a legacy. I think people will love it.'
The Host – Esalen Lectures (due out this summer)
Lurgan producer and DJ Barry Lynn is best known under the Boxcutter name – an early convert to dubstep, he's brought psychedelic vibes, musicianly chops and seriously heavy rhythms to plenty of other styles since. But he also records more heady fare under the name The Host, and the second full-length under that name (his eighth in total) is due out this summer via new Belfast label Touch Sensitive. Lynn told us to expect 'beatless psychedelia/new age jams, guitar and synth. It's got a nice narrative to it all, [a] skewed perspective on the counter culture.' Sounds intriguing, as ever.
SOAK – Before We Forgot How To Dream (June 1)
What a rollercoaster ride Bridie Monds-Watson is on. The 18-year-old from Derry already feels like a well-established artist at home, what with her starmaking appearances during Derry's year as City Of Culture, repeat trips to Other Voices, and now the rest of the world is taking notice. Rough Trade snapped her up at the last minute from under the noses of a rival label, and the legendary indie imprint will release her debut album in June. It was recorded with Villagers man Tommy McLaughlin at his Donegal studio, and if the re-recorded 'Sea Creatures' is anything to go by, it promises to be lush and full-bodied, but intimate too.
Farriers – title and release date TBC
Bangor three-piece Farriers have become huge live favourites, whether in regular sessions in their home town's pubs or larger theatre shows in Belfast and beyond. Their sound draws on folk, Americana, indie-pop and the lore of the north Down coast, as evidenced by their involvement in the Bangor's Ghost project. Their debut album Years Ago In Our Backyard was met with widespread praise, and they are currently working on number two, slated for release before the end of the year.
Documenta – Drone Pop #1 (release date TBC)
Joe Greene and his merry band of psychedelic warriors created a splash with their album Documenta Drone Pop #2 in early 2013. Confusingly, its follow-up is entitled Documenta Drone Pop #1, as it consists of tracks, several re-recorded, from the band's first, extremely rare CD-R release. Like the new record from The Host, it will be released on ace new Belfast indie label Touch Sensitive later in 2015. The band worship at the altar of minimalist groove merchants like Can and Spacemen 3 while infusing everything with the warm glow of blissed-out indie rock.
Meilana Gillard – title and release date TBC
Born in London and raised in New York, jazz saxophonist Meilana Gillard is now based in Belfast, having followed in the footsteps of her parents who made the same move a few years earlier – her mother is a native of the city. Since then her career has gone from strength to strength as she has worked with the great and the good of the Irish jazz fraternity, including pianist Scott Flanigan and drummer Steve Davis. Her second solo album is due for release in May and, as Gillard told CNI recently, it will feature a full set of solo compositions, and a wider range of instrumentation than that which she is known for: 'I’m going to play bass clarinet, clarinet, flute and tenor saxophone,' she said.