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Video of the Moment #1801: RAMS’ Pocket Radio

 
By on Monday, 11th May 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

When I spoke with Northern Irish songwriter RAMS’ Pocket Radio, aka Peter McCauley, last year at SXSW 2014, he intimated that he was already starting to work on new material after the release of his debut album ‘Beton’. Now, just over a year later, RAMS’ Pocket Radio is back with a new single titled ‘Reservoir’, which recently received its first radio play from Phil Taggart on BBC Radio 1.

‘Reservoir’ is immediately sleeker and edgier than anything on ‘Béton’, giving it a more boldly confident overtone than McCauley’s somewhat self-conscious previous work. The drum machine beat is distant and aloof, with the electric guitar riff adding some grit to the harmonically inventive keyboard lines. McCauley’s vocal delivery here is strong yet emotionally reserved, his always perfect falsetto most effective in the chorus “I watched you walk away / I watched my life escape / I did not feel one thing / and the feeling came back when you went away”.

True to the self-described “deconstructive” nature of RAMS’ Pocket Radio’s music, the kaleidoscopic video for ‘Reservoir’ features sharply angular computer-generated graphics over cloudy black and white images of McCauley’s face. The visual contrast in the instrumental bridge section, which features a dramatic string arrangement, is particularly well-handled by video director Edward F. Butler.

‘Reservoir’ is available to download or stream on RAMS’ Pocket Radio’s Bandcamp page. Previous TGTF coverage of RAMS’ Pocket Radio is right back here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKQ-cD_uHhU[/youtube]

@ramspocketradio

 

SXSW 2014: Friday night at Communion showcase, British Music Embassy, and back to B.D. Riley’s – 14th March 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 1st April 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

After spending the entirety of my SXSW 2014 Friday afternoon at B.D. Riley’s on 6th Street for the Full Irish Breakfast, I had just enough time to dash up the hill to 8th Street to St. David’s Episcopal Church for a quick interview before the Communion Music Showcase. I had heard rave reviews of the acoustics inside the sanctuary at St. David’s, as well as the consistently amazing lineups sponsored by Communion Music, so of course I was fairly bubbling over with excitement by the time I reached the church.

Evening activity was just beginning to pick up in downtown Austin, and the outside of the church was still mostly quiet when I arrived. By the time I finished my interview with the lovely and laid back Nick Mulvey in the Holy Grounds coffee shop, music fans were beginning to queue for showcases in both St. David’s venues, the main sanctuary and the smaller Bethel Hall. I chatted cordially with a few other music fans in the queue, and the wait to get into the sanctuary seemed very short indeed.

Unfortunately, I was far enough back in the queue that I didn’t get a fabulous seat inside the sanctuary. To be clear, as far as the acoustics are concerned, there aren’t any bad seats. But I was hoping to snap a few photos, so I chose to sit along the center aisle, and even though I was several pews back, I think I managed to capture the ambience of the evening.

The first band on the showcase was London folk trio Bear’s Den, who stopped in Austin as part of a full North American tour. They had evidently become used to more raucous American audiences than the polite crowd at St. David’s Sanctuary, as lead singer Andrew Davie paused more than once to tell us that our stillness made him a bit nervous. His mild admonitions did lighten up the somewhat stiff atmosphere, and by the time Bear’s Den reached the last song in their set, which included singles ‘Agape’ and ‘Writing on the Wall’, they were comfortable enough to step forward and do it “unplugged”. I was so delighted by their echoing vocal harmonies, and the rest of the congregation were as jovial as they could possibly be while seated on wooden pews.

Bear's Den at St. David's 14 March 2014

The showcase was perfectly organized and running on a tight schedule, so there wasn’t much time for audience members to shift in and out of the church between Bear’s Den and the aforementioned Nick Mulvey. Luckily, not many people chose to leave, as we were treated to a set that spanned Mulvey’s short but impressive solo career. I smiled to myself at the sound of familiar tunes ‘Fever to the Form’ and ‘Nitrous’, but it was the new (or new-to-me) tunes that proved most captivating. This was my first time hearing ‘The Trellis’, from Mulvey’s November 2012 EP of the same name, and a pin drop would have echoed mightily in the sanctuary when he finished it. Also well received was the newer and more upbeat track ‘Meet Me There’, which is due for release in May along with his full length album ‘First Mind’.

Nick Mulvey at St. David's 14 March 2014

As Mulvey closed his mellow set, the sanctuary began buzzing with anticipation for Irish singer/songwriter Hozier. Having already gained radio play in America with his religiously analogous single ‘Take Me to Church’, Hozier was ready to preach his gospel to those in attendance St. David’s Church, and he certainly made a believer out of me. I was stunned by the power in every song on his set list, from the earthy, deceptively sweet folk of ‘In A Week’ to the visceral blues and overt sexuality of ‘Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene’. And while the gospel tinge of ‘Take Me to Church’ might have been appropriate for the setting, Hozier’s performance of it on the night was enough to steam up every single one of the stained glass windows.

Hozier at St. David's 14 March 2014

I needed some fresh air after the breathtaking sublimity of Hozier, so I stepped outside to gather my thoughts and check in with Mary via text. Once outside the venue, I quickly realized that I would have some difficulty getting back in, as the queue was growing for the final acts on the Communion roster, Tennis, Sam Smith and Vance Joy. I would later regret missing out on those artists, especially after seeing this video of Smith’s recent single ‘Stay With Me’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB-5XG-DbAA[/youtube]

In the end, I hedged my bets and headed to the British Music Embassy to meet Mary for another band I’d recently written about, Scottish duo Honeyblood. The queue outside Latitude 30 wasn’t much shorter than the one at St. David’s, but I did eventually make it inside. Mary was, naturally, down the front, but I wasn’t able to squeeze in through the enthusiastic crowd, and I had to settle for a spot in back near the bar. My photos of Honeyblood weren’t fabulous but for my money, neither was the band’s performance. Their single ‘Bud’ was the only song that stood out among their muddled, distorted grunge pop set. The sound at the venue had been fine all week, so I have to assume that this less than stellar show was a just a small blip on Honeyblood’s radar.

Honeyblood at British Music Embassy 14 March 2014

Disappointed, I met up with Mary for a brief conference in what had become a customary spot for us in the alley outside Latitude 30. Our energy was waning by this point, but I convinced her (read: begged and pleaded with her) to make the short walk back to B.D. Riley’s, where we’d taken in the Irish Breakfast earlier in the day, to have another listen to Rams’ Pocket Radio.

It seems silly, at a festival like SXSW, to see the same bands over and over again when there are so many options so close at hand. We’d already seen Rams’ Pocket Radio twice, but both times I’d been a bit distracted, and I felt that I hadn’t given the songs their proper due, at least in my own mind. This late night show suffered from a few technical glitches and the wandering attention of the audience, which slightly marred the emotional connection of the music. Despite those frustrations, I was increasingly fascinated by his juxtaposition of beautiful, rich musical textures and curious, often strange lyrics. Maybe this is why the ever present ‘Dieter Rams Has Got the Pocket Radios’ appeals so much to me, but I did find myself missing the more straightforward ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’ when he left it off the set list. I didn’t walk away from this show feeling any more enlightened about Rams’ Pocket Radio, but my interest is most definitely piqued to see what he does next.

For the moment, I had to put my bewildered thoughts aside in preparation for the following day, which would be our last at SXSW 2014. But even weeks later, I find myself amazed as I mentally revisit the spectrum of mixed emotions and musical styles from that exhilarating Friday.

 

SXSW 2014: Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s – 14th March 2014

 
By on Monday, 31st March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

One of the events I was most looking forward to at SXSW 2014 was the Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s hosted by Music From Ireland. I must admit upfront that the actual meal is not my particular cup of tea (and in the interest of full confession, I drank coffee) but it was a nice part of the general atmosphere of the event. Our editor Mary joined me for part of the day’s festivities and has already touched on the Irish Breakfast in her Friday coverage.


When we walked in to B.D. Riley’s, we were warmly greeted by Mary’s friend and event organizer, Music from Ireland’s Angela Dorgan, as well as a host of other now familiar faces including several acquaintances made at the British Music Embassy over the course of the week. We were sat at a table in the front of the room near the sound desk, which gave us easy access to photos and quick chats with the artists on the schedule, and I quickly made the decision to set up camp there for the entire day. I was over the moon, as the lineup for the day included several acts I’d been dying to see.

Music From Ireland playbill SXSW 2014

We had missed UNKNWN earlier in the week at the Creative Belfast showcase, but we didn’t have to wait long to have our curiosity satisfied at B.D. Riley’s. The Northern Irish electro duo of music producer Chris Hanna (identified singularly as Unknown) and vocalist Gemma Dunleavy provided us with our morning slow jam, even as the clock crept into afternoon territory. Hanna’s deep and dreamy bass groove combined with Dunleavy’s smooth, clear vocals created a very chill, relaxed sonic atmosphere to start off the day.

UNKNWN at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

The next band, Dublin sister act Heathers, couldn’t have been more of a stylistic contrast to UNKNWN. I had gotten a sneak peek at them at the Music From Ireland showcase on the Wednesday night, so I knew to expect a change of pace. Of course, it helped that before they went on stage, Ellie Macnamara was kind enough to grant me a cheeky photo of her set list.

Heathers set list BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Heathers’ edgy, energetic rock, interlaced with tightly woven vocal harmonies and countermelodies, was the perfect antidote to the hearty Irish breakfast we’d just consumed. After their set, I was able to set up a quick interview with the sisters Macnamara for a bit later in the day.

Heathers at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

I was especially excited to see Rams’ Pocket Radio again, after having heard his set at Creative Belfast on the Monday night. As he mentioned in my interview with him from that night, he came to SXSW with a full band of musicians, who were tightly packed onto the small stage at B.D. Riley’s. Once again, they played a set featuring several tracks from Rams’ Pocket Radio’s album, ‘Béton’, including ‘Dogs Run in Packs’, ‘1+2’, ‘Dieter Rams Has Got the Pocket Radios’, and current single ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’. (My recent review of ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’ can be found here.)

Rams' Pocket Radio at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

As I’ve previously mentioned, I found Rams’ Pocket Radio a bit difficult to photograph due to his emphatic performance style. I was able to catch a few decent photos at the Irish Breakfast, but unfortunately it distracted me a bit from listening to the music. I made a mental note to try to return for his late show that night, also at B.D. Riley’s, so I could listen unfettered by the camera.

Rams' Pocket Radio at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

After Rams’ Pocket Radio, I stepped outside and around the corner for the aforementioned interview with Heathers, which you can read here. On my way back in, I noticed that there was a passing crowd gathered outside B.D. Riley’s, listening to the music from the open air stage. The space outside the venue proved to be a popular gathering place and was almost as full as the inside bar area for most of the day.

Mary and I were both excited to hear the Wonder Villains play again after speaking with them at the British Music Embassy on the Monday night. We were once again somewhat amazed by the colorful attire of the Wonder Villains’ leading ladies, Eimear Coyle and Cheylene Murphy. But more importantly, we were also amazed by the band’s high-spirited performance. Their latest single, ‘Marshall’, had been playing on the PA system between sets, and by the time the band played it live, everyone in the bar was singing and dancing along, including our indefatigable editor.

Wonder Villains at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Mary ducked out after the Wonder Villains played, leaving me to the saccharine-sounding garage pop charms of Dott. Their single ‘Small Pony’ is every bit as bouncy and danceable as ‘Marshall’, but Dott were, inevitably, more reserved on stage than the bright and brash Wonder Villains. Little wonder, as I discovered later that they were nearing the end of a full American tour. Their tour diary for the trip, including their time at SXSW, can be viewed here.

Dott at BD RIley's 14 March 2014

I was practically dancing with excitement myself to hear the next band on the playbill, The Young Folk. I’d met them briefly on the Wednesday night at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room and gotten a sneak preview of their forthcoming album, ‘The Little Battle’, and frankly, I was already hooked. Their live performance didn’t disappoint, despite the number of instruments they had to squeeze onto the tiny stage.

Young Folk at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Young Folk at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Songs from ‘The Little Battle’ predominated the set, but The Young Folk also included non-album tracks ‘A Song About Wolves’ and ‘Hold On To Your Hat’. I was impressed most by their ability to convey the tender lyrical moments in their songs without dampening the lively mood of the crowd. Their relaxed but animated performance style was definitely a hit among those in attendance at B.D. Riley’s

Young Folk at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Note ‘The Little Battle’ CD taped to Anthony’s guitar.

After The Young Folk played their set, I ducked outside again for an interview with them, which you can read here if you haven’t already. They proved to be quite easy to talk to, and before I knew it, I had missed most of the next set inside the venue. When I came back in, September Girls were rocking the stage with their reverb, rhythm and vocal harmonies. I did manage to peek between the enthusiastic patrons at the front to snap a few quick photos before the band wrapped up.

September Girls at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Mary returned from her own afternoon interview adventures with DJ Colette and Until the Ribbon Breaks and checking out some of the day’s activities at British Music Embassy in time to catch the last two bands on the schedule, WOUNDS and Kid Karate. I would never have guessed that she would be a fan of either band, but the bass player in her showed through as she headbanged along with WOUNDS.

Mary at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Editor Mary got her groove on.

Both WOUNDS and Kid Karate required the use of earplugs, especially at the close range where we were seated. Of the two, WOUNDS were definitely the harder, heavier thrashing rock, but they managed to keep their performance confined to the stage.

WOUNDS at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Kid Karate, on the other hand, were not inclined to that much restraint. By the end of their brazenly bluesy set, guitarist and front man Kevin Breen had completely abandoned drummer Steven Gannon to join the audience for an impromptu moshing session. It was the perfect surprise ending to what had been a showcase full of variety and high quality music.

Kid Karate at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

Kid Karate at BD Riley's 14 March 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, I hated to leave after the end of the showcase. Part of my mind lingered at B.D. Riley’s when I dashed off to my next appointment, even as I eagerly anticipated the Communion Records showcase that was still to come at St. David’s Episcopal Church.

Thanks to Brian, Ciaran and Jim for their assistance with interviews and photos at this event. (And special thanks to Angela and the staff at B.D. Riley’s for their help in rescuing my lost voice recorder!)

 

Single Review: Rams’ Pocket Radio – Love is a Bitter Thing

 
By on Thursday, 27th March 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Fresh off his recent trip to America, which included a stop in Austin, Texas for SXSW 2014, Rams’ Pocket Radio has just released a new single, ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’. The track appears on his full length album, ‘Béton’, and was a hit during Rams’ Pocket Radio’s SXSW shows, except for his last gig, where he rather curiously didn’t include it on the set list.

When I interviewed Rams’ Pocket Radio, who goes by the name Peter McCauley offstage, I was a bit unclear on the status of this new release. The full album was released last autumn, but ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’ is the first track released separately as a single. It is the most readily accessible track on ‘Béton’, with its presumably romantic theme, emotionally charged vocals and dramatic keyboard accompaniment. Where many of the other tracks on the album require more intensive study of the lyrics and musical gestures, ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ is fairly straightforward and heartfelt, perhaps proving that McCauley can indeed be “an emotional guy”, as he claimed in the aforementioned interview. The combination of piano and solo violin is a naturally emotional one, but it’s McCauley’s visceral and heartrending vocal delivery that captures breathless attention from the song’s first moment. The accompanying video, directed by Darren Lee of Maverick Renegade Productions, is equally breathtaking.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/JtKXEqwEFBM[/youtube]

The single version of ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ is accompanied by two remixes from fellow Northern Irish musicians, one by alt-rock quartet More Than Conquerors and the other by electro artist Ryan Vail. Curiously, the More Than Conquerors remix is the more artifically synthetic sounding of the two. For my money, it completely misses the mark, squaring off all the rhythms and applying slick, robotic synthesizers and vocal effects, in the end creating the unfortunate emotional effect of distancing the listener from the rawness of the lyric. Not being an expert in the field of electronic music, or even a really fan of it, I do have to wonder if there isn’t something I’m missing in its particular musical language that might connect the sonic qualities of this remix to the emotional qualities of the original song. Further exploration might enhance my understanding, but I’m not sure this one will ever be a favorite in my heart. The Ryan Vail remix is a bit more organic, warmer and more sensually rhythmic, with light percussion taking the place of the keyboards. The poignant chorus of the original song is left out of this mix, leaving a general sense of dimly lit atmosphere without the intense dramatic motion.

Normally we include numeric ratings with our single reviews here at TGTF, but in this case, I’m left with a bit of a dilemma. If I were rating the original song itself, I would give it 9/10 for its beautifully executed vocals and elegant instrumental arrangement. I am, however, nonplussed by the remix treatments. Listening to Rams’ Pocket Radio always leaves a question mark hanging over my head, and in the end, this seemingly straightforward single has had the same effect.

‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ was self-released by Rams’ Pocket Radio on the 17th of March and can be purchased via online retailers such as Amazon and iTunes. Rams’ Pocket Radio’s full album, ‘Béton’ is also available on his Web site.

Some lovely still photos from the ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ video shoot can be viewed here.

 

SXSW 2014: Creative Belfast night at Latitude 30 – 10th March 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 18th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

Photos by editor Mary Chang

When I arrived in Austin on the Sunday prior to the start of the SXSW 2014, I was already gleefully anticipating the Creative Belfast showcase at the British Music Embassy on the Monday night. Though the Music portion of SXSW didn’t officially begin until Tuesday, the Northern Irish event was a sort of transition show that included music as well as Film and Interactive components from the week before.  The names and faces of the non-musicians were mostly unfamiliar to me, but the lovely sound of Northern Irish accents filling the room kept a smile on my face throughout the evening.

If you’ve read my past writing, you’ll know that some of my favorite musicians are from Northern Ireland, and a few of them were on hand for the event at Latitude 30, the downtown Austin club that was overtaken by the British Music Embassy for the week.  The master of ceremonies for the evening was none other than BBC Radio 1 presenter Phil Taggart, and on the docket were Belfast-based acts UNKNWN, Wonder Villains, and Rams’ Pocket Radio. Unfortunately, Mary and I missed UNKNWN’s set, but don’t fret, because he became known to us later in the week.  We were lucky enough to see and interview both of the other acts; click here for Wonder Villains and here for Rams’ Pocket Radio.

The exuberant Wonder Villains played a bright and lively set to match their attire for the evening, despite the rain coming down outside. Their newest single, ‘Marshall’, was an instant hit; in fact it was featured on the PA system at the British Music Embassy throughout the week.  But it was an older tune, ‘Zola,’ that really got the crowd moving, especially after lead singer Eimear Coyle’s explanation that it was inspired by Italian footballer Gianfranco Zola.  The band’s upbeat tunes can probably be best described as pure fun, and their colorful outfits were equally fun to photograph.

Decidedly more difficult to photograph was Rams’ Pocket Radio, whose emphatic stage movements were tricky to catch on camera.  His darker and more dramatic sound was enhanced by the full complement of talented Northern Irish musicians he brought with him to Austin:  Sabrina Rodgers on violin, Thomas Camblin on drums, Adam Booth on bass, and Travis Gilbert on guitar. (Stay tuned for a feature on Gilbert’s band, Travis is a Tourist, in the Tuesday recap.)  Rams’ Pocket Radio’s set list was comprised of several tracks from his album, ‘Béton’, most notably the eponymous and inevitable ‘Dieter Rams Has Got The Pocket Radios’ and new single ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’.

After some quick chat in the rain outside Latitude 30, Mary and I headed off to the Clive Bar to see Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable.  You can read Mary’s recap of Monday’s events, including that gig, by clicking here.

 

SXSW 2014 Interview: Rams’ Pocket Radio

 
By on Friday, 14th March 2014 at 11:00 am
 

If you’re keeping up with our SXSW 2014 coverage, you’ll already know that Mary and I attended the Creative Belfast event at the British Music Embassy on Monday night. In addition to chatting with the adorable Wonder Villains, I had the chance to interview Rams’ Pocket Radio, aka Peter McCauley, after his set. We talked about his plans for his time in Austin, his new single ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ and his intellectual music style.

Thanks to Jimmy for setting up this interview.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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