Category Archives: Norwegian

Thinguma*jigsaw, Arlt and Sport Murphy in the Joinery

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All the hip young recessionistas spend their time in newly spawned collective “spaces” in old shop spaces, houses, factories or wherever, cogitating over art, photography, slam poetry and obscure touring bands. That’s what the newspapers tell you.

They’re not far wrong, for once. On Friday I saw the first Exchange event, a night of spoken word performances put on by the Exchange Words collective. There was performance poetry about things like breaking boundaries, and live radio theatre making an entertaining point about indoctrination, and a slightly incongruous, massively offensive stand-up set from Gareth Stack (as if he could ever blend seamlessly into a line-up). It was great. And they have the fire cert now, so rejoice, and start preparing for daytime all-ages gigs by touring bands you’re into as well as a new venue to see Irish bands in.

Before there was the Exchange though, there was the Joinery. Though (or perhaps as a lifelong 39 bus passenger, because) it’s a little out of the way in Stoneybatter, the Joinery’s former shop space in Arbour Hill has become one of my favourite places to see music. It has couches, it’s BYOB, everyone’s friendly and knows what’s up, and the gigs that go on there have a certain personality that wouldn’t really transfer to a bar venue, or even the glossier Exchange.

Last week I saw a line-up featuring Thinguma*jigsaw (Norway), Arlt (France) and Sport Murphy (Brooklyn, New York, USA). Here’s where the “certain personality” part comes through. Thinguma*jigsaw’s default line-up is banjo and musical saw, plus voice. Arlt’s is one acoustic guitar, two voice. Sport Murphy’s, two acoustic guitars, one voice. Not a microphone in sight. That’s coolness points right away, makes you feel like you’re at some kind of 60s hipster happening.

Thinguma*jigsaw, responsible for the tri-national tour as far as I’m aware (and playing for Ireland in it), were on first. It’s fairly well-documented here already that I think they are the bee’s knees. Unamplified as usual and still acting like a macabre touring circus act between songs, they were arresting, atmospheric and ghoulish. This was complemented by the period during which flautist/sawswoman/ukelele-master Martha Redivivius hid ominously in a nook. I don’t know how hiding can be ominous, but I don’t make the rules of action-signification. Here’s a picture.

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After Thinguma*jigsaw came Arlt, a French duo consisting of a man with preposterous facial hair and a just generally French-looking woman. They were charmingly anti-folk, and did a sterling job of trying to explain what their (French) songs were about with a typically loose, Gallic grasp of the English language. They also played unamplified, playing off the dynamics of the gentleman’s deep voice and the lady’s effort-free but perfect soprano. All good so far.

Despite the solid excellence of the continentals, though, it was Sport Murphy who stole the show. Murphy was much more towards the mainstream of folk than his freak folk (Arlt) and unclassifiable morose banjo ballad (Thinguma*jigsaw) associates. But a little bit of personality is all it takes to win over a crowd at something as friendly as the Joinery, and between his James Murphy (brother?) drawl and his Bill Hicks appearance, he managed this with relative ease.

This is a guy north of forty, but if that’s not enough to tell you he’s lived, he’ll tell you himself. Wife leaving, wife coming back. Friends dying because of heroin. Stories of growing up with his nephew, sitting up and listening to Dylan records. And then stories of Petey being killed in the Twin Towers collapse, working as a fireman.

The songs were totally American, talking about life in New York after September 11th through the lens of being one of the families every politician’s heart went out to, and more broadly existing in a US songwriter milieu. But there’s Irishness to this, too, if you hadn’t noticed from the name. A satirical song about a holy relic in the local parish, for example, the same parish the mass for Petey was held in.

And, good Citizen as I am, it warms my cockles to hear somebody say “It’s great to finally be in Dublin, city of my father, city of my heart” because, in spite of all the cynicism about Irish Americans, and in spite of the crippling self-hatred under which all Irish seem to labour, I can relate to that. It’s the city of my father too, and the city of Joyce and Beckett, and collective art spaces that will never be as good as Berlin and thus never good enough, and the city of a river that gets called dirty even though it’s the only river through a European capital with salmon left in it

It was good to overhear Mr. Murphy outside saying he went to the Ha’penny Bridge, recited some Yeats and returned some of his emigrant father to that river. There are worse places to end up.

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Dulce et decorum est pro pornographia mori

A return to the no-fi phone photography method of documentation for a no-fi gig at the Joinery on Arbour Hill in Stoneybatter on Sunday night.

What’s that, you say. a gig in Stoneybatter?! Yes. In a large room in what seemed to be a stripped-out former shop. What you might call a “space”, I think. Bring your own drink. I didn’t bring any, but some did and I’m sure they were delighted. It seemed to be some sort of Deserted Village buzz, and I have only nice things to say about that label, even though I’ve only got Thinguma*jigsaw’s (awakeinwhitechapel) by them.

Their logo was a fetching road sign on that CD and they included the translation: Sráidbhaile Iargúlta. In one swoop, Deserted Village instantly rooted themselves in Irishness – for who else has such bilingual signs? – and that somehow made them seem all the more cool to me, because they were putting out a mortality-obsessed Norwegian duo and not trying to be too detached and hipstery. I don’t know why that seemed important to me, it just did. It also might not have been anything to do with them, but there was a merch desk with non-performing bands’ stuff, so I surmised.

So I missed Cian Nugent, and Laura Sheeran was essentially just thirty minutes of equipment failure, one stunning song, one alright song and a semi-sean nós a capella song about love.

Next on, Peter Delaney. Peter Delaney’s Duck Egg Blue EP from a couple of years ago helped open up my conception of what music produced in Ireland could sound like at a point when I was still pretty fuzzy about the fact that it didn’t have to be gig-focused and Dublin-centred. He’s from Limerick and he plays the ukelele. Not in a jaunty sort of way, but in a deeply sad way which can only be created by an instrument with no natural sustain. Two ukeleles he had with him in fact. He played only three songs, concluding with an unpolished, melancholy epic called ‘The Guest’ which is, at some point, going to be spoken of with reverence. Probably.

After Peter came LITTLE MYTH EPIPHANYMPH, icily scouring the room with her silent death-stare and THE SEVERED HEADMASTER, presenting the merry morbid show to the gathered patrons. So comfortable did he feel in fact that he later introduced himself and his companion by their real names: MARTHA REDIVIVUS and SETH HORATIO BUNCOMBE.

Banjo in hand, Seth sang sanguinary songs about death, mortality, fatality and downfall with the peace-disturbing bowed-saw playing of Martha creating a bizarre, unsettling atmosphere in the background.

But here’s a secret.

YOU HAVE TO BUY THE MYTH

SUSPEND DISBELIEF! JESUS!

When the singer of Thinguma*jigsaw tells you that he is about to sing a song about a mortuary, you don’t give off a relaxed chuckle.

When the singer of Thinguma*jigsaw tells you that he is about to sing a song called “Sweet and laudable it is to die for pornography or, in Latin, Dulce et decorum est pro pornographia mori”… that’s not funny either! Internalise it.

Some woman hummed her way through ‘Dulce et decorum est…’ and in return had the last several lines of the song (which is about the production of snuff films) sung directly at her. She soon exited her front row seat, possibly to meet with early demise.

Highlights? All the new songs sound just as atmospheric and eerie as the first albums, and the show was mostly new songs. The Daniel Johnston cover ‘Walking the Cow’ and the (awakeinwhitechapel) opener ‘Serpent’s Apple’, opening and closing the show respectively, were the equivalent of hits.

But in the end, the crowd in this bouncer-free, bar chat-free, cheap, communal space tainted the experience themselves. This is why we can’t have nice things.

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Lowlands Notebooks – Sunday etc

Lykke Li:

magnetic personality – eclectic music – tendency towards hit or miss -banging single

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MGMT:

songs all either “bleeeeep or faaar away” (thank you Katie) – limp – bad

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Sigur Rós:

quiet loud fairytale thing – not half as bowled over as my friends – most of the set ordinary – regular gig, not theatre set-up as Oxegen 2006 – highlights did hit the nordic sublime

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The Roots:

sore neck from jerking it and trying to dance to rap – unused to this – virtuouso instrumentalists – guitar/bass solos for twelve hours – rap as part of the music, not over the music – ultimate fun – genius festival closer

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I was a Flower of the mountain yes

I don’t often leave the D2 comfort zone to go to gigs (and when I do I generally make a big deal of it), but Thinguma*jigsaw are special. I’ve never seen them before, and as their album is probably the best thing to come out of Ireland since… James Joyce? I was excited.

James Joyce, then. My understanding was that the event was in celebration of Bloomsday, and that this was why Thinguma*jigsaw were playing (they love him). Thinguma*jigsaw are an insane, hyper-literate, necro-obsessed Norwegian couple whose arrangements consist of banjo-and-musical saw, banjo-and-flute or banjo-and-melodica pretty much exclusively, if you didn’t know.

It was a walk around Howth Head, followed by a repair to the Bailly for further music and merriment. James Joyce and Thinguma*jigsaw (with the potential for added Mumblin’ Deaf Ro) in Howth is basically the ideal Saturday afternoon to me. There was something weird though. Aoife Mc flagged it, but I missed it. Psycho Kate Bush fan event. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Kate Bush psycho, but I’m not one, and I’ve only heard two Kate Bush songs ever. So that was a bit of a shock. Also, we couldn’t find the actual walk so we just went to the pier until the pub bit started anyway.

I think the Severed Headmaster and Little Myth Epiphanymph, a.k.a. Seth and Martha (Seth may be a second level of fake name – possible real name Stein) were probably there for the Joyce rather than the Bush too though. They started with a reading of the climax to Ulysses that captured a lot of its fluidity and energy, and also showcased Severed-Seth-Stein’s hybrid Norwego-Hiberno-Americo-Mockney accent.

They commanded silence for their music. The Headmaster landed somewhere between an author reading his work and a circus ringmaster introducing acts when explaining songs. Martha did not talk, but her death-stare said enough. They sang a lot of songs about death, including a cover of I Love The Dead by Alice Cooper which has the implied Joyce association attached (cheat sheet: last book of Dubliners is called The Dead). His voice is a frail falsetto, over a musical backing which has to be skeletal by definition.

Skeletal is Thinguma*jigsaw all over. They trade in silence, gaunt banjo picking under genuinely shiver-inducing bowed-saw parts. They are kind of scary, especially at such close proximity. If you can’t picture the music still, go to the Muxtape and listen to Serpent’s Apple. I have no idea how a duo would develop into what Thinguma*jigsaw are. No microphones, no nothing. Just words, bones and shivers.

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