Tag Archives: Thinguma*jigsaw

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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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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The Year. 25-21

25. Thinguma*jigsaw – (awakeinwhitechapel)
Deserted Village


awakeinwhitechapel (which possibly breaks down as “A Wake In Whitechapel”) is a vibrantly original album made in Ireland by a duo from Oslo, Norway, keeling under its own heady atmospherics and resplendent in its lyrical charm. There is lyricism a lot greater that which than the sloganeering brigades of Ireland generally possess in evidence, possibly due to a love of modernist literature both Joycean and otherwise. It’s great to hear. They get more atmosphere with a flute, a banjo and a musical saw than a lot of bands could manage with an orchestra. It’s pointless to point to influences here, because it sounds so shockingly original. Not physically shocking obviously, but there is a definite feeling that only comes when you first hear a band who you cannot immediately place in the sort of tapestry of post-Beatles music, and thinguma*jigsaw evoke that feeling very strongly.
An explanation of the album, whose concept (there seems to be one) you might otherwise miss. Not for the formalists among you.
MySpace – Serpentsapple gets especial recommendation.


24. Interpol – Our Love To Admire

Capitol


If we’re judging by the overall feeling of an album and its lyrical themes, this is the third time Interpol have made this album and the only difference is that this is the first time they’ve openly admitted that they’re looking for the widest audience possible, That’s not really a surprise to anyone who has heard both Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics though, so the move to a major from Matador and the ridiculously blatant single can be fairly easily overlooked. Being popular – and trying to be even more popular – doesn’t stop Our Love To Admire being a good album. Pioneer To The Falls shares an aesthetic with the two previous album openers, but it is easily the best as a song, and there are various Interpol melodies and tricks that are perfected here. The bass and drums are turned down a little, and there is slightly less urgency, but sounding lazy is no bad thing sometimes, and Interpol have managed to stay pretty safely within the confines of being on-form. I await the next album with interest and a critical ear though. Only Oasis have tried to make the same album more than three times, and it wouldn’t be nice to see Interpol go that way.
MySpace has a few songs off this and they have a decent website too if you have time to kill.

23. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
XL


White Stripes albums sit on roaring singles generally, that’s why they’re so big in the mainstream. There’s a single on each album that announces the mood of the album as a whole: Dead Leaves… on White Blood Cells, Seven Nation Army on Elephant, Blue Orchid or arguably My Doorbell on Get Behind Me Satan. Icky Thump is no different. While some of the tracks could fit easily on any of their albums or any blues rock album since 1969, Icky Thump the song tears new arseholes left, right and centre, hates White America more effectively than Eminem ever managed beside a Zeppelin-esque riff and deservedly lends its name to the album. Elsewhere, new ground is only occasionally tread, but the uneasy personal lyrics that pop up now and then and the usual White Stripes dynamics make this a worthy listen.
MySpace doesn’t really advertise the best of Icky Thump, but Jack White multitasking on Jools should make up for that.


22. So Cow – These Truly Are End Times

Covert Bear


Like Wilde, Shaw, Joyce and Beckett before him, Brian Kelly deserted his native land to seek fame and fortune in foreign climes. Not for him the bright lights of Manhattan, the avenues of Paris or the proud, cultured London streets. He went to Seoul. These Truly Are End Times is lo-fi partly due to circumstance and partly due to choice, and the hand-drawn cover will give a good idea of the kind of thing in question. There are some seriously catchy songs on it, the kind of thing that would have charted in an alternative universe, but either uncompromising indie principles or a frankly shocking lack of major label interest keeps These Truly Are End Times a well-kept secret. Only Hawaii, Arizona, certain bars in Korea, Deerhoof and Ireland seem to be aware of this album, so do not waste this opportunity. It’s the best album by an Irish artist this year quite easily.
So Cow talks End Times on his site, and there are mp3s there too but go here for Moon Geun Young, Casablanca and some new tracks.

21. The Polyphonic Spree – The Fragile Army
Gut


If this album was a small, unrelated piece of cinematography, it would be the scene in Battle Royale in the classroom after they discover they’ve been drugged ‘n’ dragged, and Beat Takeshi plays them a video. The video has a ridiculously perky Japanese (duh) girl in a Battle Royale bodywarmer, if I recall, talking like an anime character about the brilliant adventure they’re about to embark on. Takeshi claps enthusiastically. The class are fear-stricken. I don’t know why The Fragile Army reminds me of that, but it does. Maybe Takeshi is Tim DeLaughter, ageing star rallying the troops from the front, and the class are the rest of the Spree. Or maybe some time earlier in the year I listened to TFA and watched Battle Royale on the same night. This is super-fidelity, super-sincere, super-twee, saccharine overdose stuff, like a mildly beefier version of previous Spree. There are some melodies borrowed from The Beginning Stages Of… and Together We’re Heavy, but there are cracking new ones too and some heart-lifting pop music like no-one else can do.

Tim and his army keep a blog that could be worth reading, and their article-free MySpace has a mash-up of the album.