Various Artists - collaborations (Crimson)
This nicely put together compilation is subtitled "the best of Irish independent music", but it could have said "two fingers to Louis Walsh". The damage crud like Boyzone, Westlife and the even more awful Popstars band, Six, have done to the Irish music scene is unforgiveable. As history has shown us, the world generally only allows one or two Irish acts to be successful at one time. Thus, with Sam Mumba popping up all over stage and screen, the far more talented likes of Jack L and Juliet Turner are left languishing, playing to large crowds at home, but faced with total disinterest elsewhere.
This CD isn't likely to change that too much, it's a charity release aimed at the home market, but it does highlight the fact that Ireland has a lot more to offer than the pop crap. Borrowing the idea of film soundtracks like "Judgement Night" and "Spawn", "collaborations" matches dance acts and producers with bands and solo performers to great effect. Very obviously aiming at the broadest possible audience, there's nothing groundbreaking or particularly innovative here, but it does make for enjoyable listening.
The most successful mixes here are those with performers with particularly strong and identifiable voices. The producers have enough sense to realise that, when working with Jack L singing the fabulous 'Rooftop Lullaby' or Shane McGowan growling 'Measure of my dreams', you don't fuck around with them too much. A purely minimalist sound for the former brings the track close to the purity of Jack's original live version, before it got monkeyed up when he recorded it for "metropolis blues". Green take a different approach adding lush strings that provide a perfect backdrop for Mr McGowan's unmistakeable voice. This tack, similar to David Arnold's work with Bjork a few years ago, is also taken by Razor with Juliet Turner, Pharmacy with Aslan (deliciously discarding everything but Christy's vocals) and Bass Odyssey with Mundy.
The less overpowering character of the likes of Sack, Glen Hansard or Bell X1 does give Decal, Deacy and Ambulance, respectively, more freedom to play around, marking the mix with their own personalities to a greater degree. Elsewhere, others go for a more ethereal feel - Nina Hynes with Jimmy Behan, Mocrac with Cathy Davy and, unsurprisingly, ethereal maestro Daniel Figgis, with Cara Dillon's vox and help from Dave Donahue and Mark Clare, evoking the type of stuff that appeared on early 4AD, like Cochteau Twins or Lush, while Glen Brady gives the Walls a much needed kick in the arse, adding serious oomph to 'Bone deep' that recalls the best of The Stunning.
Last but not least, we have Kíla, the band who swore they'd never go in for the dance music cross-over stuff. Well, realistically, they still haven't, Paul O'Donaghue has made little mark on their trademark sound and, in the few places where his influence can be heard, it sounds too like the Afro-Celts. It's a great track though, a classic Kíla mix of traditional music elements, though it would have been more interesting to hear someone actually remixing one of their vocal tracks. All in all, though, this is an interesting and enjoyable collection that shows Ireland still has quite a bit more than cruddy pop music to offer.