Cork's vibrant music scene re-emerges from the crisis, and delivers

In part one of an extensive two-week scene report, Mike McGrath-Bryan takes a look at the local psychedelic, punk, post-punk and metal scenes - with folk, electronica, ambient, hip-hop and more to follow in next Thursday’s edition.
Cork's vibrant music scene re-emerges from the crisis, and delivers

Pretty Happy will be releasing a new EP. Picture:

PSYCH-ROCK AND BEYOND

Having polished off an extensive summer European tour in support of Fontaines DC, including a 10,000-capacity sellout gig at London’s Alexandria Palace, psych-rockers The Altered Hours played to packed tents at All Together Now and Body & Soul festivals, playing country-inspired new material before they go to the studio this autumn. Frontwoman Elaine Howley’s debut solo effort ‘The Distance Between Heart and Mouth’ is a jaw-dropper of an ambient pop record… Returning from a four-year hiatus after a serious medical issue in the ranks, psych-poppers The Shaker Hymn recently launched third album ‘The Last Concorde’ with a gig at Coughlan’s, with more to follow. Band member Caoilian Sherlock also specialises in lovelorn balladry under his own name, working on the follow-up to November 2021 EP ‘Big Child’ and gigging with Cork musician Leah Hearne… Sherlock recently shared a stage (on a boat!) with Cork-born singer and songwriter Yenkee, who’s on a roll since Soft Boy Records-backed full-length 'Yen' has made an impact, including a sold-out gig at Live at St. Luke’s…

 Elaine Malone performing at Debarra's Folk Club, Clonakilty, Photo: Bríd O'Donovan.
Elaine Malone performing at Debarra's Folk Club, Clonakilty, Photo: Bríd O'Donovan.

Having seriously made a pre-Covid impression with reverb-y alt-rock sung with a Sinéad O’Connor-esque snarl, Elaine Malone returns with a gig at the Corner House on Coburg Street on Friday September 23, with support from Limerick’s Personal Vanity Project… Musician and confirmed extraterrestrial Arthur Itis continues his long-time Earthbound holiday in Cork, disleashing most recent long player ‘Neglected Ambient Shirts Vol. II’ back in July. Rumours have also swirled of his involvement with mystery group Dankenstoned Bongster, mysteriously surfacing at An Spailpín Fánach on Thursday September 16 in support of Dublin outfit Girlfriend… Both Malone and Arthur have been guests of local improvised music project Endlessendless, a group of local musos that meet regularly at the School of Music for impromptu jams with various invited guests. Seven EP’s worth of their findings are up on their Bandcamp…

Both Malone and Arthur have also previously released music with the now-hiatus’d Sunshine Cult Records, a DIY label specialising in local ambience and psychedelia. Co-run by musician Mark Waldron-Hyden, aka KINEOGRAPH, it also involved releases from once-off projects like HATRED and Book of the Dead…Now running newly-established label Blind Head Recordings, Waldron-Hyden has recently released recordings of a PLUGD Records gig with KINEOGRAPH, Arthur Itis and musical polymath Dan Walsh, with all proceeds from the €7 digital download going to support father Karl Hyden’s ongoing cancer treatment… When not gigging relentlessly with Junior Brother, Lemoncello and countless others, Dan Walsh is a singularly-focused musician, creating in a solo and collaborative capacity under the FIXITY banner, including a number of studio and live albums, as well as an ongoing series of numbered releases. ‘Directions in music’ is as close to an easy genre descriptor as you’ll get…

The Altered Hours have packed tents at festivals. Pic: Hance Photography
The Altered Hours have packed tents at festivals. Pic: Hance Photography

On the topic of prolific musicianship, Cork-based Wirral man Laurie Shaw continues to single-handedly raise the country’s average of albums per head, with most-recent effort (and 55th overall studio release!) ‘If You’re So Good How Come I’ve Never Heard of You?’ fitting more neatly into singer-songwriter efforts than other, more indie-centric work… Ever-present busker and songwriter Andy Wilson has been gathering and rehearsing material with a new band every Monday night at Fred Zeppelin’s - where he’s historically run an open mic night over the years…

Former Trumpets of Jericho man Tom Healy is on some experimental pop business of his own these days, including a recent split 7” with sound artist Claire O’Brien as part of the Signs of Life series from Kilkenny/Glasgow label Moot Tapes, and recent EP HAPPY MILKMAN, online sales of which go to benefit Cork Penny Dinners…Indie outfit Rowan have been on a tear in recent times, catching the attention of LA label Beverly Martel, and most recently garnering national airplay with single ‘Bring Back the Day’... Cobh lads The Burma last month released ‘Hard to Say’, the third single from upcoming debut album ‘Sucker for Stars’, due out in October…

The Shaker Hymn recently launched a third album.
The Shaker Hymn recently launched a third album.

A NEW GENERATION

After a whirlwind tour in support of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, and the premiere of their new 'Leeside Creatures' documentary on Cork’s post-punk scene, Pretty Happy are set to release a new EP later this year via Leagues O’Toole’s Foggy Notions imprint, ahead of November supports for Pavement in Dublin…With an ever-expanding roster and a healthy disregard for musical convention, noisemakers I Dreamed I Dream have been seriously impressive on live excursions in Cork and Limerick to date, currently working on their debut extended-player… Having braved the worst of the Covid crisis and kept it together, it was great to see post-hardcore outfit Red Sun Alert head back over to the UK to pick up hard-won momentum where they left off, as well as headlining a Cyprus Avenue showcase…

A brace of young indie-rock bands point to a bright future for the sub-genre in Cork… Northside dream-poppers Mossy are currently holed up recording their next single after a pair of whip-smart bijoux in ‘Accord’ and ‘Kira’, consistent Cork gigging and their recent Dublin debut... Having worked hard over lockdown on some frighteningly mature shoegazing, The Drive. have been doing serious business in live excursions to date, including filling up Cyprus Avenue earlier this year. Second single ‘Headstraight’ out now on streaming services via Waterford label Egg Twelve… UCC Battle of the Bands 2022 winners The Cliffords have the knack for the genre as well, and ought to reach new ears this Saturday at Upstart Festival in Glounthaune… The Flavours, Pebbledash, Lifts, Cardinals and MIRRORS are also on the up, while post-rockers Little Known and alt-rockers Skies Behind have been steadily building local support, the latter helping organise the Everyman’s Uncorked showcase gig…

RETURNING BANDS AND LEESIDE VETERANS

Post-hardcore heroes Hope is Noise released their last extended-player, ‘Head. Wrecked’ at the outset of the crisis, back in May 2020 - a limited CD edition is also onsale on their Bandcamp, as well as the rest of a discography stretching back nearly two decades… The Gauze are Ruairi Lynch (Bantum) and Dom Murphy (Ealadha), leaning into ambient sounds for a collaboration that’s most recently borne upcoming single ‘Glass’, releasing later this month… Cork-based power trio The Last Vinci are currently gearing up for September and October touring in the UK, following the March release of second long-player ‘The Revolution is Made Together’...

Veteran Cork outfits have also been reuniting and gigging over the past while… The Sultans of Ping are having one of their increasingly-infrequent reunions, in January of next year, with a pair of dates at Cork Opera House on Friday January 10 and Saturday January 11… Comprised of former members of Nun Attax and Mean Features, Big Boy Foolish are following a July Dublin excursion in support of Northern compatriots Sons of Southern Ulster with new single ‘Oktobar’, expanding on their updated Cork post-punk sound, out September 16…Cork lads A Cow in the Water are an ongoing concern following their reunion a few years back, including recent excursions at Connolly’s of Leap and the Crane Lane…Having reunited in 2020 for a run of gigs and recordings, nineties psych-poppers Flywheel have us on standby for an upcoming second LP, following 1996’s ‘She’…

The FIFA Records crew have had a busy few years of it to say the least… newly-recorded material has surfaced from returning Cork dreampoppers Emperor of Ice Cream, whose reunion and 25-years-belated debut LP was a major feelgood story… the Emperors’ Eddie Butt - a designer at our sister paper the Irish Examiner - has kept himself ticking over with a pair of collaborative projects in Arctic Lights (with Liam O’Callaghan) and Silver Owls (with fellow Emperor John “Haggis” Hegarty)… West Cork alt-rockers First Class & Coach and young psych-punkers The Love Buzz are also coming up under the label’s purview - and both occupy spots on the billing at Saturday’s Upstart Festival in Glounthaune… After keeping the ska and two-tone faith in Cork for decades, Pontious Pilate and the Naildrivers have also finally released debut album ‘Kick the Megaphone’, and marked the occasion with, among other gigs, a support gig for Northern punk legends Stiff Little Fingers…

PUNK AND HARDCORE

On the topic of punk rock - Corkonian horror-punks Screams from the Attic have a Halloween engagement on the way at Fred Zeppelin’s - with support from long-running skate-punks Audible Joes and Easy Company on Monday October 31 - a Jazz funeral, if you would.... Wind back a bit to Saturday September 24, and the Relapse collective are running their second all-dayer of the year at the Kino, kicking off at 2pm and open to all ages until 8pm. Among the billing of local bands, poets and visual artists are veteran punx Stanton’s Grave, psych-metallers Dirty Casuals, and emerging math-punks Daz-Gak!...

God Alone will be be touring Ireland to launch an album in late October.
God Alone will be be touring Ireland to launch an album in late October.

Signing to America’s Prosthetic Records for second album ETC, ‘sad dancey metallers’ God Alone’s latest creative turn takes them firmly into math-rock territory - another feather in their already-colourful sonic cap. They’ll be touring Ireland to launch the album in late October... Members of God Alone are also involved in Staff Party, an indie-friendly dance-punk outfit who are set to follow steady gigging with a debut single… 

Cork city hardcore five-piece WORN OUT are back on the road this autumn following a Covid-mandated hiatus. They’ll be in the city for Jazz Weekend, playing new venue Crack Jenny’s on Friday October 28 before returning to Dublin and Limerick. Guitarist Alex Heinrich also traversed into one-man metal territory over lockdown with doomy, sludgy riffs under the ABYSM name… Fellow hardcore exponents BAILER are also getting back into gear, following the release of their LP ‘Disposable Youth’ with a Dublin date on September 30 at the Workman’s, and a Cork date no doubt to follow… 

Worn Out are back on the road and will return to Cork city for Jazz Weekend.	Pic: Paul Flynn
Worn Out are back on the road and will return to Cork city for Jazz Weekend. Pic: Paul Flynn

METAL ON LEESIDE

Last month saw black metal creep into the halls of St Peter’s Church on North Main Street for Oiche an Dullahan, a special gig that, among others, saw Cork bands Hircine and Everdead Wood make an impression, toting ambient black-metal and old-school genre sounds respectively… ‘Death-punk’ harbingers Horse are back in the practice space ahead of a gig with UK outfit Chimers at the Spailpín on Friday September 16. A debut album has long been in the can, recorded by Cathal and Paddy of the Altered Hours. Frontman Ian O’Callaghan has also been making solo heavy sounds as Auld Blue Eyes, including a novelty cover of Yazoo’s ‘Only You’ with proceeds going to Cork Dog Action Welfare Group…

Having levelled Limerick last month, atmospheric metallers Soothsayer are set for a Dublin date, while German label Vendetta Records have recently pressed 2021’s ‘Echoes of the Earth’ onto orange and black vinyl. Frontman Liam Hughes also dives into ambient and experimental waters with solo project Mercurial… Solo sludge project Skellig has made a previous appearance on these pages, but ‘Of This Carved Land’, released back in May, remains an impressive slice of solo, sludgy bass jamming… 

Leeside’s only and therefore best lobster-themed metallers, Hashmaker, released live long-player ‘Livin’ La Vida Lobster’ back in July - recorded at the Spailpín Fánach during the first Relapse all-dayer… From lobsters to squid, The Magnapinna continue to support 2022 long-player ‘Party Rumours’ with a brace of gigs: Relapse Fest in the Kino on September 24th, as above, Fred Zeppelin’s on October 1st with Los Angeles band Jagged Baptist Club, and Crack Jenny’s on October 27, supporting A-tota-so from Brighton… 

Two of Cork’s best metal bands, doomers Coroza and prog-metallers Aponym, have been keeping the heads down as of writing, but keep an eye on their Bandcamps and socials…

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