Katie Kim’s “Cover & Flood”, a Serious Album from a Proper Musician.

Katie Kim "Cover & FLood"The won­der­ful­ly evoca­tive “Heavy Light­ing” (here), which now appears as track 7 on Katie Kim’s sec­ond album Cov­er & Flood, was released as a split sin­gle last year togeth­er with a Lau­ra Sheer­an track. They both per­formed on the same set at the excel­lent pop-up event curat­ed by Don­al Dineen at last year’s Dublin Con­tem­po­rary, which I reviewed here earlier.

Sheer­an and Kim are part of that new breed of musi­cians who begin by mak­ing use of this dizzy­ing dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion that we are all in the midst of to pro­duce impres­sive­ly fin­ished music from their bed­rooms, using lit­tle more than a lap­top and what­ev­er instru­ments they hap­pen to have to hand.

When they then begin to per­form on stage, they are forced to use the few tools that they are able to car­ry them­selves onto stage in increas­ing­ly com­plex ways, as they are faced with the real­i­ty of try­ing to hold onto an audi­ence’s atten­tion with extra­or­di­nary lim­it­ed resources.

What tends to result is that they learn to pro­duce increas­ing­ly involved lay­ers of sound by dis­tort­ing their voice and instru­ments, both elec­tron­i­cal­ly and dig­i­tal­ly, to draw the audi­ence in through what becomes a form of rit­u­al, rhyth­mic hypnosis.

The prob­lem is, that it’s far from sim­ple to re-trans­late that sound back onto disc once they return to the stu­dio. What was cap­ti­vat­ing on stage, can often sound a lit­tle dull and repet­i­tive, a tad samey.

So it’s huge­ly grat­i­fy­ing to be able to report that as hyp­not­ic as she is on stage, Katie Kim is every bit as allur­ing now that she’s returned to the record­ing stu­dio in between all that inevitable tour­ing. And impres­sive­ly, despite being appar­ent­ly pro­duced in her bed­room, her sec­ond album is an even more expan­sive and con­fi­dent affair than her first, Twelve, from 2008.

If the sound she pro­duces live can best be ref­er­enced by Coco Rosie and Mazzy Star, on disc it’s a slight­ly more mea­sured affair. A lit­tle less pri­mal per­haps, but more panoram­ic in its stead, and a lot more ambi­tious in its scope.

There is some dis­tor­tion and feed­back, but on many of the tracks you get the qui­eter more nuanced sound of Sti­na Nor­den­stam, or Joan­na New­som, but with­out the lat­ter’s angst or sense of strug­gle. Whilst a track like “Dum­mer” has clear echoes of Julian­na Bar­wick, reviewed here ear­li­er, with those waves of sound that wash over you and draw you so plea­sur­ably into their depths.

This is a seri­ous album from a prop­er musi­cian pro­duc­ing a com­plex, eclec­tic and sin­gu­lar sound. If there’s a bet­ter, more accom­plished album pro­duced in Ire­land this year, I shall be very sur­prised indeed.

NPR’s Pitch-perfect “All Songs Considered” Podcast, Your Weekly Music Fix.

At the end of last year, the ter­ri­bly clever bean coun­ters at The New York Times decid­ed that what the orga­ni­za­tion need­ed was to make it more like a tra­di­tion­al news­pa­per, and less like some­thing more attuned to the 21st cen­tu­ry. So they axed near­ly all of their superb pod­casts, leav­ing just a skele­tal three. And one of those includ­ed in the cull was, alas, the excel­lent Pop­cast.

So in Jan­u­ary of this year I went in search of a replace­ment pod­cast for all things musi­cal, and was quick­ly point­ed in the gen­er­al direc­tion of NPR’s “All Songs Con­sid­ered”. And despite only tun­ing in to it for the last few weeks, I can con­fi­dent­ly declare it manda­to­ry listening.

Nation­al Pub­lic Radio is an enlight­ened attempt in the US to repli­cate the (at least orig­i­nal) ethos behind the BBC. It’s a non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion and the pro­grammes that are pro­duced there are made by peo­ple because they’re the kinds of pro­grammes that they would like to hear aired, and they right­ly assume that there must be oth­ers who are sim­i­lar­ly curi­ous. They are in oth­er words pro­grammes that are made regard­less of ratings.

All Songs Con­sid­ered is the musi­cal ver­sion of one of their most suc­cess­ful shows, All Things Con­sid­ered, and it first aired on the web a lit­tle over ten years ago. It’s chaired by Bob Boilen, who cre­at­ed it, and Robin Hilton, and between them they man­age to strike exact­ly the right bal­ance of care­ful casu­al­ness and qui­et plan­ning. You get the impres­sion that you’re eaves-drop­ping on a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion, but one that you’re meant to be over-hear­ing. And the areas that they cov­er every week with each of their guest review­ers real­ly are all-encompassing.

A recent edi­tion for instance looked at the col­lab­o­ra­tion between Radio­head­’s Jon­ny Green­wood and the vet­er­an avant-garde Pol­ish com­pos­er Krzysztof Pen­derec­ki. Hear­ing how in awe the for­mer is of the lat­ter, and how unashamed­ly he echoes him on his sound­track to There Will Be Blood was a revelation.

In anoth­er which focused on elec­tron­i­ca, they gave us a taste of the lat­est project from Joe God­dard, one half of Hot Chip whose The 2 Bears, and yes, they real­ly do dress up and DJ in bear suits, is about to release its debut album.

And it was here too, in an ear­li­er edi­tion again, that I was intro­duced to the ethe­re­al delights of the bewitch­ing Julian­na Bar­wick, whose album I reviewed here earlier.

Next week they’re pre­view­ing this year’s South By South­west, and the fol­low­ing week they’ll be cov­er­ing the event prop­er. SXSW is to music what Sun­dance is to film. It has in oth­er words become so much a part of the main­stream that refer­ring to it now as being in any way indie is frankly laugh­able. Nev­er­the­less, it still man­ages to some­how unearth an undis­cov­ered gem every year.

In 2010 it was Sleigh Bells (whose fol­low up album Reign Of Ter­ror has just been released). And on this, its 20th anniver­sary, it’s unlike­ly to prove any less illu­mi­nat­ing. Either way, the best place to keep tabs on it is All Songs Con­sid­ered’s pitch-per­fect pod­cast, which you can find here.

Julianna Barwick’s “The Magic Place”, David Lynch’s Soon To Be, Surely, Muse.

It’s hard to avoid using the E word when talk­ing about Julian­na Bar­wick. Her com­bi­na­tion of ethe­re­al, hyp­not­ic vocals with care­ful­ly con­struct­ed lay­ers of metic­u­lous­ly craft­ed sound con­jures up inevitable if unfor­tu­nate visions of Enya.

A more use­ful com­par­i­son might be with Liz Fras­er, and the sort of music that she and her fel­low 4AD sirens were pro­duc­ing with the likes of the Cocteau Twins, This Mor­tal Coil and Dead Can Dance. But there’s none of that angst with Barwick.

The waves of balm that she wraps you up in evoke instead the blissed-up chill-out calm of last year’s With­in And With­out from Washed Out, reviewed here ear­li­er, with the occa­sion­al echo of the qui­eter bits form Pan­da Bear’s Tomboy.

The Mag­ic Place is all of the above, and yet some­how so much more. For despite all that bliss, and calm, and chilled out, yawn, seren­i­ty, it’s an album that man­ages to avoid ever sound­ing in any way monotonous.

Which is remark­able. There are no lyrics to speak of, in the con­ven­tion­al sense. It’s essen­tial­ly a Min­i­mal­ist album, where each piece takes a motif which is then worked on, method­i­cal­ly, almost math­e­mat­i­cal­ly, up to vary­ing degrees of com­pli­ca­tion. And yet, there’s enough vari­a­tion through­out and across each of the nine tracks to draw you in and hold you there. And rather than ever becom­ing bor­ing, the more you lis­ten to it the more beguil­ing become its charms.

Offi­cial­ly, it’s her sec­ond album, but to all extents and pur­pos­es The Mag­ic Place is her first album prop­er and has been out for a year now. It got an impressed 8.5 from the boys from Prav­da http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/15147-the-magic-place/?utm_campaign=search&utm_medium=site&utm_source=search-ac. If you missed it first time around, treat yourself.