Keith from Galway imprint Rusted Rail was in touch recently about three new EP releases dropping on July 15th. They are –
3 Inch EP: RR27
Ah…Good The Sea EP
3 Inch EP: RR29
The Driftwood Manor
Dominican Black Abbey EP
3 Inch EP: RR28
All three releases share a certain spectral folk quality, encouraged and augmented by field recordings and skilful vocal treatments.
Cubs’ ‘Willowfield’ is a plaintiff guitar-picking instrumental with some fantastic Old West-style howling. (Is Galway the new Old West, I wonder? Yawning Chasm employed similar back-of-the-room howling on their Whispered sun EP…)
Good Shepherd’s ‘Flown the other side’ has the blissful memory of Byrdsian harmonies from around 1967, lying on a lush bed of accordion and nylon stringed guitar. Gorgeous. Special mention also for the beautiful bass pull on ‘Cold swell rising’.
The stirring electric guitar on The Driftwood Manor’s ‘I could sense a violent death’ drags the song out of its acoustic, somnolent mood. Meanwhile, the sawing, seafaring fiddle on ‘Like parting with ghosts’ is offset by a beautiful Peter Green-like guitar break.
Keith also included something that’s always good, notes on each song for the Cubs EP. Have a read while you’re transported by the tunes below.
Cubs Willowfield: Recording Reminiscences by Aaron Hurley & Keith Wallace
Aaron: This features the first guitar recorded for the EP by James Rider in Belfast. It’s appropriate that some howling appears on this one, my impression of a wolf cub lost in the wilderness.
Keith: I caught the train to Belfast after a Driftwood Manor gig in Dublin to visit James in what was the first time in a few years. After a few days of catching up, charity shop trawling, visiting colourful public houses and seeing Daniel Johnston play live, I set up James’ fancy microphone and from the comfort of his sitting room he improvised for about twenty minutes on his acoustic guitar, playing a bunch of two to three minute pieces which I would take back to Galway with me and turn into some Cubs recordings by having other Cubs play on them. Aaron, James and I are the founder members of the band/project/combo known as Cubs and from the very first time they ever played a note together in a windswept conservatory on the west coast of Ireland in 2005 with me at the controls, they have been telepathic musical collaborators. Geography has divided them for years now so I set about bringing them together again, reuniting the lost wolf cubs that Aaron speaks of above. This is the first piece that James played that evening so its fitting at it is the opening track on the EP, which incidentally gets it name from his address, where this EP took its first breaths.
2. “Lowering of Ropes”
Aaron: Eddie Keenan sings and plays bouzouki on this one. It’s brilliant to have him make his Cubs debut as I’m a big Driftwood Manor fan. Cecilia Danell debuts her voice as a Cub on this also.
Keith: Eddie had been recording his “Dominican Black Abbey” EP at my house over the space of a few months and during some downtime he knocked out three lovely bouzouki pieces which suited Cubs right down to the ground, one of which makes up this song. He then recorded the mantric-vocal which Cecilia later sang along with and to which she added a verse of her own which she wrote while on an artists retreat in Monaghan, so its fits in well with the border/cross-border nature of Cubs. I reversed Aaron’s mandolin overdub as it seemed to work better that way in a Syd Barrett style; Cubs often do things backwards, heeding the advice of Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
Aaron: Paul O’Reilly sings and speaks on this one. Again it started with James recording the guitar in Belfast. I usually get the job of putting down the glitchy sounds using guitar effects with a stringed instrument, which is fun as long I don’t try to play too many notes.
Keith: A Duet between Aaron and James. Paul popped over to record his vocal on this track and when he had completed his two overdubs in a matter of minutes he asked “have you anything weird I can read from?”
I did. Eddie had lent me a curious book on the supernatural by Colin Wilson called “Mysteries”, so Paul chose a passage from that which fit the music and mood of the song perfectly. More telepathy. I make my debut appearance on bodhran on this track, Eddie had left it behind after a Driftwood session so I reckoned I could tap something out on it.
Aaron: This one had the stink of the beach about it and I just made it worse. We don’t seem to have too many lyrics typically for Cubs songs.
The two lines repeated here came upon first listening and have a similar intention to the instruments, a certain mood with an open visual suggestion.
Keith: Aaron came over one Sunday afternoon when he was up from Cork with his suitcase full of guitar pedals, a mandolin, melodica, harmonica, and a couple of guitars and he put down a load of overdubs on the various guitar tracks James had played, and on couple of Eddie’s bouzouki tracks too. This one suggested a campfire so Aaron set about creating the mood of one. There was a lot of building work going on in the backyard below my room/studio so that’s me closing the window-latch that opens the track (although Cubs do favour the capturing of happy accidents and found sounds). Cecilia later added her hushed vocals, singing along with Aaron on this seaside/campsite shanty while I added some Augustus Pablo-type dubby effects to the melodica. Spooky stuff.
5. “Passages From A Drunken Notebook”
Aaron: That melodica and the singing overdub were done while under the influence of some Italian wine.
Keith: Eddie had put down this sweet bouzouki part so I went to visit Aaron in Cork with my recording studio in my bag during an Irish heatwave. One fine evening we were having a few refreshing drinks with the door to the garden wide open with the sound of birds chirping and dogs barking drifting in while we listened to grunge classics to get us in the mood for recording some avant-folk. If you listen carefully at the end you can hear Eddie confessing “I think I’m just getting drunk”, which came from the take just before he nailed his part which is the basis of the song. Back in Galway Eddie added a beautifully warm tremelo electric guitar part via Aaron’s purple Telecaster and that was the icing on the song. Raise a glass for this song!
6. “Sun Plots”
Aaron: The title “Sun Plots” came from listening to the track on the bus from Cork and the sun was blinking in and out of sight because of the trees passing by. I was looking at some maths book as well and then imagined a plot of the disappearance and reappearance of the sun. The song gave off some sort of amber vibe.
Keith: On that Sunday afternoon Aaron set up his pedal chain and a microphone and recorded two tracks of lightly phasered and delayed acoustic guitar over what James had played to give it some kinda of cosmic-country effect. An amber vibe indeed.
7. “When Skies Split Open”
Aaron: It’s great to have new people singing for Cubs, Cecilia does a beautiful job on this one. I found the guitar part while making room on my eight track. It was marked ‘Cubs8′ so I must have intended it for Cubs at some point but I don’t remember recording it, only that it was done in Sheffield.
Keith: I stuck the microphone out the window one rainy night to record the hiss and fizz of cars driving through puddles on Dominick Street and I layered this under Aarons guitar part which I also ran backward in places, a favourite trick of mine. I also added some cymbal splashes for punctuation and extra mood/colour and when she got back from Monaghan, Cecilia added her vocals. When Aaron mentioned that this song’s guitar part was recorded in Sheffield I remembered us recording some fireworks with a microphone out his attic window when I visited him there around Halloween so these have made their way onto that song too, adding extra percussion.
Aaron: The guitar reminded me of a train journey, where you are slightly hungover and moving in and out of consciousness. That gave me the idea for the overdubs, guitar with slide and the flicking of a mandolin.
Keith: Another one from the Sunday afternoon session, with Aaron adding suitable woozy guitar and astral mandolin to this hallucinatory, hazey hymn from Jim.
9. “The Last Day of Spring”
Aaron: This has a journey feel about it too (not the “Don’t Stop Believing” feeling). The passing of one season into the next. I arrived into Keith’s house in the middle of Galway and the guitar was the first overdub to be put down. It has that shaking of the cobwebs feel. Kind of gossamer but dirty.
Keith: This was the first Cubs contribution from Eddie, layering three interlocking bouzouki parts together on the last day of Spring. Aaron added some psychedelic guitar washes and swells and I tied it all together with some bodhran. A cracking tune!
10. “With candles we walk”
Aaron: I imagined a scene late at night, with people in pyjamas and beaten-up runners walking down to sea with candles in their hands.
James had recorded the guitar in Belfast. The singing was recorded in Keith’s place as well. I normally sing overdubs standing up but for this I sat down and stared at the wooden floor for no apparent reason.
Keith: A slightly scary, ritualistic and ceremonial song. I added sugar sachet shaker percussion in Cork. An eerie lament and the perfect way to finish the EP.