Image Tony O' Driscoll
Cavan folk-singer and witty story-teller Lisa O’Neill returns to Sirius Arts Centre with a new album, ‘Pothole in the Sky’. If you’ve seen her before you’ll know it’s a performance not to be missed.
This third album follows a witty and charming debut ‘Has An Album’, and the follow-up ‘Same Cloth or Not’ that marked her as a serious artist, a contender, a voice, a forked tongue. These are wonderful songs, unique and full of the sort of glorious individual word-play that could only come from the pen of O’Neill.
Lisa O’Neill has a remarkable voice; a Cavan twang, a growl, a song-call. It can be many things. She needed to make an album about that voice. ‘Pothole in the Sky’ is a recording of “the voice”. The voice is everything for the folk singer – a conduit for the words, the emotion, the thought process. This is no ordinary record.
O’Neill’s voice goes to all sorts of places throughout the course of this album, and the music provided by Emma Smith, Seamus Fogarty, Joseph Doyle, and Mossy Nolan follows her like a dark swirling storm, often bringing to mind the loose impressionism of the Dirty Three. On ‘Planets’ O’Neill delivers her most extraordinary vocal and lyrical performance to date. It is remarkable and on this form she could go toe to toe with Nick Cave at his most fire and brimstone. Except O’Neill’s prose is elemental and mysterious, not angry.
As any truly great singer knows, it’s not all about those big reaching numbers. There is some truly brave singing on this record. For instance, the odd high-pitched flourishes on ‘Nasty’, or the shrill parlour style singing on ‘Black Sheep’. The latter features some of the best accompaniment too, a mellifluous psychedelic montage that literally sets sail one-minute-thirty in as Lisa goes off on one of her patented hypnotic stream-of-conscious word-play trips. The album closes out on a succession of brilliant songs. ‘The Banjo Spell’ is a tender ode to the aural folk tradition without being throwback. In fact it has a big lush modern feel to it. And ‘The Hunt’, featuring guest fiddle and banjo from Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Glen Hansard respectively, is just another meandering epic Lisa O’Neill number, twisting and turning and changing its phrasing and tempo to suit the story and accommodate the words. She makes it sound easy. But it’s not.
At a time when sameness threatens to drain the world of charm and surprise, Lisa O’Neill stands tall for difference, as an outlier with a mission to frame the world as she sees it and to perform it accordingly.
Joe Breen, Irish Times
For over fifteen years Softday, the art-science collaboration of artist Sean Taylor and computer scientist Mikael Fernström, have engaged with issues relating to natural cycles in time, climate change and its global effects. As a collaborative team they use their arts practice to explore relations to and understandings of nature, expressed through sonifications and multimedia artworks and performances. Both artists are interested in exploring ‘the cracks’ between various media and creative genres such as expanded theatre, sound art, socially engaged practice, sculpture, music, dance and the application of new technologies.
Early projects such as Bliain Le Baisteach (A Year of Rainfall) (2000) looked at fluctuating annual rainfall patterns in Ireland. Further, Cóisir an Tsionainn (The Shannon Suite) (2003) focused on the four-year life cycle of the wild Atlantic salmon and the effects of overfishing and pollution on the species ability to survive. Projects such as Nobody leaves till the Daphnia sing (2009) examined the implications of contaminated domestic drinking water supplies in Galway and West Limerick. The Marbh Chrois (Dead Zone) (2010) project addressed the impact of two ‘contested’ marine dead zones as a key stressor on marine ecosystems in Donegal, Ireland. In 2011 Softday were prizewinners of EUROPE – A SOUND PANORAMA, and performed their work in Karlsruhe at ZKM (Kubus).
In April 2013 Softday premiered ‘Amhrán na mBeach’ (Song of the Bees) in Glenstal Abbey, Murroe, Co. Limerick. In October 2014 they were commissioned by Limerick National City of Culture 2014 to perform ‘Amhrán na mBeach’ - Song of the (Urban) Bees. Recent exhibitions include: 2016/7 Re(Public) Hyde Park Arts Centre, Chicago, USA, 2016. Sonic Arts Waterford (SAW) Festival, Waterford, 2016. EVA International Biennale of Art, Limerick, 2016 and Et si on s’ était trompé? (What if we got it wrong?) Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, France, 2015.