VA: An Taobh Tuathail Volume III

If An Taobh Tuathail Vol. III sounds like the best radio show you've never heard, that might be because it is—but it doesn't have to be: the underground music programme An Taobh Tuathail (The Other Side) has been broadcasting for a decade on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. Compiled as before by Cian Ó Cíobháin, the third instalment features fifteen tracks by an inspired mix of established artists and lesser-knowns, with the pieces by the latter often making the bigger impression.

Three excellent opening tracks set the tone for what turns out to be an above-average collection. First up is Loner Deluxe's “Frozen Grass,” a pretty waltz of acoustic guitar picking and tinkling sounds, followed by the early standout “Night Swimming” by Roshi feat. Pars Radio, a lovely torch setting for cello, electric piano, and Roshi's quietly radiant vocal whose ruminative verse melodies could have been written by Louis Andriessen; and, thirdly, Essie Jain's “Haze,” another affecting torch song though this one's vocal-and-piano emphasis renders it slightly less ornate. In a better world, the effervescent vocal-based electro-pop of B-Movie Lightning's (Mike Smalle, previously of Cane 141) “Triple Trouble”  would be inching up the singles chart as I write. Also strong: Mount Kimbie's heady fusion of African music, dub, and dubstep (“Maybes”); and The Caretaker's (Leyland Kirby) “False Memory Syndrome,” which is like a crackle-drenched exhumation of the Overlook Hotel's ballroom orchestra performing an old romantic ballad. In addition, Animal Collective sprinkles five minutes of fairy dust over the enchanting “Loch Raven” (from Feels), and City Centre Offices' Miwon contributes a breezy, picturesque techno evocation (“Shinkansen”). Circlesquare is represented by “Music For Satellites” (from Songs About Dancing & Drugs), a lament that plays like some distant cousin of “Space Oddity” (hard to miss the “Hurdy Gurdy Man”-like vocal effect Jeremy Shaw sneaks in either). Pieces by Jacaszek (“Walc” from Treny) and Peter And The Wolf (the lovely folk song “The Highway”) appear too.

If there's a downside, nine of the fifteen songs also appear on the artists' respective albums, so the compilation may repeat material already in your collection. But, taken on its own terms, the collection provides a satisfying overview of multiple styles from an impressive roster of artists.

March 2010