Elma Orkestra & Ryan Vail
It was getting late into the evening on Wednesday 24th June. I suddenly received a guest pass invitation to view an online gig. It felt almost like the ‘old normal’ to have this sudden event pop up into my diary. I thought, well, why not! I hadn’t heard of the artists before, though I felt like I should have. Kick off was 10pm. I tuned in. The gig was hosted by DICE.
“Two artists. Two metres apart. Live from lockdown.” The album “Borders” is a collaboration between Elma Orkestra (Eoin O’Callaghan) and Ryan Vail. Both are from Derry in Ireland. It looked like they were doing this gig in a garage. The two guys joked to each other as they performed to no physical audience, just a whole load of video cameras. “Has anyone actually tuned in?” They said as they laughed with each other. Then checking their phones they could see the viewings were definitely rising. One viewer was their next door neighbour who had to watch from the live view rather than pop over to see them play. It’s all go.
My first thought was to the visuals. Space. Landscapes. Isolation. A skateboarder on a long empty road. Then at a beach, no one else there, just this one person. With what’s been happening in the world this year and all of us having to be in self isolation, I found the visuals very profound to the now. The sound? A beautiful ambient flow with a rhythm that builds and drives you, yet supported with such gentle notes of piano and violin. The contrast is really rather stunning. It works.
I was captivated by the track titled “Factory Girls”. This voice! A voice of another time. An era gone by yet feeling so familiar and present. The lyric sang: “And the factory girls of Londonderry. Derry! Derry! Derry!” The track finishes with just the sound of the factory machines making the cotton shirts. This factory, I have now since learned about, was one of the original factories in Derry/Londonderry during the boom of the textile industry in the 1800’s. Derry became the shirt supplier of the UK and also of Europe and the British colonies. I loved how this brought Irish history into this electronic surge of sound. It’s a very powerful track. The energy, the space, the era, the memory. It’s incredibly immersive. The piano so beautifully holds you in the arms with the violin as this voice continues with “Derry, Derry, Derry”.
“My Island” – with stunning spoken word in the strong yet flowing Irish accent. “We just want to live and love on this land with you”… “Look out and look within.” It’s a great track.
The track “Love” has apparently risen in popularity during lockdown, which was a welcome surprise. With a tremendous amount of radio play the gratitude was so very apparent from the way they thanked all the viewers. Lovely to see that. They’ve worked hard on this. “Symmetry” and “Arlene” are some of the other tracks they played. Ryan’s cinematic way of composing music aligns so incredibly well with Elma Orkestra. The album “Borders” won the 2019 ‘Album Of The Year’ category at the Northern Irish Music Prize. Well deserved.
Explosive yet in harmony. Powerful yet fragile. Natural freedom. I thoroughly enjoyed this gig.
LET MUSIC BE YOUR TRIBE