Music tastemaker angling to make grime pay

Paul Purcell is still a student at IADT but his record label Glacial Sounds is making waves

Paul Purcell: fast becoming what prestigious magazine ‘Fact’ is calling a dance music tastemaker.

Paul Purcell: fast becoming what prestigious magazine ‘Fact’ is calling a dance music tastemaker.


There’s an interesting musical shift taking place in Co Westmeath. It’s got nothing to do with One Direction’s Niall Moran and the way he might wave at you, but rather another young 20-something from Mullingar. When he isn’t studying business and entrepreneurship at Dún Laoghaire’s Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Paul Purcell is fast becoming what prestigious magazine Fact is calling a dance music tastemaker.

Purcell is your typical-looking, well-connected young man: he exudes health and smarts, and is clearly using his increasing level of business knowledge to promote his record label, Glacial Sounds. Although he’s just back from a 24-hour trip to Berlin – where he was DJing at a club in the city’s hip Kreuzberg area – Purcell is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He is fully aware that mentions in noted magazines such as Fact are good for him and his fledgling record label. No matter if Glacial Sounds is being tipped as “grime’s new wave” or “grime 2.0”. What matters to Purcell is recognition for the work, the commitment and the love of the music.

Just in case you’ve been living under a cultural duvet for the past 10 years, Grime is a cross-pollinated music genre that emerged from London’s pirate radio stations in the early Noughties, developing from a range of origins such as hip-hop, dub, techno, dancehall and garage. Well-known names such as Dizzee Rascal and Wiley have brought the genre out of the underground and into the mainstream (arguably diluting what made them such a potent force to begin with), while many subgenres flourish among a reasonably select band of devotees.

The biggest misconception of grime is, perhaps, that it’s all about frenetic, glitchy and jagged chip-tunes (old-school video game music) gear-crashing about your ears. Purcell’s Glacial Sounds aims to change such perceptions. The idea for the label, he says, came about from playing music on various radio shows.

“I was speaking to a lot of producers who were sending me stuff to play, and they were curious about what the grime situation was like in Ireland. Then I just thought to myself, why isn’t there an outpost for the music here? There is quite a lot of left-field experimental music going on in the country, and people can be receptive to it.”

One-man operation
Focusing the one-man operation that is Glacial Sounds on his tastes for left-field music (which, interestingly, doesn’t include familiarity with Ireland’s electronic music experimentalists such as Somadrome, Chequerboard or Sunken Foal – “they’re more indie-electronic rather than grime, which is club-based, aggressive, energetic,” he reasons), Purcell has to date overseen the release of less than a handful of EPs. Glacial Sounds’ most recent is Last Dance EP by Murlo, a London-basedDJ from the English midlands, producer and illustrator.

Those expecting grime’s perceived saw-toothed pace and rub-a-dub rhythms will be surprised to hear instead a sweeping, elegant series of tunes that reference Asian influences (notably Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Ryuichi Sakamoto) and ambient melody lines. The release points to the different musical directions and varieties that Glacial Sounds, as a label, wants to embrace. “People have been making sounds that have been influenced by music previously labelled as, well, anything in particular,” says Purcell, aware that easy categorisation of music, from point of origin to subsets, can be both friend and foe. “I don’t think the musicians are too bothered about identifying labels. I’m not too bugged out by it, as I can see the references, and I’m sure the musicians can, too. Besides, I’m of the opinion that music has to be labelled for the general public.”

Harder to define
There speaks a student of business and entrepreneurship. So it doesn’t irritate him that the music is so stamped or defined? “You mean like grime 2.0?” Purcell counters with a sly grin. “A lot of the stuff on Glacial Sounds is harder to define, as the music is so open to interpretation. Plus, what has to be taken into consideration is that there are such a large amount of influences these days. Personally, I think the difficulty of pinning something down is also what makes it interesting.”

Sustainable future
There is no widespread love or exposure of grime in Ireland, says Purcell. He enthusiastically mentions producers such as Dublin-based Major Grave, Carlow-based Shriekin’ Specialist, Belfast-based Bloom and others, but there’s a sense that Glacial Sounds will need to venture outside Ireland if it’s to have a sustainable future. Interestingly, it’s starting to do just that with a vinyl-only release, Double Dragon, from Rabit, a producer in Houston, Texas.

In some ways, says Purcell, it’s better that so few people in Ireland are into grime, “because the house or techno scenes have hundreds involved”. On the other hand, he’d like to see grime get bigger because it would undoubtedly benefit everyone. Decisions, decisions, eh?

“Because it’s just me running the label,” says the young man of whom you will be hearing a lot more in 2014, “I’m not going to be able to have what you’d term a complete roster, but I want to keep releasing stuff. Each one we do is getting more recognition for the label, and people are focusing on what is going on in Ireland. The few of us that are involved with grime over here need that spotlight.”

Last Dance EP, by Murlo, is out now through Glacial Sounds For vinyl details, visit Last Dance is also available on iTunes, Beatport, and All City Records, Temple Bar, Dublin.

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