Daithí: I’m Here Now review — Optimistic, celebratory return

The Clare musician’s third solo album is a journey through his past, present and future

I'm Here Now
    
Artist: Daithí
Genre: Electronic
Label: Strange Brew

As we have all come to learn, a lot can happen in two years. Just ask Daithí Ó Drónaí, the Clare-born electronic musician whose last record, 2019′s L.O.S.S., was written in the devastating wake of a long-term relationship ending. We all know what came next, the world — and more pertinently for him the live music industry — temporarily closed shop. Out of that trauma Daithí has nevertheless managed to harvest some positives: a new relationship, the opening of an artists’ retreat called The Beekeepers in his native Clare and even a new band, HousePlants, the Choice Music Prize-nominated supergroup that he formed with Bell X1′s Paul Noonan.

Buoyed by recent events in his life, the title of his third solo album is a giveaway. The 30-something is taking stock of what has happened, living in the present and rooting his musical feet to the ground. As transitory and non-committal as that might sound it’s the opposite, there are quietly assured buds of optimism blooming at every musical turn.

Even so, opening with a track such as Sunset, featuring indie musician and previous collaborator Ailbhe Reddy on vocals, might seem counterproductive in some ways. This is a reflective, synth-led number that recalls the end of summer as Reddy’s voice — which works beautifully well in this sort of soft, throbbing electronic setting — croons from a heartache-infused lyric sheet. There’s a method to his madness, however. The tracklisting soon takes on a journey-like design as Daithí explores his past, accepts his present and looks to the future.


The title track nods to his late grandfather, renowned concertina player Chris Droney, by incorporating his instrument into an almost elegiac slow-moving song that throbs, booms and rattles with a comforting familiarity. The shifting rhythms of Polpoly, featuring David Tapley of Dublin indie band Tandem Felix on vocals, are joyful. Like the Water, featuring Uly, begins as an ethereal affair before flirting with nightmarishness as it builds to an intense, buzzing apex. Keep It For the Next One, with Neil Dexter, is arguably the poppiest track here, sinking satisfyingly into Passion Pit-esque territory. It is Familial that feels like a key track in many ways, however. Snapping into life with a clubby beat, it stretches its fingers into dark, sombre corners of Daithí's oeuvre, combining a twitchy rat-tat-tat beat with the gloopy drip of melody and recalling acts such as Disclosure and Burial.

Moonlight ends the album on a hopeful, optimistic note — a way of marking a return to live music on a heart-bursting, celebratory note. This is where Daithí is now. Who knows where he’ll go next?

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times