Festival highlights: The Castlepalooza dozen
From Jape to Hercules & Love Affair, Jim Carroll casts his eye over some of the highlights at this year’s Castlepalooza festival in Tullamore
The Columbia Mills of old was a venue down by the river in Dublin which was home to many raucous, hedonistic and seminal club nights in the 1990s like UFO and Gag. The Columbia Mills of today are a new-ish band from Bray making a gorgeous racket full of soaring guitar riffs, spine-tingling synth grooves and highly attractive electronic fuzz. Their brace of EPs to date Factory Settings and The Perfect Day capture the band’s intended sense of broody menace, suburban ennui and hopeful optimism very well.
Fight Like Apes
They got knocked down, but they got up again. The release of the recent self-titled third Fight Like Apes album is a sign that the best way to get over the slings and arrows of messy label uncouplings is to dust yourself off and carry on with things. The Fight Like Apes you’ll find on the new album are a band all the better for those scars and bruises, with their finely honed sense of pop in its electro, punk and new wave guises now recalibrated and repointed. Get set to thrill to a new whole new set of favourites from them this summer.
You may already know Florence Olivier’s three constituent parts Rob Maguire, Blathnaid Healy and Michael Fenton from their work with Clockwork Noise. The new band came together last summer with the aim of making more sunny-side-up electropop fare than their other incarnation. Tracks such as Singularity and Future Tense show that they’re well on the road with that aim. Live, the band’s 1980s pop throwbacks galore make them a cinch to have the Castlepalooza faithful in raptures – and leg-warmers – within minutes.
Straight out of Blanchardstown and Tallaght, Hare Squead have been putting a pep in the local scene’s step for the last 18 months or so. A rarity in the capital city given the calibre of hip-hop and urban styles in the mix, Hare Squead have superb chops when it comes to writing effortlessly magnetic tunes which will sound good on any radio station that will have them and which, as we’ve seen again and again from Ireland to Canada, can make any crowd hoot and holler.
Late Nite Tuff Guy
We’ve become a fan of Carmelo Bianchetti’s magnificent work in the last while. As Late Nite Tuff Guy, the Australian DJ and producer has been showing what he can do when it comes to buckwild, sexy, gorgeous disco edits, remixes and cuts. Vintage dusty grooves by Chic, Chaka Khan, Queen and many others have been freaked and tweaked by Bianchetti into glittering anthems and given a whole new lease of life. Expect good times galore when he hits the decks in Tullamore.
Hercules & Love Affair
Andy Butler has a vision and it involves one nation under a Herculean groove. That groove has changed over the years as he and his all-singing, all-dancing cast have produced three acclaimed albums. Over the course of their 2008 self-titled debut, 2011’s Blue Songs and last year’s The Feast of the Broken Heart, Hercules & Love Affair have added tougher techno textures to their already established classic disco and giddy house canvas. Live, though, is where Butler and Co excel and they’re a crew capable of turning any festival crowd inside out and upside-down.
Richie Egan’s fifth album as Jape, The Chemical Sea, firmly establishes him as one of the country’s most intriguing talents. Of course, Choice Music Prize wins for previous albums Ritual and Ocean Of Frequency have contributed to his reputation, but the new album has songs which come with considerable creative clout, melodic sparkle and energetic vigour. Séance Of Light, The Heart’s Desire and I Go are easily the match of the more heralded tracks in the Egan canon and are sure to find new leases of life as the Jape bandwagon hits the road for the summer.
From Belfast, Not Squares’ two albums to date have been exciting affairs. Their 2010 debut album Yeah OK was a turbo-powered, dance-pop bobbydazzler, where tracks like Release the Bees and Asylum neatly blended electronic and punk notions. This year’s follow-up Bolts, an album which came on the back of line-up changes and various off-stage delays and distractions, is a tougher, more gritty collection of sand-blasted grooves, an album honed for the dancefloor but thinking about making a splash elsewhere too.
Mr Whippy Soundsystem
Seriously lads, what more do you want other than an ice-cream van turned into a mobile disco? To get technical, Mr Whippy is Dermot McCabe, an architect and record collector who restored a 1972 Ford Transit ice cream van and transformed it into a travelling roadshow for festivals and other outdoor events. McCabe is joined by Lex Woo for this weekend’s shindig and you can expect tropical disco, 1980s boogie, old-school breaks, chilled-out soul, icebreaker funk and a lot of Afro-Latin loop-the-loops blasting out of the van from the pair of spinners.
Hailing from Lisbane in Co Down and based in Glasgow, Joshua Burnside and his cohorts make folk music for people who think they don’t like folk music. The one-time Queens University music composition student has been making waves with his broody powerful folk-pop and EPs like If You’re Goin’ That Way. His calling card for now is Black Dog Sin, a song which has been championed by radio DJs who know what they’re talking about, like BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne.
A group with class and bubblegum-chewing sass, Cave Ghosts play sweet, sticky, dreamy, throwback garage pop as if they’re to the manor born. Around since 2012 – though probably around in a previous alternative universe as Brian Wilson and Phil Spector’s backing band – Cave Ghosts kick out the jams with songs which work their jangle and swing into winning combinations. With releases for the Popical Island and Candy Twist labels, Cave Ghosts have a whole lot going on.
Overhead, The Albatross
Don’t forget the fecking comma - Overhead, The Albatross may be a sub-editor’s nightmare, but it might be a different matter if that essential cog of the newspaper game is into enthralling, widescreen dark, powerful instrumental rock. That’s the Dublin six-piece band’s bag and it has served them very well to date. There have been a couple of minor key releases to date such as Lads With Sticks and Mr Dog, but the band’s focus right now is on finishing and releasing a long-in-the-works debut album. That and making sure we don’t overlook the comma.
Castlepalooza takes place in Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co Offaly, July 31st-Aug 2nd. For more, see castlepalooza.com