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Slow Place Like Home
When I See You… Ice Cream! Brian Coney , January 23rd, 2018 10:39

From Northern Ireland, a singular mind creates a singular electronic album - a rich and idiosyncratic gem

Though Ireland’s more enterprising electronic scenes are largely bonded by a cross-country network of producers, promoters, bookers and bloggers, some of the more idiosyncratic musical minds flourish just beyond the geographical and psychic peripheries.

Keith Mannion, aka Slow Place Like Home, is one such act. Based in the isolated forests of South Donegal, he has spent the last few years honing some sublimely cloistered sounds in his remote home studio. Following a series of singles and promising EPs, his 2015 debut album, Romola, presented a statement of gossamer-like intent and sleepy-headed electro-pop that betrayed the hallmarks of an artist with a keen ear for playful, almost mischievous idiosyncrasy. Its follow-up, When I See You… Ice Cream!, takes that singular spirit and applies it to a widescreen vision.

With opener and recent single ‘Office Dancers’, When I See You... moors the listener on familiar Slow Place territory; ‘Phoenix’ has a cosy, submerged electro ambience, and the playful burst of glitching snaps and synth on ‘Shadowcat’ is straight-up bedroom-pop meddling that feels simultaneously homespun and sleek. As the album progresses, that dichotomy between lo- and hi-fi becomes testament to Mannion’s knack for stretching DIY technique into slick territory.

With all songs written, performed and produced by Mannion, the woozy experimentalism of When I See You… retains the almost voyeuristic feel that made Romola so infinitely listenable. But unlike its predecessor, there is a focus writ large here that ensures many tracks burrow deep. From the dancefloor miasma of ‘Model Spies with Turquoise Eyes’ and the album’s Hot Chip-conjuring closer ‘Falesia’ to the hymnal brood of ‘Monocles & Ribbons’ and the album’s title track (a highlight initially imagined on a Casio SK-5 united before being “deployed” to several other instruments via vocal samples and some sublime 8-bit abandon), this is material stemming from quiet moments of real, concentrated animus and inspiration.

The most compelling songs here retain the somnambulant sway of earlier SPLH material. With its washes of woozy synth and fizzy acid flourishes, single ‘Echoes’ - bolstered by the fiendish croon of Fearghal McKee from Irish cult alternative rock band Whipping Boy - is one such example. As is ‘Juno’, an outright peak featuring guest vocals from Northern Irish artist Laura McGarrigle aka Gaze Is Ghost. Melding the dreamy immersion of Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise with the more restrained, sax-driven sobriety on Bowie’s Blackstar, its wistfulness is tempered by an almost imperceptible glint in Mannion’s eye.

Right down to its abstruse titling, When I See You… Ice Cream! is a record that clearly isn’t playing ball. But it mirrors a certain outsider mettle and mindset that has set Slow Place Like Home that little bit apart from his more industry-minded peers. Though no Mannion is an island, the projected insularity of Slow Place Like Home has always been a big part of what makes his music so inviting. By expanding that singularity, When I See You… Ice Cream! quietly emerges as one of the Irish albums of the past year, at the very least.

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