Anois, Os Ard: March In Irish Underground Music

Eoin Murray catches up with Kilkenny’s Moot Tapes label, and spotlights psychedelic and experimental gems from across the island

Moot Tapes’ Signs Of Life Part 1 by Stephen Morton

A quick glance at the Bandcamp page for Kilkenny’s Moot Tapes label is enough to suck you into its strange sonic universe. Nightmarish figures and other-worldly characters adorn the covers of its 13 releases to date, alongside gnarly abstract splashes and sketches of people hugging, wrestling, hallucinating visions of God or staring bewildered over a laptop screen. Its logo depicts two creepy, cat-like creatures hanging upside down, wrapped in what could be an embrace or a fight – together, they almost take the shape of a human heart.

This mixture of the macabre with an eerie softness embodies the label’s output, which has encompassed everything from dusty breakbeat techno, doomy krautrock and twisted field recordings to crackling ambience and poetic lo-fi folk. With an ethos rooted in representing and cultivating a countrywide experimental music community, and in providing space for unique link-ups and collaborations, Moot Tapes has become a crucial platform in the Irish undergrowth since launching as a label in 2018. Co-founder Stephen Morton puts it simply: “It’s about documenting these very interesting sounds people make while they’re alive.”

Moot dates back to around 2012, originating as a leftist art and music blog. Morton, who creates all the label’s visuals, and his friend Peter Lawlor, aka the electronic music producer and DJ Replete, started hosting gigs, club nights and even a small festival under the name, and held down a monthly DJ residency at Dublin venue, The Bernard Shaw, for several years until it shut. The idea to start a label, which Morton was admittedly quite sceptical about, came as a way for Lawlor to release his more experimental and ambient leaning work. Its debut release, a split cassette with Kilkenny composer Neil Quigley laid the groundwork, with the latter’s track, ‘Death Vapour’, setting the tone for much of the label’s catalogue: disjointed thuds, warm electronic swells and concrète clicks swish about as a robotic voices repeat the track’s title.

Since, the label has championed the works of “friends and friends of friends”. From Static.’s slamming rave cuts and Claire O’Brien’s chillingly intimate songwriting to SSMMÜTT’s scrambled motorik psych and Claire Guerin & Eamon Ivri’s bristling found sound experiments, the label has developed a distinctive identity, even with the sheer amount of variety at play.

In February, Moot released its debut vinyl EP, courtesy of Howlbux (The Altered Hours’ Elaine Howley and Irene Buckley) and Muireann Levis. The first release in the label’s Signs Of Life series, these two tracks occupy a sublime space: a wavering, alien voice repeats a quiet parable over a foggy synth melody in ‘Nightfall/Over’; Levis’ vocals hover above sparse, environmental ambience in ‘Elsewhere’.

The EP’s artwork is the label’s most striking to date, and embodies the “signs of life” the series is hoping to capture: “I was thinking about axolotl and sea creatures and all these new life forms marooning up onto a beach,” says Morton. “There is a broken down sand castle that signifies the fall of empire, of real life castles and the queen and all that shite. Then there’s the final remnants of humans, cans of tenants and amber leaf. Then, buried waist high, is a kind of broken but beautiful person surviving, resurrecting. Then there is the cut off head of a landlord/capitalist in the corner and everything is happy and full of life.”

Signs Of Life: Part 2 was released on 4 March, and features two stunning tracks from Neil Quigley and Irene Buckley, taking in lush electronic beats, cavernous woodwind motifs and a jazz-inflected instrumental jam a lá Tortoise or Do Make Say Think. The plan is to release five parts of the series as a single vinyl volume in due course, but for now, there’s a killer catalogue to rummage through.

Acid Granny – Urban Hurling

Acid Granny isn’t a band, it’s a shopping trolley covered in shit. Sure, there’s an amorphous cast of musicians who’ve pushed it around Dublin for the past four years, playing wild improvised sets on the assorted instruments attached to it – a drum machine or two, a dodgy microphone, a few keyboards and pedals – but for all intents and purposes, the trolley’s the mangled star. Often accompanied by a drum kit and live bass, the troupe’s sound jumps from broken punk and hectic lo-fi pop into screwy free jazz and garbled lyrical jams. On Urban Hurling, they chuck together recordings from some of 2021’s guerrilla street gigs. Rough lyrical observations stumble from “two toddlers standing on top of each other” to scummy landlords and scummier Gardaí. Musically, it’s magnetically odd, and full of fun incidental twists. It’s deranged, irresistibly stupid and genuinely, actually really good. This trolley’s going places.

Dublin – Dublin

Dublin city has frequently played a central role in wherethetimegoes’ catalogue. From Rising Damp’s snarling industrial punk to lastminuteman’s ambient dub odyssey, the capital’s overcast backdrop permeates the label. Dublin by Dublin is, ironically enough, the subtlest representation of this idea: a series of brief, improvised vignettes led by loosely wound electronics, meandering melodies and trembling violins. These abstract ambient pieces are just passing moments – each full of small, independently moving details and lush, incidental flourishes of sound design. It’s a mere suggestion of a city in motion, without any imposed ideas of what that looks like. It’s fleeting, and all the more enticing for it. The gentle pace pairs well with an aimless evening walk.

Spilt Milk Festival – Idir Spilt Milk
(Art For Blind)

Coinciding with the return of its in-person programme in November 2021, the crew behind Sligo’s Spilt Milk Festival curated the Idir zine and audio trail as a way of exploring the town’s outskirts and inner oddities. Festival goers were invited to follow the zine’s map and scan the QR codes they found along its route. Each code triggered a different musical-narrative combo, with specially commissioned stories and essays being paired with audio works that were loosely inspired by the history and ecology of the area. The result is a magical realist portrait of a town, in which depictions of “alien motherships” and “mysterious frog people” are paired with deep, rumbling drones, rustling field recordings, disjointed voices and strange melodies. It’s pretty star-studded too; contributions come from jenn_dream_cycles, Clíona Ní Laoi, Fulacht Fiadh, Natalia Beylis, Olivia Furey and Katie Kim, most of whom have previously featured in this column for their engrossing, off the beaten path productions.

Noel Molloy – Selected Audio Work 1983 – 1999
(Nyahh Records)

Since the late 70s, Roscommon multidisciplinary artist Noel Molloy has made strange, challenging works out of found objects and domestic detritus. Visit his website, and you’ll find contorted scrap metal sculptures of soldiers, dancers, kings and bears. You’ll see an Irish flag, painted across three bottles of holy water. You’ll see a baby’s pram, crudely repurposed into a sort of military vehicle. A rusty mask will stare back at you with a grotesque metallic grin. Molloy’s semi-figurative creations occupy an uncanny space that is tied to the familiar, but is outlandish enough to trigger unique, unpredictable responses. His feverishly out-there performance pieces engage the mind in a similar, synapse-sizzling way; costumes, set designs, abstract actions, cut-up audio and musical extracts allude to themes such as religion, conflict, history and environmentalism, but what it “means” is left entirely to the audience. Selected Audio Work 1983 – 1999, released on Leitrim’s Nyahh Records, stitches together the extracted sounds from some of these performances, leaving the mind to create its own wild, visual accompaniment. This is a collection of growling, hypnotic oddness, full of distorted voices, faint musical interjections and clattering environmental audio. It pulls you into its strange, tactile world, where the sounds of saw on wood, an inter-county fallout warning, and a crumpled clip of a 1930s pop tune become haunting choruses to a concrète symphony. It’s a fascinating document for the archives of experimental Irish art.

MuRLi – The Sky Has Windows
(narolane records)

MuRli approaches music with an acrobatic dexterity. The Limerick MC and producer’s solo work and releases as part of Rusangano Family jump freely through variants of hip hop, footwork and grime into genre-meshing takes on Afrobeats, neo soul and trap. His first EP since 2020’s landmark TILL THE WHEELS FALL OFF – for which he was interviewed in this column – finds him on fierce form, pairing up with guest producers and vocalists for five deft rap cuts brimming with poetic, observational verses. The production on opener ‘All Day’, courtesy of Cork producer Ian Ring, swoops from thumping, gqom-like rhythms into a frothy lo-fi breakdown, with MuRli’s vocals alternating between a magnetic snarl and languid flow. Gemma Dunleavy’s vocals shine on the luminous anthem, ‘Odyssey’. The Godwin-produced ‘Rocks’ finds MuRli linking up with his narolane records comrades God Knows and Denise Chaila for a slice of ultra-dynamic drill. ‘By Design’ and ‘Belly’ tackle personal and universal concerns with MuRli’s usual candour, concluding an EP of pristinely produced hip hop from one of Ireland’s most vital artists.

Ellen King – Images And Sensations
(Crash Ensemble)

GASH COLLECTIVE co-founder ELLLL debuts under her given name alongside the ever-adventurous Crash Ensemble, presenting a brooding 21-minute piece inspired by three types of dream: day, lucid and fever. Drawing on the "disconcertion, déjà vu, nostalgia and deciphering of what is (un)real" that comes from these experiences, King’s composition unfolds in a subtle, mysterious way, executed perfectly by the Crash Ensemble. Their contemporary classical techniques and instrumentation are paired with King’s foggy electronic foundations. The hallmarks of her usual club-focused productions are felt here too, in the crepuscular sound designs and rumbling low-end frequencies. Movements drift on beds of sub-bass and icy white noise; moods shift almost imperceptibly, until a new melody or abstract pattern takes you in its grasp. Ending on a gorgeous, cinematic high, with strings and a chime-like piano motif, Images And Sensations is an evolutionary step for King’s music, and another triumph for her Crash collaborators.



Environmental decline, the decay of nature, symbolism in forms of the Virgin Mary, holograms, the work of Jodorowsky, bogs, death. These are the influences cited by Elaine Malone when it comes to her music as MANTUA. Stepping away from the murky psych-folk and harrowing punk of her work under her own name (and as a member of groups such as Land Crabs, Hex and Soft Focus), the Limerick-born, Cork-based artist leans into her improvisational spirit in this project. Her second album under the alias is one of haunting drones, tremoring distortion and creaking, barely-there vocals. Across seven tracks, growling bass plumes and quaking rhythms underpin Malone’s muttered lyrical delivery. Deceptively gorgeous ambient breathers are cut off by an unshakeable sense of tension, which reaches a feverish climax in the ten minute ‘Leave It’, a track as good as the best psychological horror you’ve seen this year. By the closing credits of ‘Despite My Best Efforts’, you’ll be catching your breath, but ready for more.

Whozyerman? BLINK


There’s a lightness to Paul Savage’s debut album as Whozyerman? Across ten tracks, the ex-O Emperor frontman weaves strands of motorik psych and kosmische into a hazy tapestry, with his knack for a hook and a punchy, acid-tinged jam fully intact. Written and recorded in his bedroom in Bray during lockdown, the album was informed by the slowness and solitude of that time, when he found solace in making music without any particular purpose in mind. Looking out the window to the hills near his home – pictured on the cover in an aptly trippy hue – music poured out of him for its own sake. These tracks go down easy: Ashra-style electronics bubble around in ‘All The Time To Kill’ and ‘Foreign Tongues’ while ‘Why What?’ and ‘Blurbob’ handle smoked-out psychedelia and cosmic Cluster-isms with a wry grip. Savage’s Rizla-rolled vocals burn and curl like smoke throughout, hitting hard on closer, ‘Train Of Thought’. He’s never sounded more comfortable in his own creative skin, and the music soars because of it.

Henry Earnest – Forever

Henry Earnest’s music has a certain magic to it – an alchemical blend of bedroom indie rock, euphoric hyperpop and dreamy electronic ambience. The tracks on his second album, written and recorded while living in Lisbon in 2020, glitter like the sun’s reflection on water; at points gentle and steady, at others almost blindingly bright. The sheer volume of musical ideas woven into 30 minutes is dazzling; lush electronic swells, cinematic strings, lo-fi tenderness and anthemic pop hooks swerve around Earnest’s fizzy pitch-shifted vocals and the meditative “narration” of guest vocalist Dreamcycles. There are hints of Alex G and Frank Ocean on tracks like ‘Free’ and ‘Forever’, while ‘Wings’ and ‘Hymn’ wield the emotional maximalism of Caroline Polachek with Oneohtrix Point Never-like flourishes. There’s even room for some jungle breaks and sizzling rave synths in the album’s radiant closer ‘Stand’. Though self-produced and self-released, Dream River has a huge presence, and a sense of creative ambition that’s impossible to shake.

Shammen Delly – The Peoples Temple OV Big Tom


Ireland’s underground music community lost a genuine visionary last month. When news broke of the sudden passing of Donegal’s Aengus Friel, aka Shammen Delly, on 24 February, there were outpourings of love and respect for the electronic music producer, whose wild tape loop manipulations, tectonic trip hop beats and psychedelic evocations of 70s krautrock, the early Warp Records catalogue, the Inishowen peninsula, and Irish country music star Big Tom pointed to a truly singular talent. Friel made the sort of music you dream of when you fall asleep in front of the TV late at night – like hearing another universe transmit through a banjaxed cassette. More than that though, he was, by all accounts, a warm-hearted, funny, kind and beautiful soul, whose support and enthusiasm for music being made at the fringes in Ireland was undeniable and sincere. If you listen to nothing else from this column, please listen to this incredible, intoxicating 2020 release. Dig through his Bandcamp, and then watch this live set filmed at the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny. Play it loud, keep ‘er lit.

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