The Silent Ballet shameless plugs, Volume Thirteen. Ciaran Byrne - Nine Lives…


Out 14 2008, 16h22



Score: 7/10

Ciaran Byrne is a promising Irish electronic musician who had garnered some positive attention with his first release, Galtrim. Nine Lives Causeway, its follow-up, shows a more confident Byrne crafting even more efficient music that resembles Boards of Canada's. To make things clear, this is not an attack; we couldn't be further away from the realm of plagiarism, this is closer to an homage.

What made so many of us fall in love with BoC's music is, apart from their fantastic skills behind the board, their ability to mix the seriousness of IDM with a sort of goofiness that was achieved through unusual sounds and ridiculous samples. While Byrne downplays most of that silliness in his music, he retains a lot of the carefree overall feeling, barely hiding the complexity of his sequences that made an album like Music Has the Right to Children so enjoyable. He does indeed use the same array of sounds that made the two Scottish experimental artists such household names in IDM, but he comes up with quite challenging methods to make his music.

It would be easy in that context to fall in the "copycat" category, but Byrne put his own stamp in the very foundations of his album to make sure that doesn't happen. For example, where BoC records are very long and composed of short songs giving them a bit of a messy look, Nine Lives Causeway is over after 38 minutes of well-kempt music, telling the listener straight away that nothing here is random, and the same differences can be observed in the construction of each song. Except a few easily recognizable songs like "Happy Cycling" or "Aquarius," it would take quite an assiduous listener of BoC to tell every track from each other, as they often wander off path to experiment and give very little importance to format. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing (indeed, they do it well), Byrne's approach is very different; each song has a firmly defined personality that separates it from the rest.

To those of you who have neither heard of Byrne nor Boards of Canada (shame on you), let me break down Byrne's music on Nine Lives Causeway in further detail. Like most IDM recording artists, he uses drum machines and samplers to sequence the rhythmic parts, and they are in constant evolution even within a track, very rarely the same one measure to another. Both analog and digital synths craft everything from smooth ambient backgrounds to swift melodies, usually in the form of layered soundbites. Halfway between downtempo and ambient, Byrne is part of the school of electronic music that relies on texture and details to convey the soul of each song.

What makes a fan of Boards of Canada like yours truly love Ciaran Byrne's latest output could be seen as relief. A decade has passed since the release of Music Has the Right to Children, and while many tried, no artist has even come close to mimicking efficiently the style of the duo. With the overall disappointment that was their last album (The Campfire Headphase), the need for "filler material" until their next was starting to weigh heavily on the fan's shoulders. What Nine Lives Causeway offers is far more than that; Ciaran Byrne made the righteous choice of only reusing the surface of BoC's music, while giving it his very own heart. The means may be very similar, but everything you'll hear here belongs to Byrne's artistic spirit, and he's easily good enough to stand on his own as an accomplished musician. I, for one, am conquered.

Original Link: The Silent Ballet


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