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LP Feature/Daniel Patrick Quinn: "West to the Irish Sea"

img  Tobias

This release is a nice metaphor for what is happening in Daniel Patrick Quinn’s life at the moment. With the homepage of his previous label, Suilven, now definitely offline and all of his digital footprints all but wiped out, the vinyl of “West to the Irish Sea” captures some of the finest moments of that era on what today constitutes the most nostalgic and tangible format.

It hereby mirrors his move from the countryside to the city and his artistic reorientation away from Ambient and Drones towards Jazz, Soul and (albeit somewhat hidden) Krautrock. This, then, may effectively be the last chance for some time to catch Quinn perform his unmistakable “songs about hills” and take listeners to that quiet place depicted on the front cover.

Sure enough, it is a brief ride. With only six tracks and a playing time of less than thirty minutes, don’t expect “West to the Irish Sea” to come as an early “Greatest Hits” collection or a complete “Best Of”. To a sizeable degree, Quinn has taken the opportunity to turn the record into more than just a collection of loose tracks and into an album in its own right. Sure enough, popular favourites like “The Burryman” (which got them a spot in Channel 4’s “4 Talent” show, Holger Czukay comparisons included) and “Northern” (which continues turning up in the live program of his new band One More Grain) have not been omitted. But other than that, “West to the Irish Sea” is an introvert, integral and quiet work, a moment of looking back at a good, but anything-but-easy era with feelings of love and no regrets whatsoever.

The instrumental pieces especially evoke pictures of dawn over the fields, of the end of a hard day, when the gaze is free and the first few glasses of whiskey have been emptied. Quinn’s harmonies circle endlessly and without resolution, full of longing and sweet lament, occasionally woeful but never depressed, yearning for an escape but peacefully accepting that there is none. “The cars look like toys from up there/ The world looks like a game from up there”, he remarks on “Northern”, which describes him slowly ascending the hills to his personal place of refuge and serves as a hopeful introduction to the album – before the tone gets more sombre and reflective.

It is interesting that Quinn’s style has been boxed into every genre imaginable, because his entire approach defies categories. His music exists in a place out of time. The gentle electronic influences, the soft synthesizer pads or subtle recordings of wind and rustling leaves reveal the contemporary nature of the pieces, but the focus on instruments like the fiddle and the tambourine, Quinn’s storytelling and the way a lot of these tracks seem to be suspended between two strokes of the clock, have more on common with travelling musicians from the middle ages than the Top40.

Closing track “Nine Standards Rigg”, with its reverbing trumpet breaths and looped organ melody, makes for a bridge between these compositions, dating back to 2004 and 2005, and the One More Grain catalogue, stripped off all agitation, the caffeinated excitment and the groove. That, too, is a nice metaphor for what is happening in Daniel Patrick Quinn’s life at the moment.

While “West to the Irish Sea” works with minimal instrumentations, his recent output has been layered to the brim, with the band already searching for an addition to their lineup, because there’s too much going on simultaneously. This journey is not just one of melancholy, it is one into a period of innocence and purity, when the smallest things could mean so much. It’s a happy, not a sad end to a chapter.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Daniel Patrick Quinn at MySpace
Homepage: Wee Black Skelf Records

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