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Inbound/exclusive remix stream: SlowPlaceLikeHome


A self-proclaimed “cosmic forest-dweller”, fast-rising South Donegal musician Keith Mannion AKA SlowPlaceLikeHome has spent the last two years increasingly beguiling us with his sublimely somnambulant craft. Following on from a string of wonderful EPs last year – collectively bookending his extremely promising debut album, There Go The Lights Again – Mannion is set to release the ten-track Romola next month, an albums that us all but seduced already, thanks to singles, ‘She Comes In Colour Stereo’ and ‘Luna’.

Accompanied with an exclusive remix stream of John Daly’s take on the former track (below), Brian Coney chats to Mannion about the inspirational value of isolation, the release of his forthcoming second album and forging his own sonic path.

Hi Keith. Let’s get it out of the way: how did you come up with the name SlowPlaceLikeHome? It’s nice and Googleable. Are you a Wizard of Oz fan?

I sure am! One of the best movies ever. But alas, no, it has nothing to do with that tongue twister. The phrase ‘SlowPlaceLikeHome’ was a nod to the relaxed approach taken in the general scheme of things, in rural areas. I was eating a Wham bar at the time of reckoning.

You’re from South Donegal. From your early EPs up until now, one expects the scenery in your particular part of the world proves extremely inspiring?

It is a mandatory in what I do. I use field recordings quite a bit and crunch them up, to utilize in any way I wish. Luckily, nature doesn’t charge you royalties, otherwise I’d be screwed.

Speaking of your earliest ruminations, what compelled you to start writing and recording music, and how did you go about that at that early stage?

I never had the patience or finances, to take lessons in anything, so I was quite the messer when it came to learning all instruments. I was more keen in harnessing a melody and watching it manifest into a composition. Like attempting to mix that transcendence of what Delta Blues gives you, with almost free-association layers of instrumentation. I always wanted to find ‘my sound’ but what I found was I wasn’t content with anything that was easy. It’s always changing.

If ‘She Comes In Colour Stereo’ and ‘Luna’ is anything to go by, you’ve really expanded on your recorded approach since the release of There Go The Lights Again. Can you tell us a little about that journey and how you’ve matured?

Matured? Ha! Good one! The journey between TGTLA and Romola has been a long and winding one. Thankfully after a slight derailment, it managed to get itself back on track. There was a totally new angle taken with this record. It is now time to move things on slightly. The aging Westlife fanbase don’t know what they’re in for!

Whilst I’m reminded of John Maus, John Talabot, Ulrich Schnauss and Irish artists like Patrick Kelleher and Solar Bears on the former track and a whole range of different stuff on the latter, you’re obviously tapping into something quite unique and distinctive. What influences do you think have seeped into Romola and how important is originality to you as a musician?

Both the latter artists you mentioned there, are people I respect. I don’t, however, see myself as anything like what’s going on at the moment. I consciously stopped listening to new releases for nearly the last two years. I just did not want my initial ideas hijacked, by what I would perceive as accidental outside influence.

Nothing is totally original but I don’t even have to steer away from the faddish sounds that you know will be null and void in a year’s time. It’s just obvious. I like how I do things right now. If it’s not someone’s thing, then so be it. Don’t think I’ll revert to the boat shoe/beard/footballer’s haircut combo just yet!

SPLH - Live in Letterkenny july 18th 2014 b (1)

Did you choose to play any new instruments or experiment with any recording techniques on the album?

Now now, that’d be telling! This record seemed to take forever to finally finish. Besides, I’d hate to make a mundane list of tech stuff. It feels like showing off, to me. I usually make music off things you would turn your nose up at, if you saw it in a trash can.

A blog recently called you an “interstellar forest-dweller”- quite a nice phrase. How decisive a role does rural isolation and the cosmos play in your music?

Ha! I actually came up with that, as a catchphrase to describe myself, quite some time ago. Rural isolation was what kick-started this project. It doesn’t have to finish it but I’m pretty sure that it’s what sustained it so far.

Romola is set for release via Bluestack Records on August 11. Judging by their roster, you’re in very good company. How did that partnership come about?

Afraid you’ll have to ask Mark at Bluestack about that one. But as I recall, I caught him stealing underpants off my clothesline and instead of reporting it to the proper authorities, there was a swag bag offered and a record deal in tow.
He’ll be sure to add; I’m his hero. Or categorically deny all of the above.

Your music – sometimes subtle, other times gloriously overt in its nocturnal majesty – has quite a visual bent, nicely captured on the video for ‘There Goes The Light Again’ and ‘She Comes In Colour Stereo’. Do you have plans for a video or two for the new album?

Why thank you kindly. I have been very lucky to work with Jules Hackett and both Ciara Kennedy and Brigitta Szaszfai. They produced some amazing videos on extremely low budgets, in conjunction with my music.  I have plans to do more for the months approaching.

I’ve seen your profile grow and grow over the last few months, and with very good reason. My first introduction to your music came via Stephen McCauley on BBC Radio Foyle/Ulster (a first-rate regional supporter, if there ever was one). How have you found the whole process of self-promotion, collaborating with the likes of the label and getting gigs arranged over the last while?

Stephen McCauley is one of those gems that come along now and again. His knowledge of what’s going on around him and his intelligent research, makes him a very important figure. Not just at BBC but for the Northern Ireland music scene. Without Stephen, who knows how you would have found my music. Certainly not as easily as you did.

Working with anyone is a two way street. Bluestack Records and myself seem to both sing from the same hymn sheet, as such. As for gigs, I have played a number of nice sets in some lovely set-ups, over the past few months. In fact, just last Friday (July 18) Bluestack organized a night as part of the Earagail Arts festival, in Letterkenny – and what a wonderful night it was too (I was made aware there is a review up on BBC’s Across The Line website). I think it was one of our best sets yet. Such energy in that room that night. It was as if , during the set, we were all transported away to our own little paradise island for an hour.

Finally, with the release of Romola next month, what’s on the cards in terms of shows (anything in the pipeline for overseas?) and getting it out there?

World-wide takeover, baby! There have been lots of discussions with bookers/agents/distributors over the past while. These next few months will be very busy indeed. There will be a chance for everyone to see our live show. In the immediate, we are on the mainstage at Castlepalooza on Aug 2, the wonderful Stendhal Festival on Aug 9 and your very own No Tomorrow at Belfast’s Voodoo on Saturday, September 6. There’s loads in the pipeline aswell, which will be announced as soon as it’s all confirmed.

Until then, let this album play on those who discover it.  “Where words leave off, music begins.” – Heinrich Heine.

is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.