Ken McHugh is a recording engineer and musician from Dublin. This delicious collection of pieces is testimony to those two sides, and no less than you'd expect from such a culturally rich city.
"My Sanctuary", his first full album of solo work, has eleven tracks blending electronic structures, natural instruments and real voices. The result is a human-sounding cycle of engaging and beautiful sounds. The range is beyond industry limits of what you’re normally allowed to take to market in one cover. But it spends enough time with each piece to build, display and complete a scene before moving gently onto a new neighbourhood. McHugh's folk roots show through in the way that every piece makes an integrated musical statement of song-like narrative. The astonishment of new sounds and twists is always deftly telegraphed, so the journey proceeds with a natural and awestruck comfort. Much like a walk through Dublin itself.
Cathy Davey and Carol Keogh sing their own lyrics on seven of the tracks and young Michael O'Rourke renders "To Be a Robot" in finely poignant style with Eimar O'Grady adding telling cello lines. The spoken lines of computer error and hard drive failure are the saddest and most mysterious words you'll hear all year.
Ken sings the oddball languor of single "Jive County" which I love like a friend. The website has a nutty video, but the song lives perfectly well on its own account. It has an alt-country feel, with spikes of contemporary sound splinters that tickle the jaded palette like the best chilli. Curling up like chocolate behind it is "Out of This", with Carol Keogh singing warm and insistent reassurance against a background of Japanese counterpoint vocals and very fine backing track. It’s adult accomplished pop at its best.
"Hide and Seek" is an impressive soundscape that takes its longer time frame with South East Asian nuances and a firm pulse. Carol Keogh's voice threads it together and glitchy stutters punctuate harp sounds.
"Jellyman" has Cathy Davey singing virtuoso words to a tune that could be a 70's punk throwback, with real big bass and drums and a Space Invaders keyboard riff. Lovely.
Let the music be your friend, too.