“There is a buzz in the city with lots of young artists making music, much more than a few years back. It is only a matter of time before Belfast has a group of people working together on a new forward thinking sound. Belfast has always punched above its weight and we both really think it’s only going to go from strength to strength, especially with the likes of AVA (and the many other events) inspiring everyone.” Bicep
Walking around Belfast now gives you a quiet sense of pride. Culture Night for example. The city transformed into an entirely different world; like walking into another dimension. Northern Ireland’s capital has come on leaps and bounds since the days of hate and detest. Now it is inhabitated by restaurants and cafes serving dishes from a variety of cultures. A healthy mixture of old bars and the more recently conceived. Artwork supporting equality and togetherness looks down at those below.
The islands electronic music scene has produced a wonderful array of talent. What began as a mere seed has now sprouted into an organism blossoming with artistry and excitement. Ireland is making itself heard. Bicep, Space Dimension Controller, Phil Kieran, Mano Le Tough. The list goes on. Concepts such as Twitch and Shine have championed and cultivated local acts, combining them with artists from around the world to create diverse and forward thinking line ups that project a light on those established and emerging. Labels such as DSNT and Extended Play, and artistic collectives such as Guerrilla Shout, only further emphasise the abundance of creativity.
Bicep’s upcoming curation at WHP is a perfect illustration of Ireland’s flair. The line up features international stardom in the form of Jeff Mills, Rodhad, Midland and Motor City Drum Ensemble. Lining up alongside them will be Ireland’s very own Bicep, Or:la, Holly Lester and more. A glorious concoction of worldwide and local sound, and one that paints a picture of a promising future for Ireland’s electronic music scene. Add AVA’s WHP appearance, with Jordan, Timmy Stewart and Schmutz, into the mix and you begin to notice the detail to that extravagant piece.
We think Bicep’s curation is a little bit special, so we spoke to the house dons themselves, as well as Or:la, Hammer and Holly Lester about the development of Ireland’s artists and club culture, the importance of diversity within development and the unique intensity of an Irish crowd.
07 / 07
The Planting of the Seed
Irelands musical heritage is by no means strictly electronic. The Undertones, Van Morrison, Stiff Little Fingers. The depth of the islands sound knows no bounds.
An expedition into new and exciting sound began with raves in art colleges and parties belonging to afterhours culture, both providing an escape to the backdrop of the troubles and a satisfaction of sound due to the lack of suitable venues and limited closing hours. That’s not to say Ireland didn’t have any decent venues. Kelly’s Lush in Portrush is a place that Glasgow based Hammer remembers fondly. “We used to hire a coach and travel to Lush in Portrush all the time when I was in my mid teens to see the likes of Carl Cox, that place was an institution!”
Fastforward to the present day and you’ll identify that the musical heritage of Ireland has expanded even further. Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar started the Feel My Bicep blog in 2008, posting hundreds of tracks a week to the delight of sound enthusiasts. Since then the pair have went on to found their own label, conduct an improvised live show and have played at some of the biggest events and festivals on the circuit. A relocation to London only enhanced their musical knowledge, and I’m interested in how they feel the scene has grown back home since they ventured across the water.
“There has been a noticeable rise in the younger audiences getting into the scene. The choice of nights has also got much better. When we lived in Belfast, techno and house wasn’t really the cool thing and attracted a more niche audience. There also wasn’t really a great number of nights to choose from whereas now there’s absolutely loads of really exciting nights and new venues.”
Manchester based artist Holly Lester has noticed a significant change in Ireland’s electronic music community since her move. She mirrors Bicep’s views on the attraction of a younger audience as she tells me, “A lot more teens and young people are into electronic music these days – more specifically house music. I mean, it’s kind of exploded in the UK in the past five years – everyone wants to throw parties or learn to DJ etc. I would say this is probably due to the crossover and commercialisation of “deep house” in recent years. The good thing about this is that the people who enjoy these kinds of records will also go to underground parties at some point, which in turn will make a lot of them want to discover more underground music.”