2016 was a year marked by loss. Internationally, we lost some of our biggest heroes: David Bowie, Prince and Motorhead’s Lemmy. And at home, we lost some of our own local heroes – the legendary Bap Kennedy, and the tragically young Stevie Martin.
These are losses not easily forgotten. Yet out of that darkness, in the achievements of our local artists, we can remember eachother through our shared musical heritage.
One such beacon for our folk heritage is the latest album from Malojian, This Is Nowhere. Lurgan’s Stevie Scullion now joined by Joe McGurgan on bass and drummer née multi-instrumentalist Michael Mormecha.
Colm Laverty’s ‘Document’, screened at The MAC in November, traced Malojian’s international journey and the efforts that saw This Is Nowhere’s production. The album, produced in Chicago out of Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio, steers Malojian deeper into alt-folk territory and maturity, and leaves a warm reminder that there can be growth amidst loss.
The album opens with title track ‘This Is Nowhere (Aren’t You Lonely?)’ a somewhat upbeat, somewhat bitter track that takes a nosedive into Revolver-esque fuzz. This is followed up by the first single released from the album I’ll Be Alright. Although not a sharp departure from the signature Malojian tone, it becomes clear quickly that one of the album’s key strengths is in its production value. Percussion comes through strong, bass and guitar are sequenced perfectly and vocals cut cleanly through the mix. Albini conjures Stevie’s voice to us through the cold Chicago air.
Dam Song shows the band’s rhythmic versatility, prairie guitar playing off the track’s rich dynamics. A moving vocal line recalls Neil Young in its central strength, while instrumentally conjuring Beck and Sufjan Stevens.
‘Lean On Me’ captivates with the titular hook “Lean on me, I’ll lean on you”, and is tempered by the follow-up ‘You’re A Part Of Me’, an introspective track that both laments while showcasing lyrical strength. Production value again comes to the front with strings lending the track ambience and emotional depth.
‘Calling Borneo’ is satirical, quintessentially Malojian in how it tackles the universal, mundane experience of cold-callers: “Every time they call me I am at my tea, tried to change my number but they followed me”, then ‘Feel So New’ and ‘Whittle Me Down’ keep pace with captivating rhythms and ambient multi-tracking.
‘The Great Decline’ rounds off the album. The LP ends in a pairing of emotional grandeur and instrumental simplicity. Vocals are reflective and sobering, layered over a graceful piano line that builds alongside backing vocals and strings, the voicings artfully paralleling those of the opening title track.
Overall, This Is Nowhere comes through in strength. An emotional release from a band that has seen deepening maturity and growth in a year of heartbreaking loss. An artistic reminder that despite our unforgettable losses, we can never lose our musical heritage.