A Year in Music – 2021 – Cathal Coughlan

A Year in Music – 2021 – Cathal Coughlan

How are you? How have you been?

I have the trepidation of someone who’s seemingly permanently on unfamiliar ground, but I’m pleasantly very busy, and most days bring moments of spontaneous fun or uplift.

Do you think we’re over the worst at this stage?

In terms of the illnesses, maimings and deaths, we hopefully are – in numbers, anyhow. But in terms of political corruption and hijacking of all kinds, of new forms of hostility between neighbours and the have/have-not nations, of over-stretched healthcare and the ever-present danger of being the morbid outlier, we’re now in the long tail which I (for one) have been dreading all along.

I can only hope that 2022 is a better year than the last two. Those whose forebears might have known better should please stop telling us to buck up and swallow our share of this virus and its successors. They should stop demanding that we once again pledge our loyalty to forced urbanisation and the authoritarian casino capital which drives it. That would help. It might even prolong the existence of the species, but that’s not the central aim of those people.

What music/albums did you particularly enjoy in 2021?

Like everyone else now, I have only half an idea as to what’s come out in what year, but I think these were all 2021…anyhow, I loved
hearing them all this year.

The albums would be:

Joan as Police Woman/Dave Okumu/Tony Allen “The Solution Is Restless” (not a ‘jam’ record, despite the three huge talents – just really special)

Various Artists “In The Echo: Field Recordings from Earlsfort Terrace” (esp. Lisa O’Neill and Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s version of Peggy Gordon, which is timeless and profound)
Daniel Figgis “The Typing Pool” (EP)
Sons of Kemet “Black To The Future” (cinematic and in every way massive)
Adrian Crowley “The Watchful Eye of the  Stars”
Chris Connelly & Monica Queen “The Birthday Poems”
Daniel O’Sullivan “Fourth Density”
John Grant ‘Boy From Michigan’ (esp. “County Fair”, which always chokes me up – I could die happy if I could write such a song)


But of course, there were individual songs galore, which floated in by various means – some were Big Pop at its finest, like Sharon van Etten /Angel Olsen’s “Like I Used To” and Ger Eaton’s “The Time It Takes To Fall”; others were things which are just plain exciting in diverse ways, like Dragon Welding “Lights Behind The Eyes”, Sean O’Hagan feat. Livvy O’Hagan “The Wild Are Welcome”;  Nukuluk “Ooh Ah”; and Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee’s “N’yanyan”

Yep, the list contains several people whom I know. I’m proud and fortunate to do so.

You’ve had a really productive year with both the Song of Co-Aklan album and the Telefís project.  Are you happy with how they’ve been received?

Very much so, yes. Song Of Co-Aklan got the most hearing any work of mine has had in a long time (due in no small part to my label, Dimple Discs), and that sets me up for the next one, hopefully, as well as vindicating a lot of hard work and times, and the goodwill of those who helped me make it.

Telefís (we’re sticking with the ‘commercial’ rather than the canonical spelling) is especially close to my high spirits at the moment, as we have a great second album which we’re working on, and people haven’t even heard some of the biggest tunes from the first one yet – it comes out in February 2022.

How do you feel about playing/attending gigs?

Not good at present. I know people who have bitten the bullet and toured this autumn, and I understand and support that, but it’s been tough for them, and to be honest, I look at pics and videos of the small informal venues (particularly) and think, for me, “not yet”.

The arts have had a particularly tough time right through the pandemic, in comparison to other sectors.  Is it difficult to keep going?

It would be impossible to keep going if one had what were once the rational expectations of acclaim and sustenance, but most people making uncommercial music past the age of 25 nowadays are not in it for the latter, with only limited eyes on the former, and I count myself as very much in that group. This pre-dates the pandemic, of course.

Anything else going on with you outside of music?

In the physical world – detachment! Escalating.

What are you looking forward to next year, musically?

I’m seeing Einsturzende Neubauten for the first time in 30-odd years, next summer. That should be pretty huge and life-affirming, in my universe. I’d love to see any Shabaka Hutchings project live, and will be looking out to make that happen. Or electronic music on Sherkin Island. Many of the people listed above have new music on the way, too.

Have you any plans yourself next year?

Hopefully, there will be the two Telefís albums, and I’ll complete my next solo album. It would be great to play solo live, and I’m working towards that, too. Sometimes the scary road is the only route to the easier one.


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