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Agitated Radio Pilot - "Your Turn to Go it Alone"
The first thing that strikes you about Colohan's music is his voice; at once pliable and tenacious, this is the sort of vocal that only years of brooding can bring about. Add to that the sort of guitar parts that are design to lift the soul - that seem to identify with us as humans and you have a record that is as near to perfection as us mere mortals could hope for. Smog, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, John Fahey... fans of all these with find solace here.
Agitated Radio Pilot has in a few years released more essential, beautiful music than more well known artists produce in a career.
His music combines deeply introspective songs with miniature rural instrumentals. Last Year's 'Your Turn To Go It Alone' was almost
too sad for words, reaching a place only the likes of Talk Talk have found before. Slow clarinet playing as though every note must
be accounted for and stately piano chords open the release which then becomes the sublime song of loss 'Hold Back The Sea'. The quality
of this song like many of the artists absolutely stopped me in my tracks. The restrained expression of pain similar to some of David
Sylvian's solo music. The release carries on consistently with lyrics that flow by like exquisite but unnoticed poetry. From just his
vocals and guitar, we are utterly drawn into his grief, underlined with great impact by soft mournful melodies on surrounding instruments.
'Becky Came By' offers more hope, just her temporary presence giving a reason for living. The contrast is marked, the tumbling, chiming guitars
affirming all that is good. The joy does not last though as each song leads us by the hand into his gradual acceptance, until we too are almost
in tears and calling his love back. But there is something wonderfully unexpected by this music, it's deep sense of regret and loss is not depressing,
if anything we are instead uplifted. He is not setting out to make bleak music, but to find his way through and in doing so, we likewise find
ourselves still standing at the end, blinking into the sunlight at the possibility of trying one more day. There is a second CD with this
release that contains two extended pieces. 'We Can't Last' starts as a contemplative instrumental but becomes a resigned song that builds
through a lead trumpet to express the artists' feelings of injustice at the split he knows is coming. The 'Barren Ground Assembly' feels like
the ancient spirits of Ireland given voice. Slow electronic chords emerge with endless electric guitar and clarinet at the fore evoking the land
changing over eons not years.
Your Turn to Go It Alone, is a double 3" CD-R set on the Rusted Rail imprint housed in a really striking mini-gatefold sleeve, marking the beginning of
a new phase in Agitated Radio Pilot recordings. Mostly deeply personal meditations on relationships gone wrong, and very well recorded, it nonetheless
connects to the mordant atmospheres of earlier releases, building them into downbeat singer-songwriter statements that run the gamut from Jandek to Townes
Van Zandt. "Emmet St. 1" functions as an intro to disc one, Colohan's bleak piano offset against Sean Og's thoughtful clarinet. One of Colohan's finest
vocal performances amps up the heartbreak on "Hold Back the Sea", the refined agony of a recently fractured relationship laid bare. Townes Van Zandt haunts
the striking "Get Well Soon", and there is something deeply iconic about line like: "And I don't blame you for giving up on me/One too many times I missed
the loneliness in your kiss and the distance in your smile" and "There will come a time when I hope that you'll regret/Never telling me to get well soon/you
know I would have tried". Elsewhere, "Last Ride" is splendid slice of psych-folk, culled from a dream of animated garden gnomes, talking cats and asylum
inmates, and the title track is extraordinary in its evocation of a guy drinking away another broken relationship without having really learnt anything
from it thus pre-destined to make the same mistakes again. Disc two contains two extraordinary pieces. "We Can't Last" takes the themes of disc one and
wraps them in an epic almost progressive rock structure, with UBS member Colin Hoye contributing gut-wrenching trumpet and Pumice member Stephan Neville
weighing in with distressed percussion. Dave's rich vocals come from inside a relationship this time, but with a level of pessimism that seems like a
rehearsal of its ultimate failure. "The Barren Ground Assembly" finds Dave and his collaborators traveling through an improvised space recalling the live
United Bible Studies release Airs of Sun and Stone, though lit by the moon rather than the morning sun. The title refers to a name given to herds of Caribou.
In all, Your Turn to Go It Alone is an unexpected masterpiece.
ARP is a project driven by Village lynchpin Dave Colohan (United Bible Studies, Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree, Holt) with collaborators relevant to each piece. The debut ARP release on Deserted Village, 'A Drifting Population' was semi-improvised electric guitar and piano instrumentals inspired by experiencing the Australian outback, and is well worth tracking down if you can, and there are more out there on micro-labels for the curious this new one is more "Irish" in its privileging of misty airs and haunted balladry. 'Emmet St. 1' set the atmosphere nicely with some nice interplay between Colohan's bleak piano and United Bible Student Sean Og on clarinet. This resonant introduction gives way to one of Colohan's finest and most personal songs 'Hold Back the Sea', which recalls some of the fractured observations to be found on the superb Holt CD '80 Mile Beach'. Equally majestic is 'Get Well Soon', which has Colohan on voice, acoustic guitar and e-bow, and is apparently named after a Vincent Gallo/Courteney Cox film. And sonically, Townes Van Zandt does indeed cast a long shadow. 'Becky Came By' sounds like a piece designated for an imaginary second Holt album, speaking as it does to Colohan's obviously rich backpacking experiences in Australia. 'Fireplace Road' is another fine ballad, the lyrics compiled from psychic remnants of a time Colohan spent living on Long Island near where some of his favourite painters (De Kooning and Pollock) used to live. The title track is a keen slice of melancholia fractured relationship music with a hummed guide track for brass that reminded the artists involved of Roy Harper's 'When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease' so they left it in to great effect. 'Last Ride' is a psychedelic folk treasure, emanating from a dream of walking garden gnomes, talking cats and the mental hospital in Mullingar (a recurring theme for Colohan). Without obvious gothic moves, it manages to be deeply odd and not a little creepy, a little like Current 93. Disc 1 of the set is neatly bracketed by 'Emmet St. 2', Sean Og on flute this time.
Disc 2 contains two lengthy pieces that demonstrate the progressive and improvisation aspects of not only ARP, but the United Bible Student movement as a whole. At its heart it is a psychodrama of a ballad, but it is augmented by some wonderfully heartbroken trumpet and wildly disorienting and distorted percussion that pays tribute to the NZ racket-mongers Pumice. It comes off as a species lounge music viewed through a broken mirror of contaminated pharmaceuticals. 'The Barren Ground Assembly' is a full class of students zoning out through an improvised space not dissimilar to that on the United Bible Student live release 'Airs of Sun and Stone', though it has less of that work's morning raga feel, being more of a night creature. Successfully recalling vast moonlit prairie spaces, as it well might, with a title referring to a name given to herds of Caribou.
Although a core element of the Deserted Village stable of projects, ARP have chosen to release their latest work on the new
Irish label Rusted Rail. It's a nice package though, quite why the release needed to be a double 3" set rather than a single
standard set is moot. I get the idea that the short songs on disc 1 are quite different to the extended tracks on disc 2,
but I think most folks could mentally compartmentalise were they to be on a single 5" disc, which is what I'm going to do to
the tracks right now they'll be nice to have in the car for company.
This double 3" package is a treasure. The glorious world-weary dryness of David Colohan's voice is here
aplenty, reminding me of his work with Holt and songs that keep pulling me back time and again. In addition,
we have lovely clarinet and flute from Sean Og, plus trumpet and chord organ. Disc 1 has short songs and
instrumentals; the second has 2 longer instros, the latter of these an irridescent group improvisation.
In his description of the tracks, Colohon even mentions Roy Harper's When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease -
this man can be my friend for life on the strength of such fine taste!
Agitated Radio Pilot is based around the artist David Colohan, this is deeply rooted in traditional old style
british folk music with plenty of avant garde and acid folk moments, take some traditional seventies folk sounds
and basically strip it right back to its bare essentials of acoustic sounds and simple untreated vocals,
there are lots of avant garde droning keys and wind instruments slowly merging into the mix, really beautiful
stuff, double 3 inch cd which comes in a handmade card gatefold sleeve.
Agitated Radio Pilot is the solo project of Ireland's Deserted Village collective member David Colohan.
I'm more familiar with Agitated Radio Pilot's instrumental characterization of unease, but the first disc in
this double 3" cdr set crystallizes this sound of unease into words. On it, Colohan spins wistful songs of loss
lamenting the ephemeral nature of human relationships and the tragic flaws that hasten their demise. Colohan
uses his role as storyteller to inhabit these characters and their lack of insight into their flaws only makes
them more poignant. It's like watching a movie where characters compound their poor interpersonal choices with
further misdiagnosis of what they should have done; it's almost too painful to watch. But it is also engaging
because it works on so many levels. In "Get Well Soon", Colohan laments "One too many times I missed/The
loneliness in your kiss" and then later admonishes his ex for not telling him to "get well soon" because
"I would have tried" as if the failure of their relationship was ultimately due to her inability to prod him
to action. He seems painfully ignorant of the myriad ways in which humans actually communicate. In
"Hold Back the Sea" his relationship is cast as a protective wall against the onrushing waves of impending
heartache. But is one's lover ever truly a barrier to the world's deluge? Musically, the songs are perfectly
pitched chamber folk with gorgeous melancholy acoustic guitar, arching organ, clarinet (played beautifully by
Sean Og, another Deserted Villager) playing off each other. Though it's clearly Colohan's show, almost every
track features great guest appearances from Stephen O'Brien, Gavin Prior, Colin Hoye, and the aforementioned
Sean Og. For all of the loner lyrical tendencies, these contributions remind us that in the real world, Colohan
is far from truly isolated. While the first disc is comprised of lovely miniatures, the second contains only
two tracks. "We Can't Last" is possibly my favorite on the whole disc. Colin Hoye's plaintive trumpet hovers
above a bed of piano and acoustic guitar minor key figures. Colohan's deep resonant voice then paints a picture
of doomed relationship that is crushed by the weight of personal history. By the time distorted drums and
stuttered piano chords kicks in to an oblong groove and Hoye's trumpet again casts its magic spell, the
emotional effect is complete. The final epic track is more of the full-on instrumental droning abstraction
that shifts and sways with an awkward quiet grace over its thirteen plus minutes. This kind of meditative
release seems inevitable after the raw exposition of pain that preceded it. It is as if Colohan's pain in
hearing himself tell his own story becomes too much to bear and a retreat to pure emotion is the only recourse.
It's the perfect finale to another fine, if low key, release from a talented songsmith.
"The rain that will come turns land into sea for a time" (Becky Came By)
During one week in May, 2006 more than twenty inches of rain fell on the north shore of Massachusetts. Rivers burst their edges, pouring through streets and pooling in empty fields. Even weeks later trees could be seen sticking out of newly formed marshes. Whole sections of land had changed, becoming new environments. The world had transformed in the blink of an eye. Then, when the water had receded, it was as if nothing had ever happened.
The mystery of the natural world, its movements and rhythms flow through the music of Dave Colohan. His latest
flight as the "Agitated Radio Pilot" "Your Turn to Go It Alone" is the first release on his newly created
label Rusted Rail. The album is split between two 3-inch cds and housed in a miniature handmade gatefold sleeve.
"Your Turn..." runs the gamut between spectral Current 93-style folk, Harold Budd-esque electro/acoustic compositions,
but maintains Colohan's unique, striking musical vision. It's the attention to detail here, the perfect balance
of instrumentation and space that make these songs seem so open and simultaneous mysterious. His choices, the
reverb electric guitar lines on "Becky Came By" reminiscent of Don Peris' work on early "Innocence Mission"
records, are simple and haunting. Likewise, little surprises, such as the shuffling wooden percussion on "We
Can't Last" provide contrasting tones for Colohan's simple folk melodies and allow these songs to stand out
from the standard singer/songwriter, avant-folk flavor-of-the-week. This song in particular seems to be a
cousin of Bill Fay's work on his opus "Time of the Last Persecution" with its slow, textured guitar solo and
percussive piano figures.
Agitated Radio Pilot is the solo guise of one Dave Colohan, a long time member of United Bible Studies and prime mover in the
Deserted Village collective. His works as ARP are timeless psychedelic folk evocations that could just as easily be compared to
Townes Van Zandt as Current 93, and on the double 3 CD-R Your Turn To Go It Alone (released on the new Rusted Rail label),
he doesn?t make a false move across eight shorter song based tracks and two extended chamber drone pieces. Were talking deeply
moving stuff here that comes from a place where ego and pretension are mostly left behind. Many, many artists come to mind,
yet Colohan has such a striking and personal vision that there?s really no point in naming names. Hopefully these tracks will be
rescued from limited release oblivion somewhere on down the line.
The first of several curiously named artists on the label, Agitated Radio Pilot is David Colohan of United Bible Studies
and the Deserted Village collective. This is an album of sad, restrained songs about love and loss, reminiscent of Tram
(if that means anything to you) in its Anglo-ness - yet with far more personality and texture in the voice, and more focus in the backing.
Book-ending the album with a fine, ghostly overture and a 13 minute instrumental departure reminiscent of UBS, Colohan is skilled at writing
a straightforward, folksy song for guitar and voice, yet maintaining a moodiness that?s hardly commonplace.