Irish techno don Phil Kieran has a new project — Le Carousel. Taking its name from the French word for an old-fashioned merry-go-round, the project stands more for a metaphor for the rotations occurring in everyday life, Phil tells DJ Mag.
Hooking up with “some of Ireland’s finest musicians” to realize his new album project, Phil has really pulled out all the stops here. He started work just as his last album, 'Shh' — released on Sven's Cocoon in 2009 — came out, but has travelled down a very different path here.
Where 'Shh' drew on all the sounds Phil had been influenced by over the years — from space-age electro to Orbital cinematics, fizzy technoid 4/4 beats to LFO-style bleeps — this is where Phil looks deep into his soul.
He took himself off to Donegal in the west of Ireland to clear his head and start the writing process. “This one track started to emerge from the mood I was in,” he says, “and it just felt really psychedelic and swirly, like it was going round and round — almost hypnotic and going into a dream-like state. It was reflecting my mood of melancholy with a twinge of sadness, but ultimately with an end feeling of hope, optimism, and a light at the end of the tunnel.
“The only way I could describe it was a funfair feeling, like being on a ride, so I thought of a carousel spinning round,” Phil continues. “I was reminiscing about my childhood and times gone by, with memories fading of what I once knew. It was like a fun day out that I just couldn’t get back, because it’s gone — a mixture of happy and sad.”
The undulating, arpeggiating synth delays on the album's title track, ‘Le Carousel’, do indeed give the feeling of hand-carved horses, slowly rising and falling on a rotating circular platform. Blissed out, looped circus-noir, it’s topped off by vocals from Phil himself.
“I used drummers, guitar players, bass players, cello, backing vocals — then needed to find somebody to do vocals for me,” he continues. “I realised if I was going to do this properly and really reflect who I am and what my story is, I have to do this all myself — so I did.”
Phil started to put the reflective words he’d created for ‘Le Carousel’ to the music, and it proved to be the catalyst for the rest of the album to flow from there. During the album's gestation, he suffered some setbacks in his personal life, a situation that affected the overall melancholic mood of the body of work.
A symbol of a more innocent age, a woozy look back into childhood, it’s a blissed out album of reflective songcraft, tinged with time-lapse psychedelia and shot through with hazy fairground ephemera. Evoking feelings of half-remembered childhood day-trips and windswept empty beaches, fans of chillwave acts like Toro Y Moi, psych warriors Spiritualized, shoegazing bands like Slowdive, prog rockers Pink Floyd, ‘Felt Mountain’-era Goldfrapp, minimalist Steve Reich, post-rock like Rothko, emotive electronica and blissful Balearica should sign up here, although truly this is an album that most will take something meaningful from.
First single 'Lose Your Love' includes a neo-psychedelic Andrew Weatherall remix that's an absolute joy, although Phil's own dancefloor edit — channeling a half-remembered trip to the funfair — is just as good, with its live-sounding punk-funk bass and wistful vox. The techno cognoscenti — from Dave Clarke to Carl Craig, Tiga to Maya Jane Coles — are already going mad for it, with Jamie Jones saying he wants to release the album on Hot Creations. The project is currently unsigned.
Phil will be taking the project out on the road in the coming weeks and months — hoping to do justice to an amazing, transgressive album. “I think you should just be honest with yourself, making music should NOT be a career move,” Phil believes. “It should be a passion, you should follow your gut instinct, not try to fall into place or align yourself with a person just because they are successful.
“I really, truly and honestly wanted to try and strip things back so far, and just reflect who I was or am,” he continues. “Just be myself, in the hope that somebody else out there will relate to it and get something back from it. The ultimate aim for me is to inspire other people to do the right thing — musically, morally, creatively — just to have a better way of life in some way. And also to resonate with my inner being, and try to describe it with melody and words — is that not what music should be?”