The title of Daithi O Dronai’s third album could be interpreted in a couple of ways.
As the electronic maestro contemplates his past, present and future in a post-pandemic setting, perhaps I’m Here Now is simply just a message preaching positivity and patience, a deep breath taken while appreciating living at this exact moment in time.
On a surface level however, I’m Here Now sounds almost like a victory lap – a bold statement of self-confidence that celebrates the Clare native’s emergence as a major player in the Irish electronic landscape, and it would be a well earned title on the strength of his best record yet.
Written in isolation and recorded with the album’s impressive cast at The Beekeepers in Clare, I’m Here Now follows up the trauma and grief of 2019’s L.O.S.S. with an album full of hope and warmth.
‘Sunset’ is a gently pulsating end of summer ballad that welcomes us in with euphoric waves of synth as the producer teams up with the always hypnotizing Ailbhe Reddy for a partnership made in Irish electronica heaven. This phenomenal lead single is undoubtedly a potential breakout moment for Daithi but never feels like a sacrifice, and it’s far from the only striking double act on display throughout these nine varied tracks.
David Tapley of Tandem Felix is enlisted for ‘Polypoly’, a colder dive into glitchy electronica that uncannily recalls Thom Yorke’s solo works The Eraser and ANIMA, Uly provides guest vocal duties for the building layered tension of ‘Like The Water’ and Neil Dexter shows up for another prime hit single candidate on the 80s indebted synthpop of ‘Keep It For The Next One’. Each of these cameos feels carefully selected and there’s a rewarding sense of collaboration in the unique presence that Reddy, Tapley, Uly and Dexter bring to their specific role within I’m Here Now.
Despite the skilfully executed pairings on these collaborations though, the definitive tracks here are found in I’m Here Now’s solo detours, where the producer gets more personal than you might expect over an emotional mixtape of samples and beats. The sense of tranquility and rebirth that Daithi clearly drew from in the west of Ireland shines through on ‘Familial’ with a distorted sean-nos recording worked into a trippy yet calming mix, while the record’s title track is a shimmering standout with its pensive trip-hop comprising a profound selection of sounds, including a recording of a creaking farm gate captured in Donegal back in 2015 and the use of a concertina – the instrument wielded by Daithi’s late grandfather, an eternal influence in the musicians life and career.
The darker midsection of the album explores anxiety and doubt as ‘Joined’ provides a creeping sense of dread before ‘Walking Home Alone’ brings it all crashing down with a terrifying wall of synths that attacks the senses in a manner reminiscent of electronic royalty such as Burial and Jamie xx. It’s the album’s most mind melting composition, but the seven-minute cathartic climax that is ‘Moonlight’ serves to end I’m Here Now on an undoubtedly optimistic note, with a joyful electronic anthem that is ready made for the clubs and arenas in which I’m Here Now’s glowing symphonies belong.
On his third and most accomplished full-length work, Daithi takes another step towards establishing himself as one of the most impressive artists in the Irish electronic scene. I’m Here Now is a hybrid of melodic duets and introspective meditations that showcases the old and the new Daithi, but vitally remains true to its artists cinematic vision.