We Cut Corners
The Cadences of Others
[The Delphi Label]
A music year like 2016 doesn’t come along all that often. Globally, we have seen some of the best releases of the decade seize the public consciousness, experiment and divide critical opinion. Debate, engagement and active listening have been the order of business arguably since Bowie’s Blackstar, through the Kanye West’s, Frank Ocean’s and James Blake’s of 2016’s global music stage. ‘The album’ has been torn apart and put back together again, depleting in its relevance and all the while as relevant as ever.
Our corner of the planet has been no different, with Irish artists simultaneously releasing some of the most engaging work this country has offered in a long time, alongside some of our most interesting acts calling it a day for reasons that are desperately unfortunate.
Amidst this whirlwind national and global conversation, We Cut Corners have made an arresting and distinctive case for supporting the Irish album. This is the third from duo Conall O’Breachain and John Duignan, and as a third album should, The Cadences of Others negotiates and hones the most engaging aspects of the first two records; melodic and lyrical invention, as well as that voice. Though this offering is a decidedly more delicate venture, out with distorted guitar tones and in with sweeping string arrangements, their third is undoubtedly the pair’s finest work yet.
A sense of space is immediately foregrounded from the beginning of the record, with wistful and nostalgic tones in the vocals given room to grow and breathe in the apt setting of a suburban Dublin church. With the addition of the Fratres String Quartet throughout, the result is a full-bodied narrative of memory and identity, punctuated with poetic lyrical turns of phrase. Carefully considered phrases such as “I was a reckless child / Now I’m a childless wreck” (‘‘Reluctant Recluse’) and “Every time I go out and end up at your house I confuse it for home” (‘Traffic Island’), punctuate moments of real insight with a wink.
First single ‘On Avoiding People’ is certainly the catchiest venture into pop on the record, blessed with an infectiously simple hook that can trick you into thinking it is a simple song. Vocal reverb from the recording location highlights the poetic lyrics, whose delivery acts not only melodically but as a rhythmic tool. Delicacy follows with ‘Of Whatever’, and it is in this and similarly subtle songs (‘Oh’, ‘Blood Vessels’, ‘Traffic Island’) that We Cut Corners’ mastery in fragility is foregrounded. Graceful vocals interplay harmonically with the alluring string accompaniment, governing a tender yet full tone.
The Cadences of Others is a breath of fresh air in a year of experimental albums both at home and abroad. Its tone is consistent (almost) throughout, with the exception perhaps of ‘Milk Teeth’ which in itself is a fine song, but protrudes at one of the most delicate turns of the record. Perhaps this is part of the WCC tongue-in-cheek style, mixing delicacy with pointed and humorous self-awareness. Winks and nods pepper the record from start to finish, pointing towards an act that knows and understands the impact of such a tender sound, and deciding at times to have fun with it.
A fabulously unique album, in a year when everything is fabulously unique, We Cut Corners have made a record which sits alongside any of the cornerstones of Irish alternative music.