Swirling Violets by Conchúr White

Release date: January 19, 2024
Label: Bella Union

I simply had to write about Conchúr White and his debut album Swirling Violets. For one thing, Conchúr hails from Portadown, where I grew up and live to this day. He’s also signed to my favourite label Bella Union, who continue to release incredible music that never fails to appeal to me. The reviews are coming in for this striking debut and all are highlighting the quality of the music from this young artist.

I’m still trying to comprehend how Conchúr is from my hometown, and I’ve only recently heard of him. If he’d been on the go 20 years ago when I was making music maybe our paths would have crossed easier. But listen, when Conchúr first popped into my consciousness with his debut release, the supremely melodic wonderment that is ‘Atonia’, I was on board with ensuring I would endeavour to hear more from this talented young man.

“I got friends who died” is a bleak opening lyric on your first album but the melodies that propel the blooming “The Holy Death” override any misery and Conchúr’s sweet voice also brings a simply gorgeous hue to proceedings. The arrangements are glorious with clanging chimes and a kaleidoscope of all manner of instrumentation. How can you not be hooked after hearing this opening song? It’s mesmerising to think where Conchúr’s future may head with such a confident and strong declaration to his debut album. Pulling out some Princely falsetto Conchúr also reaches into religion and faith questioning “Why did I feel like that today God?” on the quirky ‘Righteous (Why Did I Feel Like That?’. Dropping in some humongous bass and flutes the track fidgets before erupting into a stunning electro fizzy workout all wrapped up in the most gorgeous melodies.

It’s not a regular occurrence that I have been to a venue that a Bella Union artist is singing about but I recall visiting Lurgan’s Centrepoint recreation hub back in the day when it first appeared. Conchúr references getting kicked out of it, I decided to leave of my own accord, then decided not to go back! But Lurgan always was ahead of Portadown in terms of cultural and artistic outlook and I’ve no doubt that this bastion of all things “fun” probably helped shaped Conchúr’s vision and manifested itself in this album. When you grow up in a town with the history Portadown has, it’s really quite the jolt to the senses to hear something so fucking upbeat and POSITIVE as ‘I Did Good Today’ with its sweet (but not sickly) chorus that is joyful and celebratory even though I don’t know what it is that Conchúr did good today. Maybe it was writing this song, with the wonderful line “You can’t be the centrefold if you’re not self-centred”. Maybe it was just being accepted for being who he is and walking tall.

 

I’m not the biggest fan of the acoustic guitar but Conchúr applies some lovely folk tones for the beautiful ‘Rivers’ and it’s like a lost Simon and Garfunkel track. Aye, that good. The moment that chorus swoops in is heavenly. The title track ‘Swirling Violets’ is a tender ballad that strips away any fancy studio veneer to expose yet another classic song written from the heart, showcasing Conchúr’s brilliant way with a melody. His voice is so confident yet fragile filling up the space left by the minimalist instrumentation.

With his voice layered up for the sprightly ‘Red House Parlour’ I’m reminded of a band from these shores that slipped under the radar, More Than Conquerors. This song is the most muscular on the album with some thumping percussion and a hint of distorted guitar. It’s not that I don’t like the shimmering ‘Before Ten’, but the only disappointment with this album is that it doesn’t contain the aforementioned ‘Atonia’, which would have been a better fit than this song, in my opinion.

With its sneakingly addictive chorus that erupts with vigour ‘Fawn’ veers into a little Snow Patrol territory with beefier guitars and crashing cymbals. I’m happy enough to admit that them boys have some good tunes and here, it’s okay for a fellow Northern Irish musician to pay a little homage to one of our biggest musical unit shifters. ‘The Woman In The War’ sneaks in a little Blur reference (‘Tender’) with its easy start before swinging into a gloriously happy chorus that is sure to bring out the lighters once those arena dates start to appear on the calendar. ‘Deadwood’, the album’s closing song, is a stunning ballad that reminds me a lot of Villagers or James Vincent McMorrow, two other very fine Irish singer/songwriters. It’s a lovely wee song that haunts with some gentle guitar picking and delicate synths that creep in as the song rises to its eery conclusion with ghostly thumps that make you think there’s someone behind you.

If Top Of The Pops was still a thing, I reckon Joyrider wouldn’t be the only musicians from Portadown to make it onto the show, based on Conchúr’s brilliant debut. I do hope this album isn’t one of those January releases that get lost in the timeframe of people trying to come to terms with the end of one year and the start of another. I’m pretty sure Conchúr is in good hands though with Simon Raymonde seemingly taking a personal interest in ensuring this exciting artist gets exposure for his exceptional talent. Being signed to Bella Union seems such a perfect fit. I’ve got goose pimples thinking about what lies ahead for Conchúr. Based on the strength of this debut album his future is bright as Swirling Violets is an absolute wonder.

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