PREPARE for a remarkable musical odyssey. The atmosphere is electrified with anticipation as the music industry heralds an impending award show extravaganza, the inauguration of a state-of-the-art venue, and the highly awaited resurgence of a revered music producer. Read further into this week's Northern Winds for further information.
To start with, we look at the ever-closer NI Music Prize. Our yearly celebration of the local music scene and the music that it created in the last 12 months, this year's event serves as the culmination of the Sound Of Belfast Festival.
With a ticketed ceremony on the 15th of November and live performances announced from Paul Brady and Bangor indie-band The Florentinas, there was plenty to be excited about already before the announcement of the shortlist of this year's awards, which dropped earlier this week.
The shortlists are out. Well done to all up to this point, one of the toughest and strongest years to date. See full lists at https://t.co/xxJvnqbx6I— NI Music Prize (@NIMusicPrize) September 27, 2023
With the ATL Artist of The Year in association with BBC Introducing (effectively the Best Newcomer award) to be announced closer to the date, we received word this week for the Album, Single, Live act and Music Video of the year, and it's a real Changing Of The Guard moment, with numerous first and second-time nominations bringing a host of soon-to-be household names to the forefront of this year's awards.
Several names stand out this year. The long-awaited debut from Derry pop songwriter ROE sits on the shortlist alongside the likes of last year's Single Of The Year winner Ferna (with the album Understudy) and Public Vote Winner Clara Tracey, whose debut album Black Forest was a revelation.
Folk singer Arborist has also clearly captured lightning in a bottle with his award-nominated third album, An Endless Sequence Of Dead Zeros. Real name Mark McCambridge, he has had numerous nominations over the years, this time getting the nod for the Album, Single and Video categories. Other multiple nominations artists include Joshua Burnside, who picked up the Single and Video shortlist for his Westlink-inspired ballad Late Afternoon In The Meadow (1887), and post-punk/techno trio Chalk who saw selections in the single and live categories – with a potential "Best newcomer" to come as well.
In the south, news broke this week of further investment into the live and performing arts sector. It has now been widely reported that Vicar Street owner Harry Crosbie plans on building a 2,000-seat capacity music venue right beside the original Vicar Street venue, along with a 250-seat capacity smaller venue. It would immediately become the largest purpose-built standing and seated venue in Dublin city outside of the 3Arena, and would occupy a previously unused plot of land owned by Meath Street Church. News like this is greatly welcomed, as it opens the doors for the future development of local rising talent and of medium-sized international talent who can now look to include Ireland on their touring circuit.
We also received word this week of the return of legendary Belfast producer and DJ David Holmes to the release circuit. With his first album since 2008, Blind On A Galloping Horse will release later this year on Heavenly Recordings. On the LP, Holmes issued the following statement. "A 14-track interrogation of the last decade, time spent watching a decaying, fraying Britain visibly buckling in real time while tending to his own battles with mental health. Holmes’ soundtrack to this inquiry is at times claustrophobic, often euphoric, driven by the rattle and snap of analogue drum machines, wild oscillations of droning analogue synths and the voice of Raven Violet which beguiles and commands in a way that could part oceans." The first single Necessary Genius is out now and it has us gasping for more.