“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is not to put too fine a point on it, a super producer, remixer and electronica artiste extraordinaire having an extensive credit list that includes U2, The Killers, REM and so many more you’ve heard of that if he’d had commemorative tattoos made of all their logos his arms would be hanging around his ankles. I’ve been aware of Garret “Jacknife” Lee’s since my old days as MTV2 boss where his early solo stuff came in via patronage of Howie B (whose own pal Run Wrake made the first ever visuals that appeared on the channel).

It’s right now though that I couldn’t love Mr. Lee’s work any more, as one half of the Irish duo Telefís alongside Cathal Coughlan (Microdisney/Fatima Mansions) a man much loved on these pages, but who sadly died earlier this year. The pair’s work lives on and Cathal’s bittersweet literate light illuminates brightly over the ultra vivid luminescence of retro-futuristic beats and warm metronomic drive provided by Lee’s unique musical stylings on their second album this year “a Dó” (number two) on the ever excellent Dimple Discs label. It’s an absolute honour to welcome here to VS, Jacknife Lee!

Telefís came hot on the heels of Cathal Coughlan’s last solo record “Songs of Co-Aklan” and just to reinforce the rich vein of form that Coughlan had been mining, the album “a hAon” was enough to make the vellus hairs stand on end all over. Cathode ray dreams, ultra perceptive quips, pomposity pricking and wry observations, it felt like the end of the universe being blogged about on a BBC Model B.

Telefís (as the name might suggest – it’s Television in Irish) were designed to deconstruct the nascent days of Irish society in the TV era through what they called ‘corrosive nostalgia’. And as someone who’s day job is TV that is right up my strasse. The music had an 80s swagger with moments of ultra poignancy none more so on “Falun Gong Dancer” whose own ante was upped by a dub-spedition by Jah Wobble and which if the toll was taken today would be my song of the year fo’sho.

This new album “a Dó” was being worked on in full knowledge of Coughlan’s deteriorating health: it’s not desperately sad, it’s occasionally misanthropic sure, but it’s definitely mischievous – the twinkle in the eye continued right until the end (in fact there was more Telefís being worked on) and it’s always a thrill picking up on the bingo sheet of lyrical and cultural touchpoints be it plays on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, space travel, Enoch Powell’s infamous speech re-twisted, Casiotone, Ibiza, Vegas, Master Musicians of Jajouka etc not to mention the vocal gymnastics performed over the word “hilarious” which featured highly on the previous tome too. And with glam stomps meets Blitz club beats provided by Lee on the likes of “Airstrip” it’s definitely a foot-tapper as well as a chin-stroker. They don’t see dead people, they see showbands.

There’s also some more guests who’ve come to add their names to this work of undeniable quality – Jah Wobble with a welcome return, plus Microdisney alumnus Sean O’Hagan (High Llamas), Will Sergeant (Echo & The Bunnymen) and the irresistible arch funk of A Certain Ratio – all presided over by a masterfully mellifluous arrangement from your man “Jacknife”.

Here’s one of the absolute highlights of the album – the very Talking Heads-ish “The Carthaginians”…(although they’re pretty much all show-bangers)

 

For a man whose credit list is a who’s who, and influences multifarious I was keen to learn Lee’s choice of tune for our series, so without further ado, here’s Jacknife Lee’s “song for ewe”…

“I like The Beatles. It’s difficult not to like something of theirs. Some of my favourite versions of their songs are not by them though, and here’s one. “Don’t Let Me Down” by Ghanaian singer Charlotte Dada. I can’t find it anywhere other than on YouTube. Released in 1971 as the B-side to “Ha Po Zamani” (Decca West African Series), it is, as far as I know, her only solo release and it’s impossible to find on vinyl.

There’s not much information on her out there other than she sang with the Uhuru Dance Band and The Cool Blaze. I don’t think I’ve heard anything as perfect as this. Her vocal sounds effortless here, she’s just letting it happen without any force. In a time when you can find pretty much everything online it’s kind of exciting that this little moment of perfection isn’t very accessible. – Jacknife Lee”

MANY THANKS TO GARRET AND TO SEAN NEWSHAM AT MUTANTE AND NICK CLIFT AT DEFINITE GAZE/DIMPLE DISCS

Here’s another highlight from “a Dó”…as recently played on the Velvet Sheep radio show…

You can pre-order the album on the Bandcamp links below (out on 7 Oct).

https://telefis.bandcamp.com/

There’s a physical one too – and if you’re graciously asked to buy from shops if you live in Ireland and are near one or by mail order from Dimple Discs’ great friends Rollercoaster Records in Kilkenny. Wouldn’t it be amazing to get it in the charts in Ireland?!

https://rollercoasterrecordskk.com/product/telefis-a-do-cd-pre-order/
https://rollercoasterrecordskk.com/product/telefis-a-do-vinyl-pre-order/

Here’s Cathal’s “song for ewe” from last year too if you need more Telefís

CATHAL COUGHLAN (RIP) – Song For Ewe