Thursday 19 September 2019

Roisin Murphy sings it back to the Electric Picnic

Roisin Murphy
Roisin Murphy
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Like the woman who creates them, the songs of Roisin Murphy are visceral, out-of-kilter, unpredictable. On her new single, the bonkers-beautiful disco banger that is Incapable, she is keeping nothing inside. (In truth, Roisin Murphy - the voice of Moloko's timeless Sing It Back from 1999 - never kept much inside.) She sings: "Never had a broken heart/ Never seen me fall apart/ Don't know where I get the strength." And then: "And I'll go out of my head."

Listening to this, you are left out of breath by the level of honesty that Roisin is singing it back to you with, produced by Richard Barratt, aka DJ Parrot or Crooked Man. She described her musical relationship with him as beneficial because "he grounds me in a way and returning to him represents a very real return to my roots. He's also a miserable f**ker and he drives me mad, but he's pretty much always right and never lets me get too big for my boots," she said to thequietus.com, adding that that process of being too big for her footwear is usually "three days' max".

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Roisin told anothermag.com that she was "in the most creative time of my life". Playing the Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Co Laois, at the end of the month, the sort of Irish queen of a certain kind of Brit electronic dance music (who moved to Manchester when she was a teen before relocating to Sheffield and then London, where she is now based), says she believes her "core values as an artist and creative person are in Ireland. I was brought up around music as a kid, because my uncle was a multi-instrumentalist and band leader. All summer long we'd be going to these all-dayer events that he did with his jazz band. My mother was obsessed with music, and my dad was a great singer. Everyone sang songs constantly - it was like living in an MGM musical at times, honestly! And alongside that, some kind of aesthetic things went in almost by osmosis - like living with my mum, who was an antiques dealer and had a fantastic eye.

"But if you're going to talk about my understanding of club culture and youth culture, then I guess I had the ideal stepping stone when I moved to Manchester at the age of 12. Because then I had everything on my doorstep: any kind of music culture I wanted to sample, I could sample. But I already had the basis, the music within me, before then."

The bohemian part of Roisin was embedded in her DNA from a very early age, growing up in an eccentric house in Co Wicklow with parents that could, like Roisin, never be described as remotely ordinary. One not unusual night, her father Michael woke Roisin, then only 10, and told her to "come downstairs and see what's in the car". Her dad had "brought a pony home in the back of the car, on its side. My mother was standing in the street crying, 'What are we going to do with this f**king pony?' He must have bought it in the pub. The madness she had to put up with," Roisin told me last summer. "But looking back, it was an amazing childhood."

Is it any wonder Roisin's songs sound the way they do?

Sunday Independent

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