Dublin-based musician Niamh Corcoran debuted her Angkorwat project in 2010 with the haunted, claustrophobic Early EP. She has played live alongside Panda Bear, Xiu Xiu, Nite Jewel and Dan Deacon, and will be one of three acts performing at The Outer Church in Brighton on December 17th. Read on for an illuminating interview with the artist and an exclusive mix entitled The Pitiless Wave. Photography by Declan Q Kelly.
Describe your mix in as vague and unspecific a fashion as possible. In detail.
“The mix is a lot of things. The tracks belong to many genres but as with all music I feel strongly about, there seems to be a common thread running throughout. My favourite music seems to me to express something already in the atmosphere or inside me in some form. I don’t know what that thing is, but I know it the second I hear it for the first time. Whatever it is becomes more tangible as I go through life, making and listening to more music. I’m not a spiritual person in the traditional sense but this seems to be one of few outlets through which I can reach past the mundanity of what I see every day. I’m definitely not alone in that. There is definitely a therapeutic element to it too, whether the music pulverises (in the case of Coil) or pacifies (Philip Jeck).
"I included a track from Margaret Barry, a self-taught multi-instrumentalist, singer and Irish Traveller. She moved to London alone at sixteen after a ‘family disagreement’ and eventually became an important part of the Irish exile music community there.
"There are recordings of breathing by Boards, Christina Carter and Kraftwerk. Breathing and bodily awareness are recent obsessions of mine. To me, these tracks have a remarkable presence.
“‘Blue Eyes’ by Patrick Kelleher was the song that first marked my interest in current underground music in Ireland. Largely up until that point, music made here was incredibly unambitious in terms of its subject matter. Interesting that the change happened just as the economy went to shit. People (Children Under Hoof, which included Patrick Kelleher) started staging gigs in places other than the city centre and pub/club venues (these are the people who very kindly offered me my first gigs).”
What do you know of sleep paralysis and related phenomena?
“It’s generally defined as the sensory illusion of paralysis upon falling asleep or waking up. It’s often accompanied by hallucinations and other sensory experiences. I’ve had it happen to me since about the age of twelve and my experiences of it range from bedroom invasions by aliens, deafening radio static, molestations by shadows, to the universally-reported hag sitting on my chest. The worst manifestation which I get during stressful periods is of being flung from the environment of a pleasant dream to find myself suspended upside down, paralysed and unable to breathe in a vat of formaldehyde-like solution while a stranger peers in and points at me through the glass. Sometimes I’ll be ‘paralysed’ like this for what feels like hours when I’ve actually been asleep for a few minutes. On a bad night I might fall into this state five or six times as I try to fall asleep, meaning I spend most of the night leaping out of bed, having finally fought out of the dream. I don’t think I’m all that miserable but my dreams are usually horrible, so I prefer to have none!”
Have your experiences of this condition ever found their way into your music?
“While knowing almost nothing about production at the time, my aim with the Early EP was to create a highly-strung, nausea-making atmosphere. It began four years ago as just messing around but unexpectedly turned into something more in terms of what it’s given me. I’ve found the process is a coping mechanism in itself. I experience fewer dreams because of it. This is part of my obsession with Coil who were focused with fearless positivity on their own darkness.”
Aside from this, have you ever experienced or witnessed anything for which you could not find a rational explanation?
“A friend recently said she would send me a crow to cheer me up, though I didn’t take her literally. As I left my work building that evening a crow landed at my feet and hopped along with me towards my bus stop. She says her crows always show up! I’m inclined to believe her…”
You look outside your window and see fog. How does this make you feel?
“Like I live in Ireland, which I do. I don’t mind fog.”
Are you superstitious?
“Being raised Irish Catholic, I’d say yes. Black cats, ladders, magpies etc.”
Have you come across anything recently that you interpreted as some form of a sign?
“See crow above! I’m never definite about events being ‘signs’ but I enjoy both choosing to regard them as such and the mystery of not really knowing how or why things and people happen to me.”
If you had to serve an animal god, which one would it be?
“Bastet, Egyptian Goddess of cats (who I try to serve as best I can).”
What’s an effective method of conquering fear?
“Knowing that it’s the basis for many negative outcomes in life. Anger and depression. Breathing, and being aware of breathing helps, which is a theme in the mix with the Kraftwerk, Boards of Canada and Christina Carter tracks.”
Let everything happen to you.
Beauty and terror.
Just keep going…
No feeling is final. - Rainer Maria Rilke
What compels you to write and record music?
“The catharsis I get out of it. Few things in life match up to the joy of finally being satisfied with a track. I feel I express things better in this way.”
How would you describe your state of mind when you made the Early EP?
“Impulsive, anxious, angry, very young, alone and working in the dark.”
How will your future music differ from the EP tracks?
“I’m moving away from bad recording habits and into a bigger, richer sound environment. I’m writing longer, more structured songs now rather than short tracks or experiments. I’m giving more of myself and the subject matter is bigger and more specific, reaching back through the experiences of people who are getting old or are already dead but who I carry around irrevocably as part of myself. And the bigness of all of that is why it’s taking bloody ages. At times you think you’ve wasted years while people around you seem to release everything they record, but personally it has taken this length of time for the ideas to form fully.”
What form will your next release take?
In terms of music, what is your undying passion?
“Music which seems to tap instantly into a channel that’s inside and around and has been since I was small. I get this effect listening to the tracks I used in the mix.”
This is the final question: what are you going to do as soon as you’ve finished answering it?
"I’m going to continue to answer phones for a living.”
Blawan His Daughters
Philip Jeck Chime Again
Rrose White Drip
Gavin Bryars Sub Rosa
Christina Carter Ask Me Now
Margaret Barry The Factory Girl
Patrick Kelleher Blue Eyes
Unknown Excerpt From Dublin Poverty - Mount Pleasant Buildings
Catherine Christer Hennix Five Times Repeated Music