Exploring nostalgia, as experienced in the present day

London-based Dimple Discs will release the debut album from Telefís (the Irish Gaelic word for Television, pronounced Tele-feesh), a collaboration between producer/ mixer/ composer Garret “Jacknife” Lee (U2, R.E.M., Modest Mouse, The Cars, The Killers, Snow Patrol, Crystal Castles, Editors, Taylor Swift) and singer-songwriter Cathal Coughlan (Microdisney, The Fatima Mansions and many acclaimed solo works) on February 11.

Two acclaimed Irish iconoclasts present the ‘Mister Imperator’ EP, which includes the latest ‘Mister Imperator (Dub Mix)’ and two more remixes, as well as the original version of their recently-released ‘Mister Imperator’ single.

Titled ‘a hAon’ (Number One), this is a highly unique 13-track album that is part celebration, part satire, in which Telefís explores nostalgia, as experienced in the present day, by natives of what was formerly a culturally sealed-off small country on the very fringes of Europe. It also points a critical finger at today’s global hierarchies, an inspiration for the strange characters and caricatures that spring from Coughlan’s fertile imagination. Stark forms of imagery, bizarre to the modern eye and ear but treated as routine in the pre-globalization world, are pushed at the listener and viewer.

The second single from the album, ‘Mister Imperator’ is a deliciously retro-electro affair that loosely recounts the tale of a beloved pianist, who was a light entertainment staple of early TV fare dating back to the first broadcasts in The Irish Republic in 1961.

With Jacknife now based in Los Angeles and Cathal based in London, the two spent 2020 trading ideas and musical files during the lockdown, hatching plans for a satirical, mischievous examination of Irish history and the pop culture of their lifetimes, what the two have labelled “a corrosive nostalgia”.

“I’d just finished mangling a Luke Haines and Peter Buck record. Luke knows Cathal and re-introduced us. On the first or second correspondence we thought we should make some music together. Music is probably the only way I can properly communicate with someone. I sent Cathal the backing track that would become ‘We Need’ and he sent me back the vocal and we went back and forth from there. Lockdowns and travel restrictions forced us to work remotely, and I think helped us get to where we got so quickly,” says Jacknife Lee.

“Cathal is, without doubt, one of the finest lyricists of our time and writes like no one else. Some of the vocals he sent over made me burst out laughing with giddiness and delight at the novelty of them. Mischievous, dark, arcane, crispy fresh, and always unexpected. Every song with a backstory could be a novel. This is easily the most enjoyable and rewarding music that I’ve been involved with”.

Indeed, evidence of Coughlan’s lyrical ingenuity and artistry was on full display earlier this year when he returned after a 10-year absence with a highly acclaimed solo album ‘Song Of Co-Aklan’.

On the musical side, Jacknife Lee uses his extensive sonic palette to create an irresistible mix of cinematic instrumentals and electro-funk backdrops full of melodic, squelchy synths and thunderous bass-lines, often with a cheeky nod to electro-pop history. He has also created remixes for such artists as Radiohead, U2, Blur, Run-DMC, Pink, Future Sound of London, Christina Aguilera, TLC, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, The Raveonettes, Kraftwerk, New Order and Kasabian.

Cathal observes, “Collaborating in this way, with a dynamic and consummate artist, who has access to a wide range of skills that I don’t have, but with whom I share many common interests and cultural/historical reference points, has been one of the highlights of my creative life. It’s made me so glad that I’ve been able to remain active for long enough to see something like this happen. Easily as spontaneous and full of surprises as any in-person collaboration, it’s shaken loose many weird and hopefully wonderful things in my verbal workshop. And nobody has heard me use my voice in some of these ways before now, either”.

‘Mister Imperator (Dub Mix)’ is out everywhere digitally, including Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp, where the full ‘Mister Imperator’ EP is also available. On February 11, the ‘a hAon’ LP will be released on CD and vinyl (both with a two-sided lyric sheet insert) with physical pre-order at https://ffm.to/telefisahaon and the digital release at https://orcd.co/telefisahaon.

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