“I like surreal settings, but with tangible messages,” says White. A singer-songwriter from County Armagh, White navigates the dreamlike and the grounded with blissful fluency on his beautifully lambent debut album. Released through Bella Union in January, Swirling Violets is allusive and intimate, unearthly yet instantly accessible: touching on fully felt themes with grace and lightness, it’s a richly imagined album of multitudes from an instinctive talent.
As White explains it, “There wasn’t a conscious theme, though the songs operate in the same sort of space, that sense of surrealism. There’s ghosts, there's other worlds. There's a cosmic feeling, questions about the beginning and the end and dreams. And then there’s simpler songs, love songs about the feelings of infatuation you have when you’re young”
Opener ‘The Holy Death’ is exemplary, White setting folk-ish reflections on mortality to an elegant melody within a chiming arrangement that shifts effortlessly to a more maniacal mode for the climax.
The hymnal ‘Righteous’ swerves sideways into tender introspection, setting a reflection on religion and the longing for vindication to an airy melody. ‘501s’ is a different ballgame, a dream-pop reflection on teenage infatuation played with an impressionistic lyricism; White evokes the tastes and textures of lived-in youthful experience at a stroke. The dappled folk of ‘Rivers’ dives deep into themes of compulsion, and how others try to accommodate the afflicted and addicted.
Elsewhere, White ranges deftly from lost-love songs (‘Fawn’) to tales of tragic romance (‘The Woman in the War’). The title track is a melting beauty, drawing you deep inside its “parallel world” of longing. Wherever you listen, these are songs with stories to tell and sublime ways of telling them: “There’s not one track on the album that doesn’t mean something to me,” says White.
A music graduate who has also worked alongside young people with mental health issues, White’s story began in bands. He played in atmospheric indie-rockers Silences before their split allowed Conchúr to develop his solo voice at his own pace. That sense of freedom colours Conchúr’s music. On the Bikini Crops and Dreamers EPs, he filtered the influences of acts such as Arctic Monkeys (recent vintage) and Father John Misty into songs at once playful, referential and experiential. The moonlit plea of this year’s ‘Atonia’, a cathartic reverie on sleep paralysis, showed White’s melodic and lyrical talents blossoming.
With praise from SPIN, The Line of Best Fit, Under the Radar, Steve Lamacq, Radio 6 and others under his belt, he has also notched up touring slots with Villagers, Billie Marten and John Grant, who complemented White’s work warmly. Meanwhile, a recent invitation to support the mighty John Cale in concert lead to more compliments from Cale’s storied bandmembers.
Collaborators on Swirling Violets include Matt Wiggins, who mixed the album; producers Kris Platt and Danny Morgan Ball; and co-writer/producer Iain Archer (‘Swirling Violets’). Finally, Brendan Jenkinson produced the closer, ‘Deadwood’, a serene drift through the “mystic night” under the “summer’s moonlight”. An irresistible invitation to float along with White, Swirling Violets is a magic-realist wonder from a new name to reckon with, bathed in a radiant glow.