New album Doubles out now on VHF Records
Doubles by Cian Nugent
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011


“Doubles” contains a large conceptual leap for Dublin-based musician Cian Nugent from his previous releases, the 2007 self-titled CDR, and 2008 EP “Childhood, Christian Lies and Slaughter”; this quality of progression comes through the formal characteristics of the new album, specifically the way in which Nugent trades a division of individual songs for interconnected, fugue-like musical sections based around a theme (seemingly influenced by the structure of jazz and classical recordings); secondly, by the way in which Nugent draws on several different musical forms to flesh out his guitar-based writings, again, showing a definite influence of jazz music that is here very original.
Lastly, there is the skill and ability with which Nugent is able to write music that sets “Doubles” apart from many other musical collections of this year.  There is a lot to learn from the recordings, and hopefully other skilled musicians will be inspired by what Nugent is doing with the formal elements he keeps at hand.
Composed of two long pieces, each developed to a length of over twenty minutes, the album contains many different movements whose subsequent sections run kaleidoscopically from one passage of development into the next — all of these musical advancements being beautiful, the closing sections of second piece “Sixes & Sevens” in particular being very elegantly composed.  This use of continuously shifting music is liberating to hear, and allows Nugent to concentrate on expressing variations on an idea and its many different shades of interpretation.  “Peaks & Troughs,” the first musical set-piece on the record, is the more contemplative and slowly-metamorphosing of the two, and is defined by a modal approach to composition, while showing many similarities with the structure of James Blackshaw’s music.  “Sixes & Sevens,” the second piece, is very exuberant and energetic, and is possibly the better of the two.
In terms of musicianship, Nugent’s guitar style is based around alternately strong plucking of strings and soft harmonizing of close notes, which gives the instrument a particularly unvarnished, resonant tone reminiscent of Davy Graham’s technique (especially on Graham’s “Folk, Blues & Beyond…” record).  The instrumentation used on the album is highly interesting, including excellent jazz-based drumming and orchestration, vibrant brass playing on “Sixes & Sevens,” and droning synthesizer on “Peaks & Troughs.”
Perhaps most importantly, Nugent’s artistic ideas, and their expression through varying musical forms, show a great deal of maturity and refinement; it’s striking when listening to these recordings to remember that they were made by someone in their early 20′s, and it will be more than interesting to see what direction Nugent takes next.
-- Jordan Anderson


Last year, Irish music was all about the international rise of Villagers. This year, our overseas success might come from 22-year-old Dubliner Cian Nugent, who has been picking up far-flung plaudits for his newest work, including the tag of ‘genius’ from Conor O’Brien himself. Tenderly produced by Jimmy Eadie (Si Schroeder, Valerie Francis), Doubles is split into two side-long compositions. Peaks & Troughs ebbs and flows beautifully, its passages weaving through nightmarish folk to an intense climax, showcasing Nugent’s talent for fingerpicking as well as composition and pacing. Its flipside is buoyed by the addition of woodwind, brass and gentle tussles with percussion, at times breaking into bittersweet, lilting folk before subtly deviating into jazzy jams. An ambitious but unquestionably rewarding record – and one crucially devoid of pretension, too. 
-- Lauren Murphy 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Cian Nugent's 2011 album for VHF has a very vinyl-era feeling to it, consisting of two 20- to 25- minute compositions that would have fit perfectly on a Vanguard or Takoma release from 1969 or so. (If either piece had the word "fantasia" in the title, that would seal it.) But that sense of paired work -- a theme spelled out in both the album and song titles -- allows for a kind of direct contrast and complement in turn, and Nugent's exploration in the world of acoustic guitar composition is elegant, engaging stuff. "Peaks & Troughs" begins with slow, extremely deliberate notes before rapidly increasing its pace, never bursting into a sudden explosion of notes or chaos -- this isn't Bill Orcutt, say -- but carefully winding up energy almost like a coiling (if friendly) snake. This balance, in keeping with the song title, recurs throughout the piece; an alternation that carefully follows its own logic each step of the way. The sense of deliberation that holds sway throughout is remarkable, though perhaps the more accurate word is precision, with every exploratory filigree and shift from multiple to solo notes sounding tightly honed without being simply mechanistic, leading into a concluding, sustained feedback zone that suddenly transforms the whole feeling of what has gone beforehand. "Sixes & Sevens," a few minutes longer and no less involving, again showcases Nugent's sense of precision but feels warmer and, in its own way, more expansive, with the soft ringing of a chime slowly alternating with guitar at the beginning, followed by increasingly louder percussion and wind instruments as Nugent's main composition unspools, steadily calming down and then ramping up again. The various moves from unaccompanied to group effort not only help in making the contrast between the two songs more clear, they introduce a feeling of direct joy: there's something uplifting on the song that stands in contrast to "Peaks & Troughs," though there are similar moments of quiet and near starkness as the song reaches mid-length.
-- Ned Raggett 


Poster design: John Cowhie

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Versatility is prized among instrumentalists. From Nashville country sessions to New York improvisational explorations, the player who can play it all is the player who will likely have gigs. For instance, while cellist Erik Friedlander has played with John Zorn's Masada Chamber Ensemble and with reed adventurer Ned Rothenberg, he's also worked with Korn, Kelly Clarkson, and the Mountain Goats. While Colin Stetson's star is rising with his new solo opus,New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, he's long kept busy with bands from Bon Iver and the National to Angélique Kidjo and Arcade Fire. This is true for guitar soloists, too, but in this realm, the mastery of multiple forms seems to have less to do with a paycheck and more to do with proving you're more than some new-school John Fahey acolyte. From Sir Richard Bishop's pan-everything albums to William Tyler's expansive Behold the Spirit, some of the best guitar music being made right now is that which takes the world in and sounds it back out through a pair of busy hands.
Thankfully, no one bothered to tell young Irish guitarist Cian Nugent about that approach: His first widely available album, Doubles, comprises two side-length tracks that take definitive and defined approaches the distance. There's no emphasis on how much he can do or how much he has studied his forebears; instead, he smartly focuses on developing a pair of immersive environments that are continuously compelling for more than 20 minutes at a time. He nails it. The first side, "Peaks & Troughs", is an ambitious solo workout for guitar and, eventually, synthesizer. As its name suggests, the tune rises to loud, heavy strums and falls to near-silent picking. A more accurate title might have been "Knots & Threads", as Nugent's emphasis seems to be on the horizontal orientation of his music-- that is, the volume matters less than the way he arranges and links his phrases. At points, his hands are busy wrangling great messes of notes that eventually thin out into beautiful and relatively simple statements of melody. Sometimes, though, Nugent is content to examine one note or chord until it resolves into silence, as if he's staring at a huge, tangled ball of yarn but concentrating only on a small, isolated knot somewhere near the middle. That movement creates an inescapable momentum, meaning that, when this track starts, Nugent's deliberately dynamic approach makes it hard to ignore.
That same kinetic energy applies to the grand and arching "Sixes & Sevens", a piece that Nugent developed with a large ensemble of friends playing drums, strings, horns, and keys. A piece of quiet triumph, "Sixes & Sevens" builds around the obvious, continuous guitar line that runs throughout its 24 minutes. Nugent tucks the revelation that he's been listening to music beyond past masters of instrumental guitar into those near-orchestral flourishes. He hints at a free-jazz maelstrom one moment, eerie organ drone music the next; much later, there's a touch of shoegaze rock thanks to some long-tone distortion and a bit of Japanese minimalism via the restraint of the percussion. The perfectly ebullient passages are a mix of Stravinsky, hard bop, and unrepentant pop; given its redemptive sound, it's where the listener finally understands that versatility is something the young Nugent values, too.
If Doubles has a fault, it's that Nugent makes no attempt to hide his influences or to do something they haven't previously done. This is, after all, a form that has often been beleaguered by its own reverence and subservience to idols; its recent renaissance, however, suggests the time for showing you can do what someone else once did has begun to recede. Fahey, Rose, Jones, Blackshaw-- all of the top-shelf names in this realm have gone for extended ruminations in the vein of "Peaks & Troughs". And Jim O'Rourke stands as the acknowledged master of epics such as "Sixes & Sevens", which rise steadily and delicately to glorious but restrained crescendos. Nugent doesn't reinvent either idea on Doubles, but he doesn't have to; he's inarguably mastered them and made them his own, and that's enough for a start.
— Grayson Currin, July 12, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I did this interview with Ian Maleney a few weeks back for Thumped -- 

Cian Nugent is a twenty-two year old musician from Dublin who is launching his debut album,Doubles, in the Button Factory on Thursday, with support from Wooden Wand and Peter Delaney. The album is a sprawling and ambitious set of two side-long songs; one a dark and sinewy solo piece, the other a grand statement filled with brass, strings, woodwinds and drums. Drawing on the finger-style tradition of Jack Rose and John Fahey, as well as the orchestrations of Burt Bacharach or Ryan Francesconi, Doubles adds a very personal tone the sounds created by Nugent's forebears, representing the emergence of a real musical talent and a strong artistic voice.

Click on the picture for the innerview


Review by Matt Poacher for The Liminal --

My only previous brush with Cian Nugent was his bright ‘When the Snow Melts and Floats Downstream’ from the third in the Imaginational Anthems series from Tompkins Square. That hadn’t really prepared me for the scope and ambition of Doubles, a 45-minute, two-song epic taking in post-Takoma explorations, dissonant drones and ecstatic, full band excursions into O’Rourke-inspired bliss. Nugent has said that the album is in some way a challenge to himself, and that ‘writing and constructing these long pieces was an attempt to exercise some control over my wavering patience’ – a very timely passion given the prevalence of franticity and ‘continual partial attention’. But what he’s constructed with these meandering, yet never sprawling narrative pieces is never mere virtuosity or showiness: there is coherence, power and emotional depths within these sinewy lines and forms. ‘Sixes and Sevens’ is probably the standout of the two tracks, moving from an almost Bacharach-like bounce to something more sombre and bleak at the midpoint (reminiscent of Gravenhurst in places, James Blackshaw in others) before wheezing to a close with a warm echo of the opening figures. It suggests so many potential avenues you can’t help but be excited for what Nugent might produce next.