New album Doubles out now on VHF Records
Doubles by Cian Nugent
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Friday, August 26, 2011


Irish steel-string guitarist Cian Nugent's fantastic full-length for VHF is his first widely available recording. It recalls a timeless vinyl record with its two side-length pieces—cohesive and complementary, deftly played, rooted in tradition with a modern experimental bent.
I first heard Cian Nugent's music on Important Records' tribute to Robbie Basho, We Are All One, in the Sun. His piece, "Odour of Plums," stood out as a highlight—no small feat on an album bookended by Steffen Basho-Junghans, featuring several other strong players. I'm not one for tracking down obscure releases, so Doubles is the first I've heard of Nugent on his own. While I expected something competent, Doubles is a complete joy to listen to, ambitious and fulfilling. It sits comfortably alongside the better works of Ben Chasny and Jack Rose, Jim O'Rourke's guitar-centric albums, and John Fahey's latter-day experiments on Table of the Elements.
"Peaks and Troughs" opens Doubles with a few resonant, off-kilter chords, strummed slowly, the dead air lingering uncomfortably in between. Individual strings are plucked slowly, then a bit faster, lingering around one note, then steering away, then hesitantly back again. Four minutes in, the piece all of a sudden transforms into three dimensions, like watching a flower bud blossom in fast-forward motion. Nugent's technique here draws equally from Middle Eastern and American Primitive guitar techniques, sounding like he drew inspiration out of Sir Richard Bishop's playbook (or something altogether more obscure).
Eventually, all the low end drops out, and Nugent's playing becomes hushed, sparse, but more frantic, desperate. Twelve minutes in, the silence is deafening—and then Nugent brings back the same off-kilter chords that he used at the start, layering notes onto each other until his deft fingerpicking is overtaken by a deep droning hum—at first accompanying his guitar, then suffocating it altogether. (That's about when my wife told me to "turn that shit down"—need I say more?) Listened to without distraction, "Peaks and Troughs" is an eerie, stunning piece—the best solo guitar I've heard all year.
The flipside is "Sixes and Sevens," which also takes its time getting off the ground, with a few piercing chimes and low-frequency thuds scattered in between the vibrating strings. With time, the song unfolds into something utterly gorgeous, with Nugent's pleasant guitar playing accompanied by organ, strings, woodwinds and brass at different points. The song ebbs and flows nicely, its instrumentation lush, its mood relaxed. It never reaches the high drama of "Peaks and Troughs," but what it deliberately lacks in heart-in-throat suspense, it makes up in warm, immersive composition. It is no small feat for a guitarist to record two tracks, 45 minutes between them, and consistently hold my interest. Nugent succeeds, and Doubles is essential listening
- Stephen Bush


I'm playing a solo guitar set at this on Monday.

Young Hearts Run Free presents: When Only Words Can Describe: Football/ The Heart's Yearning
Michael D. Higgins
Belinda McKeon
Paul Muldoon

Micheál Ó'Muircheartaigh
Eamon Sweeney (Swench)
Musical performances by:
Margie Lewis
Barry McCormack
Cian Nugent

Monday 29th August, 2011, 8.30pm 
The Unitarian Church, 
112 St. Stephen's Green West,
 Dublin 2. 
Admission 10euros. Tea and cake will be served. 


Is go

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Few snippets of information regarding Irish guitarist Cian Nugent have been publically divulged. Which is fine, because comprehending Nugent’s music requires very little context. His musical influences appear to be a gigantic duh (the reader can here refer to Dusted’s Listed feature, one of the only Nugent-related articles to be found on the web), a dramatic and epic overlay of gentle, interwoven steel guitar, easily pigeonholed as Fahey/Rose facsimile. That’s not a critique, of course, but a side note; Nugent is simply a high-caliber guitarist, and Doubles is out to prove that.

“Peaks & Troughs” begins as a slow tiptoe around the edge of a cliff, slight and tremulous plucking without a hint of sarcasm or humor — this is earnest talent. After several minutes, Nugent dives off the precipice, the crescendos coming and going, each time plateauing via new, transitory textures. To establish what in essence are movements, Nugent toys vivaciously with silent spaces, using their power to emphasize each new phase of the track. By the time “Peaks & Troughs” nears its finale, Nugent has established such a haunting mood, his dexterous fingers are an afterthought.

The second track, “Sixes & Sevens,” unlike the preceding solo, features some of Nugent’s musician buddies. Unlike “Peaks & Troughs,” momentum carries this quickly and happily, as if catching a current instead of whirling in eddies, but the transitions between the piece’s many moods are impeccably done. They all make sense. As the song progresses, Nugent shifts delicately from an almost festive atmosphere to one preoccupied by the heaviness of its own sound.

It’s just another example of Nugent’s Gemini-like ability to weave in and out of opposing forces with finesse. He has no confusion about his ability to do so, playing with light and dark, buoyant and sinking, fast and slow — you get the picture. He is undoubtedly an acoustic master, and ebbing toward the same level of sophistication in regards to atmosphere. 
-- Kate Hensley