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Cover Art

Clann Zu ( )

Rua
G7 Welcoming Committee ( )
When listening to Rua I envision the silhouettes of a man and woman, slow dancing to the end of the world. Their darkened shadows spin and twirl as the sky crashes down behind them in flames. The last dance at the dawning of the dead. This is not to say that this music sounds like the apocalypse, but there is a dark timbral sound quality to Rua. Clann Zu’s music is lush, dramatic, anthemic and moving. This Melbourne Australia sextet’s sound is a clash of styles, old and new. Violins, the bodhran (a traditional Irish instrument commonly referred to as the “heartbeat of Irish music), and Declan De Barra’s vocals are the main ingredients in Clann Zu’s unique sound. The stringed instruments create a lot of tension and the emotionally explorative vocals of De Barra weave a musical tapestry that is warm, familiar and at the same original and fresh. Tracks like “words for snow� and “you’re listening to a dead man� are drawn out restless pieces of music. The song structures on Rua are streams of consciousness, always building and reaching for a climax. The lyrics on this record also echo those same traits. There’s familiar hints of radiohead, young U2, david byrne, movie soundtrack orchestras and gaelic folk songs buried in Clann Zu’s sound. This record was recorded between Australia and Ireland in 2001-2002. It has been re-released in Canada and the United States by Winnipeg’s own G7 Welcoming Committee record label who will also be releasing the band’s forthcoming follow-up recording. www.clannzu.com

By L Pounds
Nov 30, 2003

For me, gothic music has always left a little to be desired. Sure, Nick Cave has the most potent baritone in popular music, but Cave’s backing music ostensibly fails to really register and as a result often appears static behind his booming vocals. The Dirty Three are gloriously moody even without the benefit of a singer, but often get lost in their own musicianship as passages get longer and more musically vague. Enter Clann Zu, still another group of tortured Aussies but this time one that has collected all of the genre’s strengths while exhibiting none of its shortcomings. From the outset Rua is all about mood building. The textures (as on the best Smiths records) layer and build on the album’s opener “Words For Snow� before finally exploding with the words “and the last touch is the one that’ll drive you insane.� After that, every song is one torrential blast after another through the final crash of “You’re Listening To A Dead Man Speak� and finally ending with the words, “I never learned from my mistakes/ I should have fuckin’ known.� Quite unlike their dark clad forbearers Clann Zu do not base their songs around the lyrics or guitars. On Rua the drums drive the songs which gives the album a much more accessible pop quality than most but Clann Zu could never be confused with the goth-lite of recent sensations Evanescence. Rather, Clann Zu use the dynamics implanted within their pop sensibilities to make their feelings of isolation and malaise universal; when singer Declan DeBarra croons the hopeful refrain “Onwards we’ll go� (from “Hope This Day�) its impossible not to feel it right down to the bone marrow and his listeners are suddenly right there hoping with him. Where Morrissey has always stood above his audience and talked down to them, DeBarra sets himself right in the center of the chaos, drawing them in as much a true believer himself as a performer. The end effect is cathartic; an utter lack of pretense that comes from knowing he can’t fool a soul. A fantastic rhythm section fleshes out and brings home DeBarra’s romanticism and cements the equality between audience and performer implied on Rua. Not that the musicians are amateurish- just that Benjamin Andrews’ guitars and Russell Fawcus’ violins have such a welcoming and familiar feel that they compliment the longing in DeBarra’s vocals to give the record a more lived-in and comfortable air. Than sentiment may be Clann Zu’s underlying point: not only to get the audience members to look to each other for support but also to support the band as well. After all, misery does love company, and in the case of Clann Zu there are few more melancholy and even fewer more pleasing to the ear.

By Bill Adams
Mar 13, 2004

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