Making music can be an experiment just as much as it is a practice. There is rarely a roadmap, and creation for most artists is much more akin to cutting through a jungle than speeding down a highway. The beauty, in these cases, is spontaneous, and art seems to simply fall out of the sky and through the extremities of the artist just in the nick of time.
This has been the experience of Cork-based musician Elaine Malone. Serendipity brought her to Cork, introduced her to the people who helped foster her creative awakening, and always seems to have a hand in producing her songs. Next weekend, serendipity will also bring Malone to Lisbon, where she will perform on the Port to Port stage during Saint Patrick’s Day weekend.
Hailing from Limerick, Malone relocated to Cork for education and stayed for creation. A common but always beautiful story for many artists finding their voice in Cork, Malone was encouraged and enabled by members of the city’s DIY music scene that she found herself immersed in. For the past 12 years, the City on the Lee has been the home and incubator for her music.
Malone’s first release as a solo artist, 2018’s Land, is the culmination of six years’ worth of creative development and has all the makings of a fully realized creative vision. Initially spurred to record her songs by longtime friend and “musical ally” Sam Clague, Malone put together a sparse but impactful collection: four songs, written and recorded on a nylon-string guitar, unfolding as a confessional of matters both personal and universal. Expertly crafted songwriting finds life in Malone’s silken voice, a voice steeped in maturity and emotional depth, settling comfortably atop soft and subterranean instrumentation. As a whole, Land is a formidable debut. The fact that this was only the beginning for Malone is at once intimidating and exhilarating.
Malone’s creative output is informed by an expansive knowledge of music from across the spectrum. Citing 20th-century emotional renegades like Elliot Smith and Nico as early inspirations, Malone also draws from a deep appreciation of other scene,s such as drone, noise, and even country. From early projects like the post-punk adjacent Land Crabs to the droning and intriguingly disturbing Mantua project, Malone exhibits an innate proficiency in and an intimate understanding of the way sound can be manipulated to effect.
Five years after introducing Land to the world, Malone has further refined her sound into a layered blend of surreal psych-rock tendencies and cinematic storytelling. This musical evolution culminates in her most recent single, “Nothing is Real.” Malone’s voice seems to unfold effortlessly over the murky, sub-aquatic instrumentation. From the first measures, a film descends over Malone and her band like a silken sheet, obscuring the truth of the music just enough to add another dimension to the track title. “Nothing is Real” is just a taste of what Malone has in store for 2023; the multi-faceted musician recently signed with Irish Dundalk-based label Pizza Pizza Records, and says more new music is coming this year.
Along with numerous other Irish artists and musicians, Elaine Malone will be gracing Lisbon with her presence for the Port to Port music and arts festival, taking place at Arroz Studios on Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. The festival aims to bring together the sounds and personalities of Portugal and Ireland in a joyous celebration of music, artistic cooperation, and cultural camaraderie.
Elaine Malone will play her songs for the city of Lisbon for the first time on Friday, March 17th, with close friends and bandmates Ruari Dale on bass guitar, James Christie on drums, and the ever-present Sam Clague on guitar and bass clarinet. The next day, Malone will join old friends pôt-pot on stage as well.
You can purchase Malone’s most recent single, “Nothing is Real,” and explore the rest of her music, on Bandcamp. Tickets for Port to Port are on sale here.