From Kildare to Ballyfermot College, onto to Holland via Germany and now back full circle to Ireland, Sadhbh O’Sullivan – Sive – has already had a long tenure in the music scene prior to the release of her début album ‘We Are Moving’. Since leaving school in 2006, her musical apprenticeship has been wide and varied, both as a session player and gigging musician at home and abroad, and there is no question that she has assimilated a multitude of styles on her journey.
Her band in its current state – fellow Ballyfermot College alumni Eoin Hartwieg and Patrick Hopkins on bass and drums, and guitarist Mark Dudley – have been playing together since 2010, and between the four of them they have produced an album rich and varied in content. This is a true collaboration with the musical personalities shining through, and while all the songs have been written by O’Sullivan, the players offer many creative flourishes throughout. It is this originality and willingness to experiment with sound that raises ‘We Are Moving’ above most other releases from recent times.
At first glance it seems like Sibylle Baier territory with the deceptively dark acoustic opener Web, with O’Sullivan singing “someone came to break me/ and kill the spiders in my body” but from here on in the album opens up to show its myriad influences. Elements of math-rock, folk, jazz, blues, and big, ‘70s FM radio-friendly stadium rock converge and deviate, crossing paths throughout the album, and often in the same song. We Are Moving was obvious choice for first single off the album, with its hooky chorus, and in many ways it’s the most conventional track.
The songs here are littered with intricate arrangements beneath the surface, with the guitar work particularly impressive (the result of having a man with a First Class Honours degree in Jazz guitar in the line-up). In less assured hands the guitar could have threatened to overwhelm the songs but here it’s understated and never intrusive. There are some lovely arrangements between the guitar and piano on Piece Of My Mind with its fluid ascending and descending runs and the singer dwelling on “What face are you wearing today?”
‘We Are Moving’ is an album that reveals itself gradually, full of innovation and attention to detail, and what’s going on underneath the vocals is always interesting. In The Wait for example, there is a brief instrumental flourish Zappa would be proud of, while the rumbling, theatrical jazz blues of Catching Waves and nicely placed stop/start moments of Sunkissed always give cause for repeat listening.
Bicycle Song is a lush and lovely nursery rhyme that gradually becomes Baroque chamber music, with the irresistible chorus, rich instrumentation, and the singer’s fragile voice all combining to make it an eccentric wonder. It free-wheels directly into the math-rock inflected Burning Slowly, and as happens every so often in the album, the band remind the listener that they haven’t forgotten that power chords exist amidst all that’s going on.
The album winds down with Hide and Seek, a stripped-back gem unusually frank in its honesty and unabashed romanticism. O’Sullivan completely disarms the listener with a lyric that is beautiful in its simplicity and sincerity with “I want to write you in a story that will never have an end.” Cynics need not enter this world of tender, starry-eyed couplets for couples that round off ‘We Are Moving’. An accomplished début then from Sive, and a fantastic ensemble piece.