MICRODISNEY fractured so long ago now, but their end birthed two great talents to the world, so not all was lost; Sean O’Hagan gave us the baroque brilliance of The High Llamas, and Cathal Coughlan – who we’re concerned with here today – led us on a pied piped and merry dance to weirder, more askance and surreal zones of the world, with The Fatima Mansions and solo – hell, his last album, Song Of Co-Aklan, was only released this spring (and you can have a look at the title track, here, why not). You just know he was the choirboy with straight As but also a never-ending supply of existential novels in the back pocket, and itching powder for teacher’s chair.
He’s got together with another big Irish talent, Garret “Jacknife” Lee – the man who left punk guitar behind for the delights of big breaks like “Bursting Off The Backbeat” before finding his métier as an in-demand producer for U2, The Killers, Modest Mouse and more. He’s on record as saying that if he doesn’t make noise, he gets very grumpy; what mischief can the two of them be cooking up?
Well, it’s a project called Telefís, the Gaelic word for television (and pronounced tele-feesh), and we’re rather pleased to be premiering a foaming test tube from outta the labs herein.
That tune is a Maurice and Charles remix of “Mister Imperator”, a tune from the forthcoming album a hAon (Number One), with us next spring – note well! This particular mix, in which Cathal’s crisp, acerbic lyricism is a ghost in the machine, won’t feature.
It’s hazy, 4am electro, bubbling and loping, a wolfhound loping through your dancefloor dreams, crisp bass, exhorting choir of backing vocalists stage left, ready for loose-limbed shapes to be thrown before you wake.
Jacknife’s LA-based, these days, Cathal in the Great Wen; Telefís kept the pair from god knows what, actually, as we all sat on our hands and avoided viral trouble last year. The album? It’s conceived as a satirical, mischievous examination of Irish history and pop culture, which the two label “a corrosive nostalgia”.
The project also points a critical finger at the current global hierarchy, as ever an inspiration for the characters that spring from Coughlan’s pen, always watching, always railing.
The song? It’s the tale of a beloved pianist who was a light entertainment staple in the Irish Republic back in the early years of Raidió Teilifís Éireann, which began beaming pictures into homes on New Year’s Eve, 1961.
Cathal sends this missive by way of further critique: “In a happy parallel dimension, the apple-cheeked children of Mister Imperator gambol through meadows bathed in oligarchy-approved sunshine! In their happy songs, they promise to do all they can to support the fossil fuels, minerals and metallurgy businesses to which their progenitor has attached their futures. When they grow up, they will buy fancy threads and impress the proletariat. Their physical prowess will be as legendary as it is pointless.
“One of them says she will soon form a blues band, and then form an LSD cult which will destroy the white-people blues. Traditions are preserved and strengthened through chemistry.”
Need to learn more about Mister Imperator, the man, the musician, the legend, at-swim? Click here. It’s quite the tale, from a liminal world more real, perhaps, than ours.
Telefís’ “Mister Imperator” is out right now across digital streaming platforms; the album, a hAon, will be released by Dimple Discs digitally, on CD and on vinyl, both including a double-sided lyrics sheet, on February 11th, 2022.