The first thing that strikes you about Life Cycle Of A Falling Bird is just how beautiful it is. That’s before you’ve even listened to it. Ryan Hannigan – lead singer, artist and gallery owner – has created
little short of a masterpiece of cd cover artwork. Each case is hand printed (on a vintage Stephenson
Blake proofing press just so you know) onto recycled greyboard before being folded and lovingly
bound in jute twine. A real cover lovers delight in a digital wilderness.
Hannigan later confides that “it’s wee men that actually come in & print it with their tiny midget
hands carving each individual letter…”
The handmade ethos harking back to simpler times is echoed in the album: ‘Betamax Waltz (Digital
Confusion)’ tells of being “not quite analogue, lost in monologue” and one senses that the tinge of the old mid-west hinted at in the music is a time the Ulsterman would be happy in.
The group, named after a vintage etching press Ryan uses in his gallery, hail from the picturesque
Perthshire town of Aberfeldy. Mr. Hannigan met guitarist Craig Milton at an Aberfeldy – the band!- gig in Aberfeldy town hall and set about putting the world of songwriting craft to rights over, one
suspects, a libation or two. Further information on the history of the band is harder to come by, an
email from the singer tells me that “Chris [Smith, drummer] is a musical algorithm”…you don’t get that sort of detail from Mumford and Sons. The CD was recorded and mixed in Aberfeldy in Craig
Milton’s studio at Dunvarlich. It was mastered in Skye, pressed elsewhere and finally returned home
to Perthshire for the “wee men” to get to work on it…
Opener ‘Railway Lines’ gives a taste of what’s to come, its languid charms setting the tone for what is a very accomplished – if weighty at 15 tracks – debut collection on the band’s own Star Wheel
Press label. The influences are obvious – Cash, Cave, even Creedence at times – but the comparisons perhaps harder to pin down. This is a good thing as it forces the listener to take Star Wheel Press at face value and – this is something I never saw myself typing- to quote George Michael, listen without prejudice.
There are standout tracks here; for my money the laidback banjo shuffle of ‘Write A Novel’ would
happily sit on a Tom Waits album and retro paen ‘Subbuteo’ (“He’s playing Subbuteo/recording hits
from the radio…He’s written all the lyrics down/Deciphering Ian Brown”) is the equal of the soaring
Admiral Fallow track of the same name. The great thing though is how the whole thing sits so
Of course it’s by no means a concept piece and there are bound to be those wee gems, ‘All Friday
Night’, ‘Waiting On The Grain’, you’d flick to for a quick fix, but this record reeks of late nights with
good friends. A few bottles of red down, the Laphroaig or Glenmorangie cracked open and the
fire blazing away. Sit back, immerse yourself in the moment and lose yourself in the Life Cycle Of A
Star Wheel Press play The Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh on July 23rd; Perth’s Southern Fried Festival the
following day and will make an appearance at this year’s Aberfeldy Festival.
Ryan Hannigan’s artwork is on display at his own gallery, The Temple Gallery in Aberfeldy,