Devlin's lulling baritone is a showstopper, while Joys' balmy arrangements offer up symphonic sound worlds that curveball across 35 minutes.
- The Quietus
Seriously smart, beautiful audacious avant-pop
- NARC Magazine
One of the strongest debuts from an Irish act in recent memory.
- The Thin Air
Following the impressionistic despair of their first album Luxury Mass, Ex-Isles will return in 202 with an explicitly angry collection of invectives against both rising rightwing regression and craven centrist appeals for reasonableness and third way incrementalism. The band have taken inspiration from Ukrainian-American poet Ilya Kaminksy, the music of Jessica Sligter, and the radical politics of Baffler magazine, while still teasing at the musical thread that links Scott Walker, David Sylvian, and late-era Bowie.
Building on their uniquely unsettling sound world that gravitates around Pete's distinctive croon, they recruited Brighton-based jazz saxophonist Leroy Horns and Glasgow-based musician John Ayers on guitars to lift their sound into even more texturally distinct realms. Working with producer Dave Lynch at Echo Zoo Studios (Ed Harcourt, The Magic Numbers, Kathryn Williams), they enjoyed getting deep into his myriad collection of rare analogue synths and percussion, and spent two weeks reconstructing their songs around their experimentations. The result is an album of singular lyrical and compositional ambition; somewhere between sound and song.
Photography and artwork by Ross Cunningham
Occupying the cleft between David Sylvian, John Grant, and late-era Bowie, Ex-Isles released their debut album Luxury Mass, to critical acclaim across Ireland and the UK in September 2018. Emerging as a collaboration between experimental composer James Joys and singer songwriter Pete Devlin, and later recruiting Gerard Skelly on drums for their stunning live shows, the three piece have earned a name for themselves as purveyors of beautiful, intelligent, complex, slyly witty errant-pop. Their closeness as a musical trio brings a unique intensity to their live shows that augments the artistry and craft of their cinematic, self-produced productions.
James Joys and Pete Devlin also collaborated on the album A Constellation Of Bargained Parts, for choir, soloist, and electronics, commissioned by Moving On Music, and released on the 1st March 2019. They are due to release a second collaboration called Devil, Repent! at the beginning of 2020.
James and Pete were recently commissioned by Belfast's Dumbworld and Dublin's Junk Ensemble to write and perform the music for their dance opera A Different Wolf. It was performed in June 2019 at Cork Opera House as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. Working with opera singers, orchestral brass players, children's choirs, and contemporary dancers, Pete become part of the dance ensemble, and James acted as Musical Director for the show.
Please support us directly by buying our album from Bandcamp.
Sunflower Bar, Belfast
With Elephant & Somefinn
Benniganns Jazz Bar, Derry
First Presbyterian Church, Belfast.
Speakeasy Bar, Belfast
50, curated by Myles O'Reilly.
With JP Trio.
20:20 with Conor Mason and Joel Harkin.
Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast.
Output Festival Showcase, with Blue Whale
Bullitt Hotel, Belfast.
The Strand Arts Centre, Belfast.
With ROE & Rebeka Fitch
McHughs Bar, Belfast.
Save The Cathedral Quarter Fundraiser With Dandy's Loft & Tony Strickland Quartet
Black Box, Belfast.
Luxury Mass Album Launch with Sam Wickens & Moving On Music
Culture Night Belfast
Fresh Garbage Stage, Belfast.
NEWS \\ NEW ALBUM
Photograph - Ross Cunningham
Photograph - Myles O'Reilly
THE THIN AIR, OCTOBER 2018
"sometimes all that is possible is squinting through a smeared window, and the writing is fuelled by a grieving for a fuller understanding..."
Your music explores the hypocrisies of nationalism, the tragic figurations of the displaced, and our growing alienation from agency over our own lives under capitalism. On your debut album, Luxury Mass, did you explore these topics exclusively via lyrics, or in other ways?
It is through lyrics primarily, but the production of the record is rich, cinematic, and luxuriant because although we’re singing about alienation, migration, loss, and lack of agency – quite cold, dispassionate things – the notion of a hearth kept returning when we talked about the record over cups of tea. I think we even thought about calling the record Hearth at one point. So although it was never an explicit decision, I think that that conception of a hearth and how it can signify comfort, warmth, safety, home, even rootedness, was an important element in creating sonic/textual distinctions and contradictions within a record ostensibly about uprootedness and displacement.