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Donabate native Chósta (real name Conor Kelly) has drawn inspiration from his coastal origins. The artwork accompanying the producer’s early singles features images of wild oceans; the video to 2020 debut single “Alone” includes grand shots of the Donabate shore. Chósta’s 2021 self-titled EP even has a song called “Cliff Walks & Deep Thoughts”. It’s fair to say his intentions were not concealed: he sought to capture the seaside air sentiment of his home.
This manifests in a manner you wouldn’t necessarily expect. To build a naturalistic worldview, Chósta draws from electronic music genres like downtempo, house, IDM, and dubstep, as well as elements of jazz and hip-hop. “Alone” is powered by a killer house music piano loop and the kind of vocal sample that sounds great swirling above a huge, sweaty dance floor under penetrating lights.
Follow-up single “Caught Adrift” is a mellower affair, built around an enveloping jazz horn riff and dubby bassline. These are not forms that provide obvious allusions to nature, but that’s fine. Chósta synthesised his inspirations – whether they be musical or observable – into exciting electronica that made sense to him.
The cover of his first album, Twilight Transmission, released last month, suggests something very different. This time, we see a foggy, late-night urban setting. The photo evokes feelings of stepping off the Nitelink at 4am and finding yourself entirely alone in the silence. Similarly, the music of Twilight Transmission is chilly, mellow, hauntingly beautiful in places.
Chósta’s music-nerd eclecticism is obvious. He has co-hosted a monthly Dublin Digital Radio show titled Midnight Tapes with Ciarán Mulryan that focuses on interesting rarities. When asked by Four Four magazine to name his influences, his answer was as long as Shaquille O’Neal’s arm. From the artists Chósta cited, I can hear Boards of Canada’s translucent ambience, as well as Burial’s revolving voice arcs. And most emerging beatmakers who use samples owe a debt to rap production pioneers J Dilla and Madlib. (Less obvious to me is the spirit of Irish trad band Planxty.)
So you get a song like “Late Night Jazz Radio”, from Twilight Transmission, inspired by the after-hours radio shows Donal Dineen began hosting on Today FM in the ’90s. It opens with a floating jazz horn – despite the song’s title, it’s the only obvious nod to the genre. From there, a thumping drum loop and blippy synth riff emerges. Lyrics from Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” unexpectedly appear. It’s a showcase of unique genre-meshing as Chósta splices the DNA of several styles into something cohesive.
“Late Night Jazz Radio” was first released way back in 2021, and its barren mood bears evidence of Covid-19 restrictions. Like much of Twilight Transmissions, there’s a reclusiveness to the music. The album can feel like it’s being beamed into a secluded cabin, slithering into speakers via an old-fashioned metal aerial. Twilight Transmissions even opens with what sounds like the big play button on an old analog tape player being pressed; then comes the glitchy sound of tuning an old radio dial. “As The Rain Fell” includes the noise of a late-night shower hitting the pavement outside your bedroom window. Chósta can make you feel like the only human being within a 10-mile radius.
Elsewhere, “The Object Spoke to Me” is inspired by the vignette structuring of William Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch, and opens with an interview clip from the writer himself. From there, Jape’s Richie Egan provides a simple melody to complement the dreamy track. There’s another guest spot courtesy of singer Fears, also of the band M(h)aol, who gives a ghostly, echoing performance on “Honestly”, her presence only adding to the lonely atmosphere of the record. These different voices stop the album hitting stasis.
Just as impactful is the audio clip of a Dublin woman asserting she’ll never give up her own part of the city that opens “Vox”. Though its inclusion can scan as an uplifting message, it’s also a takedown of the kind of gentrification that’s rendering parts of Dublin soulless. Chósta himself has raged about this: “Sadly, there’s fewer and fewer venues and spaces left as our city’s planners seem to think tourists will continue to visit the ever expanding number of hotels in spite of them destroying every fucking shred of heritage and history,” he’s told Flex. The presence of a street saxophone player that Chósta himself recorded while out and about further connects it to the city.
“Vox” has a rare capital-M Message on what’s otherwise simply a beautiful set of electronic soundscapes to relax to. That Chósta resists adding a more upbeat tune like first single “Alone” proves absolutely correct because everything that is included flows so naturally.
It adds up to an impressive manifesto from a premier voice in Irish electronic music right now.