Identities of the Future: Nine Raths reflect on their musical and ideological development
The Irish duo reflect on what has helped to solidify their identity be it in music or heritage of the past.
Ryan Burrows and Adam Smith are friends and collaborators, most recently they began working together on a new musical project called Nine Raths. The project was born from a shared ethos and vision of detachment from the stereotypes associated with Ireland as Ryan explains:
“I guess it’s an attempt to identify ourselves as modern people of Ireland, we personally don’t feel like we identify with the political and religious binary stereotypes of where we’re from. There are ready-made identities driven into us from birth, especially in the North.
We feel more connected to the people and culture of Ireland than the UK even though we both come from backgrounds which don’t generally share that viewpoint, so we feel we exist outside those two identities.”
The resulting music is hard to place – it sits somewhere in the realm of deconstructed electronic music which might be best associated with the likes of Batu or early Opal Tapes material whilst also draws upon sensibilities of punk and noise culture.
One thing which is prominent throughout the music is the ethereal, pensive energy conveyed through layers of orchestral pads and foreboding, off kilter percussion. It’s threatening and yet beautiful at the same time.
We spoke with the pair to try and get a better understanding of where the duo are coming from and what they are all about, discussing history, politics and future progression.
You reflect on a Northern Irish “identity” – what characteristics do you feel embody and represent this?
“We’re more about searching for a new identity through making music and art, not being defined by the stereotypes that are associated with Northern Ireland. Everyone should be able to form their own identity regardless of the history of where they live. Identity is a social construct and we can choose what elements to construct it from.”
The instability of the island has obviously played a role in the cultural progression of cities in both the North and the South, how has politics and social divide affected your own upbringing and creative outlets?
“Divisive political views weren’t part of either of our upbringings apart from growing up around the consequences of it, we never had social divides enforced and have never had any time for it ourselves. We never felt like we were creatively divided from anyone on the island, studying, writing and performing music with people from all types of backgrounds has definitely created a creative melting pot for us.”
You say you have more in common with those from the South, a divisive opinion to some from the North, can you explain this further?
“We don’t differentiate between South and North, we just feel culturally connected to the island. We have a big interest in ancient Irish culture and things like the megaliths and middle age architecture that still exists commonly across the island. It’s something everyone on the island knows and experiences but is overshadowed by other parts of history.”
How has religion or lack of it played a role in the formation of your own identity and cultural interests?
“We both left the idea of religion at a fairly early age, it never really interested us and it wasn’t something important to our upbringing. The lack of it certainly meant we maybe didn’t feel the same preconceived notions of who we are as people and felt freer to pursue our own ideas, like many of our generation.”
What has music offered you in respect of escapism?
“I think music has more so allowed us to process our realities rather than as a form of escapism other than from the boredom of working day jobs and usual things like that. We aren’t escaping from anything either of us have experienced, it’s part of who we are.”
What would you change about the music community and expectations of culture in Northern Ireland?
“We would probably change the sometimes implied concept that everything relates back to a binary option of identities and also that not everything is informed by the conflict and its related trauma. There are many people born after it who are more concerned with what the future can look like than what the recent past contained. We tend to look further back to an older history and cultures which still scar the landscape for inspiration as these are as familiar to us.”
How do you feel that Brexit has impacted your community, has it brought you closer to the South or divided further?
“I don’t think this is something we’ve noticed so much, but I’m sure all our politicians have very different answers for this. We feel connected to everyone on the island.”
“We would probably change the sometimes implied concept that everything relates back to a binary option of identities and also that not everything is informed by the conflict and its related trauma. There are many people born after it who are more concerned with what the future can look like than what the recent past contained.”
So, your music has been described as notoriously hard to define, how would you define it?
“I think it’s harder for us to define to be honest but recently we’ve been saying “Neo Irish Electronica”, it kinda sounds right and it’s vague enough we can do whatever we want in future.”
From the perspective of aspiration, which artists have you looked up to in the past if any?
“Any artist who constantly appears to evolve throughout their career and don’t repeat themselves or aren’t constrained by a particular sound. I find an artist like Bjork incredibly inspiring in creating concepts and characters for each album project for example. Anyone who tries new approaches constantly release to release. Other big artists we are inspired by in that way include Autechre, Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk and Scott Walker to name a few. Constant evolution and experimentation is a motivator.”
Where do you draw influence for your music?
“We’re very influenced by our surroundings and see our music and visuals as processing that environment. We love Irish history and have a fascination with the neolithic and middle age architecture dotted around the landscape. This is alongside a strong interest in new technology, computers and science fiction etc. We’re basically always thinking of what the future can be in Ireland and this all feeds into the music.”
What are your ambitions for the project, what comes next?
“We’ll be releasing a series of EPs with each having its own flavour. We also would like to work more in collaboration with visual artists on some audiovisual projects we have in mind. We also have ideas for live shows and installations but currently we’re focusing on making a lot of music, our main ambition is to keep doing this and release as much music we care about as possible.”
Visit their bandcamp HERE.