The Last Time I Died is the first full-length album from the Irish composer Ailís Ní Ríain. The latest in NMC’s Debut Disc series features a group of musically diverse artists performing a rich selection of Ní Ríain’s chamber and small-scale works, the “theatre, intimacy, and nuance” of which has occupied the composer over much of the previous 20 years of her career.
Described by the Irish Times as “a significant talent” Ní Ríain’s music has been performed across Europe and further afield in Brazil, Japan, and the USA. One of the principle ideas explored in Ní Ríain’s work is communication with others, something which she has a unique perspective on as she is deaf/hard of hearing. Whilst this has sometimes placed her in challenging situations regarding verbal communication, her hearing differences have also heightened and enhanced how she relates to sound. The Last Time I Died is a portrait of a composer harnessing this unique experience of the sonic world to explore a huge range of substantial themes including consciousness, relationships, reality, and death.
‘The sounds are bright, fresh, and inventive, the extra-musical ideas behind them wide-ranging and often provocative, suggesting that Ní Ríain’s larger-scale music would be well worth exploring, too.’ The Guardian
‘Seductively tintinnabulating […] music that dances and delights,’ BBC Radio 3 New Music Show
‘Her bold approach to instrumentation, combined with ingenious imagining of musical shapes and their movement through auditory space, result in a series of delightful surprises.’ The Wire
‘This album shows a voice that is independent, exploratory and quirky.’ ★★★★ The Irish Times
‘This album presents not just miniatures inspired by the visual and internal world, although the conversion of sight to sound is of huge importance for Ní Ríain as a deaf/hearing-impaired composer and writer. These are descriptive conversations in instrument, with a fascinating interest in marrying sounds and resonances, unusual yet instructive, from pre-recorded piano to cimbalom and bass flute.’ ★★★★ BBC Music Magazine
‘Ailís Ní Ríain has been on the Irish music scene for some decades now (to say nothing of her international reputation), so it is well due that a CD of her work has been released.’ Journal of Music
‘The music evokes a conversation between humanity and the natural world. There are joyful, sometimes jovial voices with pensive interludes entwined with those of confusion and vocal utterances around illness, death and despair[…] Somehow, each piece is also a celebration.’ Disability Arts Online
‘A beautiful collection of quirky, engaging chamber pieces,’ BBC Music Magazine
‘Ailís Ní Ríain’s The Last Time I Died is a broad demonstration of her curious and unique creative mind.’ Morning Star
Focal points on the album include Revelling/Reckoning, a two-movement work for wind quintet and percussion, which aims to reflect the contradictory nature of existence, heard here in a recording by the New London Chamber Ensemble and another musician who has embraced her hearing challenges in her artistry, the iconic percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Contradiction also lies at the heart of Hiding Out ‘Neath the Everything for violin and recorded altered piano, which explores the internal and external aspects of consciousness in this recording featuring violinist Darragh Morgan. Soberado, a toy piano work that reflects on experiences of sobriety, really exemplifies Ní Ríain’s distinct approach to instrumentation in this recording by Xenia Pestova Bennett. Featuring Tim Williams on cimbalom and Tom McKinney on guitar, Thank You is a movement from Ní Ríain’s 2010 music-theatre work Brief-Blue-Electric-Bloom, which combines music, sign language, poetry and animation, aiming to “enable a deaf audience and ‘disable’ a hearing audience so that they might ‘receive’ the work equally”.