❉ An introduction to Seán Quinn of synthpop band Tiny Magnetic Pets’ side-project, Skylines.
Seán Quinn is a Dublin-based composer/producer, who We Are Cult readers will probably initially know from the brilliant synthpop band, Tiny Magnetic Pets. Seán is signed to EG Records, former home of Roxy Music, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, and he has also recorded for Virgin, BMG and Cherry Red in the past. Tiny Magnetic Pets were invited to support synthpop legends Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark on their tour throughout the UK and Europe in both 2017 and 2019. They have also toured with Midge Ure (Ultravox, Rich Kids) in Europe. Including their own headlining acts, Tiny Magnetic Pets have completed seventy shows in the past two years and have been described as “synths with soul” by the Sunday Times.
Seán’s solo album Skylines is a side-project and was inspired by a series of photographs taken by Quinn whilst travelling across the world, to destinations such as Germany, Paris and New York. Whilst he was gazing at the various vistas and deserted cityscapes from his hotel windows when, the ensuing feeling of isolation in the small hours was palpable and stirred something within Quinn. Those feelings of loneliness and isolation are all too relevant in today’s current climate. The resulting ambient instrumental album previously received a worldwide release in 2005 via Darla Records in the US and received extensive airplay in America, the UK and Europe. He is now re-releasing Skylines, a solo album, via his own label, Vitamin C.
Seán Quinn explains Skylines’ genesis as follows:
“The idea for “Skylines” arrived when I was asked to record an album for the proposed re-launch of the legendary ambient label Editions EG. I was greatly honoured to be on a roster that included Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Harold Budd etc. and within a couple of days, had begun recording. Unfortunately, said re-launch never happened but the seed was planted and even at that early stage it had it’s own energy, so I decided to finish the album regardless. I made the decision early in the process that (a) it would be entirely instrumental, (b) melody would be paramount & (c) it was just going to be me playing all the instruments.” –
The album Skylines is an synth-led, ambient affair and you can listen to the both the album and the lead single Skyline on Bandcamp for free. The title track starts with strong prolonged and elongated synth sounds, which immediately put you in mind of being in a vast open celestial space. As the track progresses, and the rich multi-layered sounds fill the air, you are taken on a metaphorical journey which you cannot help but be drawn into. Just as the vibe has saturated your soul it’s over all too quickly.
Quinn has always been fascinated by analogue synthesizers and their effective use for soundtracks, alluding to strange and alarming dystopian futures. This unnerving feeling is replicated in the album track Dead Air, where we are presented with a fractured signal… or is it something more sinister? Although we are later told “normal service will be resumed” we are not told when this will be, if ever, and the ethereal voice we hear is anything but reassuring…
The theme of being uninformed is carried through into the track Windscale, which shifts into bleaker territory with a darker tune, listing radioactive contaminants. It references the 1957 radioactive gas leak from the fire at Windscale (now known as Sellafield), which contaminated the area of County Louth, as it carried its airborne Chernobyl-level contamination across the Irish Sea, causing untold health problems for its residents. It should be noted that this track was recorded before Kraftwerk’s track, Radio-Activity.
The track Imbrium was recorded in London, under the gaze of a beautiful full moon and the accompanying video reflects its beauty.
This album should be given serious consideration for all fans of Eno, Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk and John Foxx. The Irish Times rated Skylines as a success because “Quinn has invested heavily in melodies – resilient, punchy and charming”. Hot Press said of the album, “It’s hard to distinguish where Quinn ends and Fripp begins”. Its elegant melancholy is entirely relatable and stays within your consciousness like a memorable film soundtrack.
The album is available via Bandcamp and will be officially re-released on 5th June 2020. You’ll receive a CD presented in a card wallet with its design and photography by Seán Quinn. It also comes with an A5 art print from a selection of three; “NYC”, “Paris” or “Steelworks. The previously released jewel-cased CD edition has already sold out.
❉ ‘Skylines’ is available via Bandcamp as a Digital Album and CD in Card Wallet. Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
❉ Ange Chan is a regular writer for We Are Cult and has published six volumes of poetry and two novels of contemporary fiction. She is currently also working on a long-standing project of her third novel Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots.