On her second album The Hare & The Line, Eithne Ní Chatháin aka Inni-K finds herself at the ever-changing precipice, whether it be colouring outside the lines on the opener and title track or on ‘Edges’, which is where “I like dancing with you”. It’s not that she doesn’t seem at one with herself or Dublin City, even though she is variously readjusting on the double-decker bus in the rain, “coming back into the picture” (‘Anaesthetic’) and later, on ‘The Moon, My Friend’, “up from the underground [where] these streets are strange to me”. Rather it’s how a lot of us might feel in 2019, as an increasing amount of cranes appear across the heightening city skylines: what is our place in society? Are we, the tortoise, say, being left behind by the hare?

Just After - Inni K 1

As evidenced even by the title and cover of her debut album, The King Has Two Horse’s Ears, released in 2015, Inni-K has a playful way with music. ‘Find Your Beat’ was a Tune-Yards-esque romp. The Hare & the Line has similarly fun moments. The highlight of the collection is ‘Póirste Béil’, an Irish track which sounds like, as it escalates, it could fall apart at any time. There’s little bar some roomy noises – a door opens and closes, a tap seems to be dripping, it might be raining outside. Ní Chatháin is just getting on with things though. And then, oh boy does it pick up! The cry of delight at the end sums up my reaction every time I hear the track. ‘Crush’ is the poppiest song of the ten, a slip of Marlene Enright’s bar-room tales rising with the steam.

Ní Chatháin says of The Hare & The Line: “This album has emerged from a couple of years of writing and trying songs out. About a year ago it seemed I had an album’s worth of material, but something about it didn’t feel right. Not knowing quite how to proceed, I found myself starting afresh, and with a different desire. I emerged with this collection of songs which came together relatively quickly and which I’m really happy to now be sharing with the world. The making of this album was a much less lonely venture than my previous experiences recording music. I had the sense of a team around me – people and musicians I really value and trust – and that has been very important to me and to the music too.

“In the run-up to Christmas, my drummer and main collaborator Brian Walsh, sound engineer and producer Alex Borwick and I packed two cars full of instruments and equipment and headed for a centuries-old farmhouse in Wicklow. There we battened down the hatches and recorded the bones of the songs. As if rained continuously outside (and sometimes inside!), we fed and were grateful for the wood-burning stove which proved itself inssatiable. Over Christmas and early January we finished recording the album in Hellfire Studios in the Dublin mountains and in the homes of various musicians around Dublin. It was a really fantastic experience borne of old and new relationships in music.

“To me, there is a more organic quality to these songs – an ease and a looseness perhaps coming from working and playing so much over recent years, both alone and with Brian Walsh, who has been especially involved in the arroungements and the music this time around. Happily, it’s been a very creative and busy winter.”

It’s a tender album, too. ‘Just After’ was the first taster we had of the record, where we find Ní Chatháin outside the hospital room in which her father has just died. It’s an impossible range of emotions to try and capture, and she showcases that weird time where “I didn’t know where I needed to be, not just yet, just not yet with the sandwiches and tea”. She says of the heart-rending song: “I think this is the most ‘up-to-date’ representation of me musically speaking… In common with a few of the songs on The Hare & the Line, I think of ‘Just After’ as painting a moment; in this case, that surreal and so utterly real moment after a loved one has died. It’s about the moment after my Dad died, and also recounting and remembering that moment seven years on.” ‘What’s In The Bag Love’ is about connection. You can imagine Ní Chatháin running across town for a show, her guitar strapped to her back, and a homeless person calling out amid the rush, “Won’t you come here and sit down and talk with me a while?” Soon, it turns to, “Well, sit now and cry your tears, hide no more.” It’s about noticing the things and the people around you, no matter the noise.

Ending with the quiet and rising ‘On Radharc Is Sia’, a sparse five and a half minutes, it’s hard to define Inni-K’s genre. She skirts around folk, pop and trad, the old and the new. It’s a spellbinding album whose myriad scenes are vivid and stirring in one way or another. The album cover, shot by Brid O’Donovan, finds Ní Chatháin in motion across a solid landscape. It’s her getting on with life, at her own pace.

Inni-K tour dates:
April 5: Coughlan’s, Cork
April 6: Levis’, Ballydehob, Co. Cork
April 11: Whelan’s, Dublin
April 12: Black Gate Cultural Centre, Galway
April 26: Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co. Kildare
May 9: Verein 08, Vienna, Austria
May 16: Bettstadt Bar, Lucerne, Switzerland
June 6: Green Note, Camden, London
June 26: Black Box, Belfast