Belfast’s very own multi-instrumentalist storyteller, Owen Denvir, returns with a rousing, stripped back rendition of Green Light. Originally released as his debut single in 2016, it is a meditative tale about longing, vulnerability and hope.
Much of what has already been documented about Owen Denvir makes reference to him being a singer-songwriter. Whilst this is undeniable, it trivializes and detracts from what makes his work, and by extension, Green Light (Acoustic), well, astonishing. Denvir has garnered over 2,000,000 views on his YouTube channel, which include his unique triptych ‘three-in-one’ style mashup-cover videos. Denvir showcases his musical talent playing viola, two guitars and vocals and over the three separate takes, a rich soundscape and three-part harmony emerges.
It is not a surprise then that this had caught the attention of Coldplay. Coupled with his background as a trained orchestral Viola player, this experience heavily underpins the hybrid blend of folk and pop which can be heard so vividly in the instrumentation and arrangement of Green Light (Acoustic). Whilst the polished DIY production leans more towards the latter, it is no wonder that Denvir has subsequently chosen to release an acoustic counterpart into the world. It is clearly loved as the studio version of Green Light has amassed over 40,000 streams on YouTube and 20,000 streams on both Spotify and iTunes.
Beyond his talents as a multi-instrumentalist, there is much to admire, including his ability to transfix listeners with stories about even the most mundane, everyday human experience. Green Light revels in its intentionally cryptic lyricism and thus its honesty is more reserved than other offerings from Denvir, comparatively, ‘Jackhammer‘. Despite this, he remains as authentic, vulnerable and pensive as ever. The meaning will shift and take form differently in the mind of each individual listener.
For some, in the 3:20 running time, hazy recollections of waiting for a reply to messages that they have sent on Tinder will come flooding back. I tried not to wince at all the messages I sent with the same lackluster enthusiasm. They were always along the lines of “hi, how are you?” After all, why bother if no one usually replies anyway? In the space between sending these messages and waiting nervously for a reply, there is an entire universe. It is in this space that Green Light (Acoustic) not only occupies but lives and breathes. However, unlike myself, Denvir remains more optimistic and hopeful.
It is a testament to Denvir’s raw musical talent to interweave his signature triptych ‘three-in-one’ style seamlessly on Green Light (Acoustic). The original studio version is driven by punchy bursts of viola fiddling and guitar work building towards a soaring choir crescendo. Comparatively, the comforting “piano/chill” version, draws listeners in with a more slow building, tender and subdued piano ballad. There is a deliberate sparsity to this stripped back arrangement, even more so than what is usually associated with Denvir’s other work. This is in no way a criticism as it is exactly this which helps build an intimate immediacy to the rich tapestry of sound.
Each element of Denvir’s signature ‘three-in-one’ style is introduced in turn: a minimalist piano-driven introduction, which is then proceeded by vocals, guitar and finally viola. These different layered facets build slowly, simmering away within the fabric of the arrangement. The punchy bursts of the viola and guitar from the original studio version are more relaxed here which gives permission for Denvir’s expressive vocals to to take center-stage. This acts as an anchor throughout, allowing his impressive range to roam in the soundscape to explore the pertinent questions, “Do you need me? Are you in demand?”
To my shame, I had not previously heard of Owen Denvir prior to writing this review however, every once in a while an artist will demand your attention. Much like my first impression, you may find yourself being taken aback by Denvir’s breathtaking musicianship and mesmerized by his intimate manner of storytelling. Or otherwise, by its truly arrestingly addictive nature, you will be consuming the song on repeat, only to find yourself hours after the first listen humming the hook-filled chorus to yourself. Owen Denvir hopes that this soundtracks tranquil moments of peace whilst “in the bath or while chilling in your dressing gown + slippers”. So kick back, relax, close your eyes and allow your mind to wander through the vast universe that is Green Light (Acoustic).