MIKE VASS – The Four Pillars (Unroofed Records UR005CD)

The Four PillarsThe four pillars of traditional Scottish music are, as you know, the air, the march, the strathspey and the reel. With this in mind, Mike Vass wrote the suite of music that became The Four Pillars for the 2018 Scots Fiddle Festival. He’s not greedy, though, and the album features three other fiddlers with Tom Gibbs on piano, Iain Sandilands on vibes and percussion and a string quartet whose fiddlers both play violins, of course.

I probably wouldn’t have begun with the Air section which features Lauren MacColl. ‘After Years’ and ‘The Ancient Day’ are beautiful tunes but slow and quite long and they might have worked better as a change of pace after the Strathspey section. Mike himself takes charge of the marches. The first is another slow tune, ‘A Handful Of Dust’ featuring himself on two fiddles while ‘From Regions Far Apart’ features all the supporting musicians. Again, it’s rather slow and if you’re looking for funeral marches both would do very well, although the vibraphone part in the latter might be rather incongruous.

Patsy Reid takes charge of the strathspeys. The first, ‘Martial Tunes’, is also rather stately, in the traditional manner rather than as music for dancing. ‘Thrown Away’ picks up the pace a little and builds up quite a head of steam by the end. ‘Torrent Of A Thing’ open with pizzicato fiddle and pizzicato viola, if I’m not mistaken, and involves all the players. It feels as though it belongs in a grand salon.

The reels are the province of Jenna Reid. ‘Frenzy In The Coda’ and ‘Under These Notes’ again involve the whole ensemble. As with all these pieces, Mike has followed the musical ‘rules’ but has taken the forms a step away from their original functions. This is not a record to put on for a ceilidh.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.mikevass.com

‘After Years’:


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