A little over a year since their Brother Wind EP made a favourable impact on Folking’s Singles Bar, those talented Gnoss chaps are back to unveil their new album, Drawn From Deep Water. Now a well-established four-piece of Aidan Moodie (guitar/vocal), Graham Rorie (fiddle/mandolin), Connor Sinclair (flutes/whistles) and Craig Baxter (bodhrán/stomp/percussion), their time spent touring and maturing has forged a richly coherent unit.
A good proportion of self-written material appears on the album, showing the lads to be as strong creatively as they are performatively. Moodie’s ‘Three Shores’ opens up proceedings with a light touch, the loping roll of the rhythm lifted by whistle and mandolin, while Sinclair’s ‘The Duchess’ features his deft, curling flute over tautly sparkling mandolin and soft-spoken guitar.
Rorie demonstrates great compositional versatility deeply rooted in traditional music, from the lyrical patterns of ‘An Orkney Christmas’ to the more manic ‘Voodoo’. The latter’s lithe, twisting 3-tune set drops flavours of jazz and blues into the melting pot, the whole held steady by Baxter’s intently quick-fire percussion. ‘The Badger’ begins with a looping spiral of fiddle and flute motifs before an atmospheric guitar bridge leads into the band’s own arrangement of ‘The Banks Of Newfoundland’. James Lindsay (Breabach) lends some ethereally swirling Moog on his piece with Rorie, ‘The Peeriefool’, as well as bass duties across the album.
Moodie’s other track here, ‘Sea Widow’ breathes more intimately. The understated melancholy of the lyric derives from Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown, whose work also makes an appearance in ‘The Five Of Spades’. There’s a rather sweet swinginess to this version of the late Lise Sinclair’s song, from her cycle inspired by Mackay Brown’s novel A Time To Keep, although it feels as if it needed to be edgier, murkier. However, there’s a pleasing fragile brightness to Dave Francey’s ‘The Waking Hour’ and Väsen’s ‘Hasse A’s’ is just a burst of vital energy; its expressively fluttering, slurring fiddle pinned by a vividly pattering percussion.
Ross Ainslie’s airy, rounded production lets the interplay of instruments sing, as in album finale, the swirling ‘Laurel Cottage’ (Sinclair again) with its shifting transitions between foreground and background. Lending a warm, live-like sound, it manages to encapsulate the band’s essential dynamic and energy.
Drawn From Deep Water is a very impressive album, fully delivering on the EP’s promise and still leaving plenty of scope for future development. Don’t be an aGnosstic, give it a listen.
Artist website: www.gnossmusic.com
‘The Moul Head’ live: