With most albums it’s good to have the sleeve notes to hand when listening. With Breabach’s sixth outing an atlas is just as important. Astar means distance or journey in Gaelic and the musical ideas are drawn from all round the world.
The album opens with ‘The Midnight Sun’ written by piper James Duncan Mackenzie and inspired by a visit he paid to Tromso to run a marathon on midsummers day when the sun never actually sets. It begins with an oddly oriental sound, presumably an attempt to imitate the sound of a kantele. That is followed by a set of three compositions inspired by the rhythms of the Haka. The parts of ‘Muriwai’ are written by Calum MacCrimmon, Scott Morrison and Mackenzie.
There is brief return to Scotland with Dick Gaughan’s ‘Outlaws And Dreamers’ before we’re off to Scandinavia again with ‘Farsund’, the title track of the medley being composed by Megan Henderson. The third part of the medley is the first traditional tune on the album, ‘Wee Totum Fog’, which itself has an interesting history. ‘Mo Thruaighe Leir Thu ‘Ille Bhuidhe’ gives Megan her first lead vocal of the collection and then we’re off again, this time to Australia. ‘The White Sands Of Jervis Bay’ begins with a ceremonial song from the Aborigine tradition called ‘Guka Manikay’ while MacCrimmon and Mackenzie composed the title piece. It’s interesting to note that no-one seems to have come up with a more politically correct term for the original inhabitants of Australia.
‘Les Pieds Joyeaux’ is inspired by the Quebeçois tradition even though the tunes themselves are Scottish – Le Vent Du Nord join Breabach on vocals for this one. Then there is a visit to the Hebrides for a waulking song and a tune inspired by the waulking rhythm. It would be appropriate to stay in Scotland now but Ewan Robertson’s ‘Ribbon Of Fire’ is a song inspired by the band’s tour of the antipodes and ‘The Last March’ takes us to Cape Breton.
Astar is an album full of musical imagery and imagination – a melting pot of ideas that is varied and satisfying. This could be Beabach’s best.
Voted ‘Best Live Act 2013’ & ’Best Folk Band 2012‘ at the Scots Trad Music Awards and twice nominated ‘Best Band’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards; Scottish five-piece Breabach deliver a thrilling and unique brand of contemporary folk music that has earned them international recognition on the world and roots music scene as one of the UK’s most dynamic and exciting bands.
After a whirlwind five years traversing the globe, touring Australia, New Zealand, Asia, North America, Scandinavia and the middle East, Breabach are delighted to announce their fifth studio album Astar (translating from Scottish Gaelic as distance or journey). The music on the album takes inspiration from the beauty of both the places and people the band have visited and the wonderful musicians and cultures encountered along the way. Working with producer Greg Lawson (Moishes Bagel, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, GRIT Orchestra) the band have taken melodic, rhythmic and harmonic ideas from each of the countries they have visited. Some of this is woven into the arrangement, some of this is achieved through self-penned works. Through it all however, it’s their Scottish roots that remain at the core of the recording with work from Burns, Dick Gaughan and Donald Macleod finding it’s way into the mix. Augmenting the album will be some special guests including Yidaki player Mark Atkins (AUS), extraordinary Aborigine artist Yirrmal of Black Arm Band (AUS) Maori tradition bearer Scott Morrison (NZ), Quebecois violinist Olivier Demers of Le Vent Du Nord (Quebec) and Hardanger virtuoso Olav Luksengård Mjelva of Nordic Fiddlers Bloc (NO).
Breabach unite the talent of Calum MacCrimmon (pipes/whistles/bouzouki/vocals), Ewan Robertson (guitar/ vocals), James Mackenzie (pipes/flute/whistles), Megan Henderson (fiddle/vocals/stepdance) and James Lindsay (double bass). Since launching their career as winners of the Open Stage Award at Celtic Connections in 2005 the band have steadily moved from strength to strength, picking up accolades and performing at esteemed events along the way. The 2016 release of Astar sees them reaching new levels of their musical ambition and maturity.