Having toured the world, won awards and created an immensely successful album, Astar, zinging with creative fusion, what would Breabach do next? Judging by their latest album, Frenzy Of The Meeting, released in late October, the answer seems to be to find a revitalised inspiration in the traditional music of home.
Never a band to stand still, Frenzy Of The Meeting finds Breabach testing new waters once again. As usual, tracks were initially laid down live in the studio in order to capture the band’s essential sound. The band then enhanced these tracks during further studio sessions, in collaboration with producer Eamon Doorley. The final result is still absolutely Breabach, but in a subtly fleshed out way.
Starting with Bonnie Prince Charlie landing on a chilly beach on Eriskay, the low-slung guitar and bass of ‘Princes Strand’ provide solid ground for a rather wistful tune carried by whistles and pipes, as well as forming the link to ‘Knees Up’. This uplifting two-tune set pits ferocious piping against Megan Henderson’s soaring vocals.
Delicate bouzouki wreathes through ‘Winter Winds’, Calum MacCrimmon’s utterly beautiful song comparing the changing weather to the healing nature of time, “give it time and the sky will change”. Sharply switching mood, the stomping opening to ‘Western Isle Dance’ pairs a lively traditional tune with James Lindsay’s more reflective musing on the nature of alternative facts.
Ewan Robertson and Michael Farrell’s thoughtful ‘Birds Of Passage’, inspired by Longfellow’s poem of the same name, contemplates aspects of migration, its upwardly spiralling instrumentation mirroring the lyrics. The ballsy, sinuous ‘Google This’ follows, intriguingly paired with a traditional waulking song which sounds like it shouldn’t work, although – of course – it does.
The title track, ‘Frenzy Of The Meeting’ opening with a deep bowed bass and lithe fiddle bubbling over mouth harp, is a darkly delicious meshing of Henderson’s tune ‘Incahoots’ with the low chant of a traditional Ceòl Mòr. The album wraps up with ‘Oran Bhraigh Rusgaich’ which builds on its core of atmospheric harmonium drone, airy reverb and sparse guitar into a grand climactic finale, leaving just a trace of whistles hanging on the air.
Frenzy Of The Meeting may not have quite the same immediacy as its predecessor, but it has a satisfying deep richness and texture all of its own. It’s a fascinating new development in Breabach’s work, building yet more layers, more experiment and versatility into their sound.
To see this album in live performance, catch Breabach on tour around the UK now and until February 2019.
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‘Birds Of Passage’ – official video: