Irish singer Inni-K’s Iníon echoes the thoughtful memory of W.B. Yeats’ words, “And I will have peace there, for peace comes dropping slow”. I suppose in some sort of Jungian psychological archetype, we all wish to return to our own ‘Lake Isle Of Innisfree’. And this album certainly warms the chills of any worried tomorrow. It’s a nice soundtrack to my memory of hearing Planxty’s ‘Cliffs Of Dooneen’ in a Dublin youth hostel, eating vegetarian food and sleeping on a stuffed mattress (Rumplestiltskin style) filled from a storeroom’s ample supply of straw. What a memory – Triona Ni Dhomhnaill (of The Bothy Band, Relativity, and Nightnoise fame) played an intimate concert in the hostel’s cafeteria area.
Now, Inni-K “searches out the beauty, tradition and ancient pathos of sean-nos in a contemporary, vital and unique reimagining”. So, this is music “in the old way” that shuns the mysticism of Enya or later day Clannad, as well as the popular stuff like Gaelic Storm and The Corrs. Rather, Inion is more in keeping with art folk of Iarla O’ Lionaird’s Real World records and his Gloaming band albums that stretch the traditional Irish sound into a modern palette that messes modern despair with sympathetic hope.
The first two songs accent Inni-K’s voice and are almost acapella, yet the subtle piano, clarinet, and hushed percussion couch the melody in a soft chambered reverence. ‘An Tiarna Randal’ (aka ‘Lord Randal’) is given a tender touch. Then, ‘Casadh An tSugain’ ventures further into somber melodic revelry, with violin, cello, and clarinet. This is moody stuff, but it has a clarity that’s punctuated with passionate vocals.
Oh my – ‘Lord Gregory’ is, indeed, a “unique reimaging”, as the vocal tale sets sail into ECM chamber jazz journey with Brian Walsh’s slight (and perfect!) percussion and a sailor’s knotted cello pulse that’s haloed by Matthew Berrill’s clarinet. Now, it doesn’t sound like Fairport Convention, but fans of ‘A Sailor’s Life’ will enjoy the adventure of the song.
In contrast, ‘Cuc-A-Neaindi’ is up-tempo, with a bit of a sprite melody, really nice drumming, violin and cello, which seesaw with joyous abandon. It’s a welcome juxtaposition.
But then, the reflective beauty returns. The solo-voiced ‘An Raibh Tu Ar An gCarraig’ oozes pathos. It is, indeed, that “peace” that is “coming dropping slow”. The same is true for ‘Eamonn An Chonic?’ which delivers a drama that echoes very early Clannad, before they trod the road unfortunately taken by Enya into new age mysticism. The Gaelic recitation over the sad clarinet is deeply potent magic. And, the sublime ‘Uirchill An Chreagain’ sings, with voice, piano, percussion, and clarinet, to a very welcoming universe.
‘The Mountain Streams Where The Moorcocks Crow’ conjures the uncanny and magical sound of Dervish’s Cathy Jordan. Huge compliment, there.
And, by the way, a tangential comment must be made to endorse the two ECM albums which (the great) June Tabor made under the aegis of Quercus, where she, Ian Ballamy, and Huw Warren jazzed up traditional folk songs with vocals, saxophones, and piano.
That said, the final song, ‘Ho-Bha-In’, is a patient melodic thought that dearly sings “in the old way” with (an almost) sacred touch. This is a ritual fire song, with sparks that reach into the heavens and, hopefully, bless some distant future with a musical and very Gaelic prayer.
I suppose Iníon still sings to those who desire to “see the high rocky slopes of the West coast of Clare” and “the towns of Kilrush and Kilkee”. And it gives a welcome solace – yet another Gaelic devotion infused with W. B. Yeats’ “dropping slow peace” – smack dab in a world that insists on “slouching toward Bethlehem”, where we are “turning and turning” and “the falcon cannot hear the falconer”. Well, this beautiful album, which, as said, is a soundtrack to a delightful Irish memory with just enough egg plant youth hostel veggie food and an in-house sound system that played The Planxty Collection in anticipation of an intimate Triona concert, to confront that despair of a deaf falcon and a weird “Second Coming”, with a welcome and very traditional folk song (sort of) sacred salvation for those travelers who have been “far far from” the music of any “native home”.
Artist’s website: www.inni-k.com
‘Cuc-a-neaindí’ – official video: