DLÙ – Moch (ARC Music EUCD2956)

MochDLÙ will be a new name to many, but since this debut album, Moch, suggests we’ll be hearing more from them, perhaps we should start by getting the pronunciation right. It’s D-loo. Like blue with a D replacing the B. It’s based on the Gaelic word Dluth, meaning close, which is appropriate as four of the band have been friends since their school days. This isn’t a dictionary piece, but before leaving words and pronunciations behind, I’ll introduce a new phrase, Weigie Gaels – Glasgow Gaels. The school where four of the band met was Glasgow Gaelic School, and DLÙ are part of a growing Gaelic cultural movement in the city. A different approach to Gaelic culture might, therefore, be expected, and DLÙ are very much a fusion band. Their sound includes elements of rock, classical and – most prominently – funk.

Moilidh NicGriogair (fiddle), Zach Ronan (accordion), Aiden Spiers (electric guitar) and Andrew Grossart (drums) are the Glasgow Gaelic School alumni. Jack Dorrian (bass) joined later. Their debut album, like many primarily instrumental albums, most tracks are sets of tunes. All of these are newly composed.

Moch is dawn in English, and the title track is an evocation of a coming of day. Its sombre, but beautiful, opening with a fiddle playing over a low hum, creates a mood of foreboding anticipation. From there it builds up before cutting into the upbeat and accordion led second tune.

‘Am Politician’ isn’t about politics but is name of the only pub on Eriskay. The opening polka starts with a funk guitar riff before the accordion takes over. This is followed by a jig, then a reel played over an unmistakeably funky rhythm and base line. This introduces an ongoing theme – Scottish music played over a funk rhythm.

‘Racan’ (Drake) is a setting of a traditional Gaelic song, sung by guest vocalist Joseph McCluskey. It tells the story of a family whose drake is taken and eaten by thieves on Hogmanay, leaving them with a dinner of lichen from rocks and wool from sheep. This family song would have been sung unaccompanied and has a chant like quality. Interestingly as the vocal section approaches the track gets into funk mode, which continues as accompaniment to McCluskey’s vocals.

‘Bagh Dube’ (Black Bay) is a set of three tunes and is named after the studio where the album was recorded. Again, Scottish folk is complimented by the now familiar funk riffs. The final section contains some fast and infectious passages which introduce what I felt was a slight Balkan twist.

The next two tunes – ‘By the Sea’ and ‘Kate’s Jig’ – are listed separately but are essentially a single track. Both are inspired by Eriskay. The haunting fiddle solo at the start is a highlight. ‘Anmoch’ (Evening) is a nicely atmospheric track, which was the first set the band arranged together.

Which brings us to the funky one, which is what the band call ‘Blue Reef.’ The opening guitar riff wouldn’t be out of place on a pure funk album, and most of this track has a danceable feel. The final part very clearly evokes the sea – hence the name.

The opening of ‘Aiseirigh’ (Uprising) is no less funky than ‘Blue Reef.’ A more traditional fiddle tune starts to play over it, and other instruments join in. Again, the funk rhythm continues throughout.

‘Donalda’s’ is Moilidh NicGriogair’s tribute to Dr. Donalda McComb, head teacher of the Gaelic School. It’s a fine tribute, opening with a guitar solo before the fiddle takes over.

‘Anthem’ is an interesting set. It builds into a psychedelic, slightly discordant sequence, before a guitar solo cuts in. Other instruments join in, as it moves towards a punchy finish.

Moch concludes with another setting of a traditional Gaelic song. ‘Braighe Loch Iall’ (‘The Braise Of Loch Eil’). This lament for the narrator’s native Loch Eil, and the love he left there, is more gentle and mellow than Racan. McCluskey returns and is joined as lead singer by Moilidh NicGriogair, with backing from the other band members. The quality of the vocals made me wonder if they might have been used more. Personally, I feel that at times Moch might have benefited from a bit more variation, but that’s a minor criticism. Moch is full of impressive musicianship, composition, and arrangement. DLÙ have announced themselves as a distinctive and original new voice on the Scottish folk scene.

This album might not be for everyone. There will probably be purists for whom folk funk fusion isn’t just a potentially embarrassing tongue twister, but a worrying musical development. Personally, I don’t share that opinion. Different musical forms have always interacted, and we’ve ample evidence that folk music is durable enough to take innovations. On this album, Scottish folk music feels fresh and relevant. I’ll watch DLÙ’s progress with interest.

Graham Brown

Artist website: DLÙ | Facebook

‘Bràighe Loch Iall’ – official video: