DOLPHIN BOY – The Highland Swing (Skye Records SCRCX005)

The Highland SwingThere is story behind this album although I’m not sure I fully understand it. Once upon a time DJ Andy Dolphin, aka Dolphin Boy, was producing what he called “sample-heavy, bootleg-style music”. Late last year he and former Peatbog Faerie Iain Copeland, drummer with techno-folk fusion band Sketch, discussed the idea of producing an album of remixes; Copeland sent Dolphin the tapes of Highland Time and Shed Life and thus was The Highland Swing born.

Sketch mixed club beats with traditional musical forms so you might wonder what Dolphin Boy could do with their music. You would be surprised. The beats are perhaps emphasised but the music remains – mostly, anyway. Most of the music is written by Copeland and Andy Levy with tunes by such distinguished composers as Aidan Burke, Charlie Maclennan and Gordon Duncan. There are some fine musicians who were members of or guested with Sketch – Neil Ewart, Angus Binnie, Ross Ainslie and Ali Levack – and their contributions are highlighted but over all this Dolphin Boy adds his samples.

There is an enormous amount of tongue-in-cheek humour here. The opening track ‘Too Many Fiddles’ should tell you that without the two voices repeating “too many fiddles” over and over again. It’s taken out of context, of course but what the hell. ‘He’s A Piper’ repeats the word bagpipes in similar fashion and ‘Ghetto Pipe’ has people asking Dolphin questions about the pipes, to which the answer is always “I Don’t Know”. The vocal on ‘Kicks’ is mostly a list of perversions (some of which I’ve never heard of) that does go on a bit. I’ll leave you to discover the other delights for yourselves.

This is a strange record but I liked Sketch’s second album, Highland Life, and slowly The Highland Swing grew on me but, being rather too old for the disco, I’m not sure when I’d play it.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

Needless to say there isn’t video of any of this!

SKETCH Highland Time (Skye Records SRCDX003)

SKETCH Highland Time (Skye Records SRCDX003)I know about bagrock and whatever Saor Patrol call their blend of pipes, electric guitar, drums and more drums but techno piping is a new one. Which is very remiss of me since Highland Time is Sketch’s second album.

It should come as no surprise that the man behind Sketch is former Peatbog Faerie Iain Copeland who is responsible for the programming and production. It’s not much a band as the idea of a band. I presumed that the core, for the purposes of live performances, consists of fiddler Neil Ewart, who is also responsible for several fine tunes, Angus Binnie on pipes on whistles, Seaumas Maclennan on bouzouki and vocalist Darren Maclean with Copeland manning the electronics. I’m wrong because Charlie Stewart seems to have replaced Ewart. That seems like unfortunate timing.

Ali Levack and Ross Ainslie play as big a part on this album as the “core” and other guests include guitarist Luc McNally, the late Fraser Shaw leading his own tune ‘C Side’ and singer Maeve Mackinnon. It’s Lavack and Binnie who make the album because it really shouldn’t work. I mean: club beats and tunes grown from the tradition! And if it does work it should be boring as hell. The fact that it works and isn’t boring is down to two very fine pipers and Copeland’s fertile imagination.

Maclean’s vocals are somewhat secondary and often treated and Copeland himself handles the most extreme vocal part on ‘Taxi For Copeland’ which is actually Ewart’s tune, ‘The Road To Kilchoan’. No, I don’t know why it has two titles. When you get past all these apparent contradictions, however, Highland Time is a really good album.

Dai Jeffries

Sketch live at Cambridge Folk Festival 2013 – with Ross Ainslie: