The Routes Quartet release their second album

The Routes Quartet
Photograph by Paul Jennings

The Routes Quartet have announced their new album Arche is out now, featuring their signature edge and unique mix of classical and folk music. The album title, Arche, pronounced Ar:ki, means elements/origin/beginning. Featuring seven tracks, the album is best listened to in one go, taking listeners on a journey as the artists draw on each other’s diverse talents, encouraging imaginations to run free. This lockdown creation, their second album, debuted on Friday 3rd February 2023 at Glasgow’s City Halls Recital Room as part of Celtic Connections.

Beginning with first track ‘Vesta’, thanks to their collective backgrounds in Traditional, Classical, Jazz and World music, the album reflects opening up a formal String Quartet ensemble into improvisatory perspectives. The album stages, or tracks, follow suit with other elemental titles but in ancient Greek. Each continuing this feeling of something deeply elemental- just like Ancient Greek was the foundation of so many languages. Arche (elemental) embodies this – fundamental, origin, powerful, intimate.

During the time of year when Winter clings on, refusing to let Spring in, the Quartet; David Lombardi (Fiddle), Madeleine Stewart (Fiddle), Emma Tomlinson (Viola), and Rufus Huggan (Cello), journeyed to Tynron, Dumfries & Galloway on a quest. With the expert guidance of Co-Producers Grammy Award winning David Donaldson (Craig Armstrong, plus movies including Ray Charles, Bank of Dave), and under the watchful and highly knowledgeable care of the renowned Violinist, Composer and Conductor; Greg Lawson (Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Carol Kidd, Mogwai and The Grit Orchestra), the musicians set up a bespoke studio in a secluded countryside setting. For the next 10 days, the Quartet cultivated and crafted a sound-world of their own, between traditional and classical music.

The Routes Quartet, renowned for fusing folk tunes and classical traditions with new arrangements, uniquely bring influences from Scottish, Irish and English music, exploring vast textures, tones, and intimate musical qualities with an edge. Improvising with timbre, capturing sounds from the surrounding rural landscape, and being totally immersed together in the process, this second album and thoughts were also recorded and crafted into a documentary by filmmaker extraordinaire Paul Jennings.

Emma Tomlinson from The Routes said: “We love it when listeners create their own narratives to the original and dynamic sounds we could create together. “Creative Scotland funded this project so that Greg and David could develop our skills so we could capture this type of recording again. It was a development of skills endeavour and not only a recording project, which is one of the reasons Paul documenting it has been so important – the approach to recording a ’trad string quartet’ had some bespoke elements to capture the essence. “All the tune elements are our own compositions that we’ve arranged together to go on a musical journey that is cohesive and unique to us. We are excited to see what listeners make of it and how they enjoy it.”

Lombardi plays an instrument made in 1790 by Matthias “Dax” Hornsteiner, and a violin made in 2014 by Alejandra Bedoya Gaviria in Cremona. Stewart’s fiddle is a Nr. 16 Rode made in 2000 by J.R. Weene in Boston. Tomlinson’s Viola was made by David Rattray in Scotland in 2021, and Huggan’s Cello in 2010, a copy of the 1711 Duport Stradivarius. The artists are originally from diverse places; David Lombardi is from Alessandria, Italy; Madeleine Stewart from New Hampshire, USA; Rufus Huggan from Spean Bridge, Scotland, and Emma Tomlinson from Liverpool, England. The captured and improvised sounds were then manipulated post-production thanks to the deft skills of David Donaldson, and worked back into the Quartet’s music, weaving threads together between the compositions to create the album, which enables both individuality and cohesion. The album was mastered by Conor Dalton. The Artwork is by Somhairle MacDonald, then adapted by The Routes Quartet themselves.

Following the success of their debut album Windrose, produced by Patsy Reid and recorded live by Keir Long at St. Columba’s Chapel, Drimnin Estate in 2017, The Routes Quartet came together again during lockdown. Their process begins with individual suggestions, jams and improvisations follow, to achieve their final music. For many composers (in the classical world) writing for String Quartets was an indication of their prowess – four musical and skilled elements totally stripped right back, exposed parts that need to form together completely to be successful, and intimate. This idea, combined with other genres, is the signature of The Routes Quartet, as they create something utterly new in a very organic vision.

Artists’ website:

‘Second Part’ – live at Celtic Connections: