Our Managing Editor reviews the latest and greatest tunes from across the Celtic soundscape!
Boards of Canada
Scottish brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin go minimalist on their tenth studio recording, a 16-track, ear-bending array of atmospheric electronica. Cue the Moog and vintage synthesizers on Gemini, Reach for the Dead and Transmissions Ferox. Sequenced drum tracks drive Sick Times, Spilt Your Infinities and Come to Dust. The haunting hues of Sundown, Uritual and Semena Mertvykh simmer like a sparse soundtrack to the apocalypse, bringing to mind the moody, brooding Koyaanisqatsi-Powaqqatsi-Naqoyqatsi film/music trilogy. Fans of Philip Glass, Peter Gabriel and Thom Yorke will adore Tomorrow’s Harvest as an ambient alternative – even antithesis – to genre frontrunners Daft Punk’s funk-based bestseller Random Access Memories. While certainly not for everyone, the Edinburgh duo sits solely on the cutting, avant-garde edge of modern Celtic music.
At the other end of the Celtic musical spectrum, and equally stirring, is the latest release from singer (and step-dancer) Joy Dunlop. From the opening notes of Ma phòsas mi idir, cha ghabh mi tè mhòr to the closing chorus of Taigh an Uillt, the Scottish songstress revisits her rural roots – and its local customs – over 11 traditional tunes. An Roghainn, Puirt à beul Earraghàidhealach and Buain na rainich taobh Loch Èite each highlight both Dunlop’s grasp of the Gaelic tongue and her ability to deliver it with proper regional nuance. As such, her lovely lilt floats with authenticity atop guitars, piano, and the uilleann pipes in Hì il o ‘s na hug i hò ro, S daor a cheannaich mi phòg and Eilean Luinn.
Enter The Haggis
The Modest Revolution
Beautifully bound and packaged, the 11th full-length recording from Toronto-based folk-rock quintet Enter The Haggis finds the band honing their songwriting skills. Year of the Rat, Hindsight and Up In Lights shine with masterly-crafted melodies, while Can’t Trust the News and Scarecrow purvey pure power-pop. The band is at its best, however, with the Celtic and country touch; in particular, Down the Line, Balto and Copper Leaves roll and rollick with homespun harmonies, and Footnote is fancy-free fun at its finest. Followers of the Barenaked Ladies, Wilco and Hemingway Corner will lap-up The Modest Revolution, which was crowd-funded by fans who raised over $60,000 for its production – perhaps the surest sign that Enter The Haggis has achieved the grassroots success that so many strive for.
Prince Edward Island has a penchant for producing superb singer-songwriters, including Rose Cousins, Catherine MacLellan, Tanya Davis and Teresa Doyle. The latter’s latest recording, SongRoad, is a rootsy 11-song romp through the acoustic landscape. Girl on the Dunes, Gone Down the River and Song for Kate showcase the pure joy of a girl and her guitar. Loka Samasta and Un Destino Nuevo are worldlier, reflecting her time on the road, while Lazy Holiday is a subtle swipe at swing. True to her Celtic heritage, Doyle doesn’t disappoint with Jimmy’s Jig, A Chuachag Nam Beann and Caoineath Mhuire, each shining with simple melody. Credit the veteran storyteller for allowing these songs to breathe on their own, understanding that music lives in the spaces between the notes.