Vibrant and inspiring - and that’s just looking through the titles of the tune sets and their components. The five piece line up featuring members of Rura, Talisk, Manran and Barrule is a mouthwatering prospect. Recent albums from the latter two in particular have been exciting, edge of the seat stuff; instrumental virtuosity and tunes which stir and warm the blood, merge cultures and emerge as the type of thrilling re-imaginings that are driving folk music forward.
On Afterlight, the influences of Scottish, Irish and Manx cultures, which all once shared the same Gaelic language, find themselves coming together once more in ten tune sets which blend the traditionals and the covers with plenty of original compositions. The chemical equation must be mind boggling.
Bound in a dark sepia cover, a Macbethian monarch accompanied by the ominous presence of a raven strikes a pose, sword aloft, heralding the synergy of the quintet. A dark portent perhaps, yet a contrasting buoyant deftness is apparent immediately; the Callister fiddle and Murphy pipes and whistles making their presence felt immediately with lively melody lines striking forth on the Into The Light set.
It’s a set which immediately offers a series of measured thrusts, but one which paves the way for plenty of high-powered sets which twist and turn without losing momentum. Spot the joins? You’d be hard pressed. Air Mignonne into Luke Skywalker Walks On Sunshine…? After half a dozen careful listens maybe, but therein lies the beauty and the skill of this quintet in seamlessly merging their tunes.
There are moments when the mood passes into the more calm and tranquil. Comparatively so; The Full Orkney (a play on The Full English perhaps?) and Friends On The Hilltop slow the pace down somewhat and The Mar sees the perfect amalgam of tempos. However, the young pretenders are arguably at their best when they subscribe to the ’faster is better’ alternative to the ’less is more’ notion when Adam Brown’s pace-setting bodhran gets a severe thrashing.
The back to back pairing of the whirlwind Speckled Heifer and The Asbury Slides sets are exhausting enough to take in, never mind play. Happy Clappy includes a breakneck banjo-less Damien O’Kane’s The Banjo Strikes Back, although picking out the banjo parts isn’t too tricky.
Forty minutes literally fly by. Totally invigorating and uplifting, the prospect of debuting their album at 2017 Celtic Connections and playing their first ever gig opening the 2016 Cambridge Folk Festival has set the bar high - they’re clearing it with room to spare.Mike Ainscoe
Released on 27 January 2017.
Recorded by Adam Rhodes at Heriot Toun, Scotland.
Mixed by Adam Rhodes.
Mastered by Ross Saunders at Dusty Reel.
1. Into The Light (Through The Trade / Mean Fouyir / The Hairy Dog Leaf)
2. l’Air Mignonne (Air Mignonne / Luke Skywalker Walks On Sunshine)
3. The Speckled Heifer (Hats Off To Dodd / Colbagh Breck / Lea’s Tune)
4. The Ashbury Slides (The Night We Had The Port / The Beautiful Little Ashbury / Bill Martin’s)
5. The Firebird (John Kelly’s / The Knotted Chord / Firebird)
6. Happy Clappy (The Happy Clap Jig / Agent Craig / The Banjo Strikes Back)
7. The Full Orkney (No Fear No Grace / The Siler Shroud / King Of The Foreigners)
8. Manx Plates (Ivar The Boneless / Jimmy Mick Dinny’s / Llama Karma)
9. Friendship (Friends On The Hilltop)
10. The Mar (Tuopagorni / Danny’s Birthday / Three To Skip)