Ensemble ÉriuTuesday 27 May 2014
Label: Raelach Records
Duration: 42 minutes
Ensemble Ériu’s eponymous debut begins with Jurna, featuring the disparate sounds of marimba, concertina and hand claps coalescing as the rolling stone of the tune gathers moss.
The piece evolves, and you get a vague sense of the melody doubling back over itself, as though Steve Reich was lending his hypnotic hand to the process.
However, Ériu are far less punchy and electronically oriented than Reich. They essentially deal with the organics of Irish music, tweaking it on a new palette of colours. But not so as not to make it into something too far removed from its roots, and the band is comparable in that regard perhaps to The Gloaming.
Track two, April's Fool, is a version of a jig by the accordion player Jimmy Keane. The following track, Gleann na Réimsí is based on a set dance version of the air Seán Ó Duibhir an Ghleanna, associated with the legendary piper Willie Clancy.
There is a real sense of East County Clare about Ensemble Ériu, and It's something to do with the concertina. Indeed, Jack Talty’s concertinas are to the fore on an album of diverse instrumentation which was recorded in Lissycasey – as East Clare as it gets - and in Miltown Malbay.
Jack also handles some subtle electronics, while Neil O’Loghlen plays bass, flute and whistle. Matthew Berrill plays clarinets. Matthew Jacobsen is the marimba and drums specialist, his light-touch percussion sometimes merely the gentlest of cymbal brushes; Jeremy Spencer plays fiddle, as does Una McGinty, while she also supplies some viola. Paddy Greenland is the guitarist, Sam Perkin plays keyboards, and Colm O’Hara blends in his trombone.
The tracks are in effect suites, individual segments venturing in and out of texture fields, through different instrument combinations. The extended exercise, Caoineadh Do Leanbh Marbh slowly turns from a traditional lament into a jazz-inflected clarinet-led affair.
The final track is the ethereal, Seachrán Sí, sung by Saileog Ní Cheannabháin, whose voice is pure Connemara. It’s like a foray northwards for the album, away from Lissycasey, to the more elemental and stony landscape of the neighbouring county. www. raelachrecords.com