Manran – rar
Independent – October 22, 2021
Most bands and musicians have sad stories to tell after the events of 2020/21, but Manran fall into a class of their own. In the months before the lockdown began, they had welcomed two new members to the line-up, the much sought-after singer and songwriter. Kim Carnie and Aidan Moodie, the guitarist and singer who has been with for the past few years Gnoss. They had barely had time to fall asleep when all opportunities to perform live were lost and even a get-together as a band became impossible. We can be grateful that there was little chance they just sat there and turned their thumbs, so Mànran quickly adapted to the remote collaboration and recording, producing the eleven tracks that are now this intriguing new one Make album.
rar begins with Ailean traditional Gaelic lyrics to a melody composed for the band by the 2014 BBC Young Musician of the Year winner Mischa MacPherson. The liner notes, very useful for non-Gaelic speakers, explain that the lyrics give voice to a grieving woman whose husband, father and three brothers have been lost at sea. The song begins with a slow, deep drum beat, accompanied by a bass note that sets the mood, but without giving the feeling that what might be coming might be a lament. This is amplified when Kim's voice comes over the rhythm with an ease that belies the message of the lyrics but fits the form of the song perfectly as it alternates lines of meaningful lyrics and repetitions of mouth music, more of a chorus than a chorus. A short violin line by Ewen Henderson marks the end of the first verse and when the vocals return, one notices that a more varied drum rhythm with cymbals and snare has crept in almost unnoticed. The pattern is repeated in the next pause while Aidan's guitar pushes the rhythm a little faster, accompanied by Ryan Murphy's whistle. For the next verse, it is the turn of the male voices Aidan and Ewen, who underpin the refrains and further contribute the violin, guitar and whistle. Since all this accompaniment of Kim's voice becomes more and more complex, it must never penetrate the voice, the mix ensures that Kim's voice remains clearly in the foreground. I allowed myself the luxury of lingering on this first track, as it shows how well the new members have integrated into the band on the one hand and help Manran to delve deeper and deeper into the Gaelic tradition on the other.
Track 2, Crossroads, puts us back on familiar ground, a role written by Ryan that was recorded at a good pace, but not too loud. An impression that is due not least to the well-coordinated timbre. To listen Mark Scobbie, he plays a full set of drums, and there are passages where this playing is decidedly alive, as befits the melody. But the sound of the drums is not what the ear perceives first, whistles, accordions, flutes, they all seem stronger. Recording and mixing was the responsibility of Ross Saunders at Glasgow's Gloworm Studios, while the producer credit goes to Breabachs Calum MacCrimmon. Ross happens to be the Manran bassist too, of course. He and Calum worked together to create a beautifully layered texture for the recording that makes listening a pleasure before even thinking about the music itself.
The following track, Crow Flies, underscores the importance of Kim and Aidan to the expanded Mànran line-up. During the forced lockdown breakups, they wrote a song together that explored a subject that caught the attention of many of us as we navigated through that time and supported each other in uncertain times. Texts that play around meaningfully around the line "I'll be your Guiding Moonlight" are set to a simple melody supported by a strumming guitar and a relaxed drum beat. Kim sings the verses, accompanied by Aidan, who harmonizes the choruses. Finally, the violin and accordion join in. The overall feel the song creates is a cheer and it's easy to see why it was chosen to be released as a taster single ahead of the album. There is another song with English lyrics, San Cristóbal, written by Kim.
The rest of the Gaelic songs are a mix of traditional and newer compositions. Black Tower begins with a pipe melody from Ewen. That is later overlaid by Kim singing words that rewrite an ancient Gaelic story that provides an explanation for the origin of Pulpit Rock on the side of Loch Lomond. An old fairy tale in front of this new location by Mischa MacPherson. Mischa was also involved in the Puirt à Beul set of the album, Puirt Ùrar. In three parts, the first, Gheibh Thu Caoraich sets traditional texts to a new melody that Mischa and Kim have composed together. After a passage of Piping which pushes the track to a faster pace, Kim is back with a number of traditional lyrics and these flow into the third section with lyrics by Ewen. Such an intertwining of tradition and modernity is a feature of the entire album and leaves no doubt that Mànran continues to produce exciting new music based on a tradition they both honor and respect. Two songs in the middle of the album provide a perfect illustration. The first, Briogais, is a funny traditional song that affects some clearly oversized trousers, anyone who knows the song would immediately recognize it by the Mànran version, the singing of which comes straight from the tradition and is slightly accompanied. The next track, Foghar, has a very different pedigree. The text, written by Ewen, originally appeared as a poem and won the 2015 MacDonald of Sleat Prize for Gaelic Poetry. Written in the 21st the death of friends who died far too young. It's a song that deserves to be remembered for years to come to become one of those rare contemporary songs that are often confused with traditional ones.
Since the two newcomers to the band both contributed vocals and wrote songs, I couldn't resist focusing on this aspect of Manran's music first. But the band's massive instrumental talent is still there, of course, providing sympathetic arrangements of all songs and maintaining their outstanding reputation by contributing three extraordinary tune sets. Crossroads has already been mentioned, while The Loop, a three-melody set, deserves special praise. It starts with The Catalpa Rescue, which was written by Ryan with his uilleann pipes while Garry Innes& # 39; s composition Kept in the Loop inevitably brings his accordion to the fore. The set ends with Room 215 on loan from Peter Morrison, Peatbog Faeries Piper. Since Ewen's pipes find their place in this last part, the set can contain all of Mànran's heavy instrumental artillery. A rather low-key pair of melodies, Lahinch Beach by Ryan and Alpaca by Ewen, together make up the final instrumental track, reminding us how effective slower melodies can be when strategically placed to contour an album.
Over eleven years of concerts and now four studio albums have always shown Mànran a healthy appetite for innovation, but with Ùrar they have taken that to a new level. By embracing the myriad of exciting opportunities offered by the new line-up, they have produced an album that sets a new benchmark for judging contemporary Gaelic music. With his increased emphasis on his own songwriting, Ùrar is an album that skillfully balances vocals with instrumental, traditionally with self-written, and at the same time promotes the vitality that has become their trademark. Their many supporters can take heart, they show no signs of retreating into the equivalent of a middle-aged band.
RAR is available from today on CD, download and stream – Friday October 22, 2021.
Order Ùrar via https://manran.co.uk/albums and Tape bearings: https://manran.bandcamp.com/album/rar
Now on tour, live dates and tickets via https://manran.co.uk/gigs
More here: https://manran.co.uk/