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Arum is a quartet comprising four young Irish musicians: Alan Reid from Co. Leitrim on banjo and bouzouki, Conor Crimmins from Co. Clare on flute, Karen Hickey from Co. Mayo on fiddle and Martin (Marty) Barry from Co. Down on guitar and vocal. So far, so orthodox – you might think. But take a closer listen.

For a start, the group sound is very full, and replete with an exhilarating energy, a life-force that’s irresistible and fairly drags the listener along and into the tricky metrical pathways of the music. It’s tunes all the way, with just one exception – The Brightest Sky Blue, a beautiful love song penned by Ian Smith and Enda Cullen, which takes a leisurely but necessary seven minutes to unfold its sad tale. Back to the tunes, these are all band members’ originals (six by Alan, three by Conor, and two apiece by Karen and Martin), and although inspired by traditional forms (reels, polkas etc) are exploratory in nature, often seeming to coax maximum adventure from an almost minimalist cyclic or melodic development. Opening track, The Flang, is considered by the band to encompass the Arum sound, but subsequent tracks are more daring, especially in that the tunes don’t necessarily go quite where you might expect, twisting and turning the melodies through different key progressions and free-flowing rhythmic shifts across the melodic lines and individual parts.

Thus, Arum’s music may take the listener a time to get into the groove, therefore, and may sometimes appear mildly unsettling amidst all the excitement generated. The impression is of a bustling, not stagnating musical landscape, even on the drifting, almost becalmed electronically enhanced impressionistic minimalism of the final eight minutes of Geo Sound. Arum’s music will need meeting more than half-way, and involves more work from the listener – it’s not an easy ride – but now’s the time to get used to it, before they launch off into even wilder experimentation next time round.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.