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Babelfish - International Disgrace

Babelfish - International Disgrace
Private Label BABELCD01

There’s a seeming superabundance of ‘mutant musical organisms’, to use Babelfish’s own marketing metaphor, emerging from Scotland as the week-end offering of BBC’s excellent Alba TV channel makes clear. Given members associated with Blazin’ Fiddles, Peatbog Faeries, Treacherous Orchestra, Session A9, Box Club and Croft No. Five, the extent and nature of the complex quintet mutation christened Babelfish – rooted on fiddle, accordion, piano and drums, with some additional flute - is perhaps self-evident.

Founded over a decade ago and sustained in part by regular annual renewal at the Celtic Connections’ (in)famous Festival Club, the band has acquired a sort of elusive cult fame and acclaim through their generally rare appearances. There is a free, creative, improvisatory, unstructured and exploratory ethos to the concept of their music (although it is always anchored to tightness and discipline on this recording). The result is a dynamic range from the air swell of a glider to a hurtling juggernaut (the more Babel end of things!).

The spectrum of musical influences is equally varied. Their own constructs, original and arranged, fuse elements of classical music and contemporary jazz (including some short jagged splashes of relative musical anarchy), some jazz rock and funk, Eastern and European references…oh, and there’s some Celtic in the mixer too (sample the Breton mantra type quality of the irresistibly catchy melody of nab O). Use of a range of time signatures (try Sevens for instance) and changes of pace and rhythm throughout offers compelling and arresting interest.

Distinctive too is the incorporation of Jock Urquhart’s spoken poetry at some point in most of the ten tracks. The movements in the music incorporate this well and the backdrops to his delivery (which, unfortunately, sometimes lacks the dynamic range to animate and enliven the wording) are well devised. The International Disgrace is, effectively, the Hydra of corporatism against which his poetry contrastingly muses on the philosophical hopes and virtues associated with freedom, nature, grace and humanity, often in an interestingly enigmatic and Absurdist way. Babelfish are posited finally as offering a glance and a chance ‘wrapped up in a poem, a tune or a dance’ to rediscover ‘that honest universal romance’ - a fitting tribute to their brilliant composition and musicianship.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.