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BREABACH The Desperate Battle Of The Birds

The Desperate Battle Of The Birds
Breabach Records BRE001CD

Probably best known as the band boasting a dual-bagpipe frontline, Breabach have been working their magic to increasingly glorious effect for over 5 years now. Their debut album The Big Spree in 2007 set the bar high, bringing them to the attention of a wider audience, and this follow-up does not disappoint. Pipers Donal Brown and Calum MacCrimmon double on flute and whistles, with Patsy Reid’s fiddle and viola and Ewan Robertson on guitar fleshing out the sound and contributing vocals, with producer Duncan Lyall’s double bass added here to potent sonic effect. James Lindsay has since taken on bass duties, bringing the band up a five-piece.

The elegance of the material is instantly engaging from the opening Father Michael’s cluster of three tunes. Featuring the work of modern pipe music composers – Iain MacDonald, Cam Keating and the late Gordon Duncan it shows the band’s strong sense that traditional music has always been an amalgam of the here-and-now as much as the what-used-to-be.

The title track, whilst often describing the frantic fluttering in my old sycamore, is taken from an ancient pibroch and as part of a set that also comprises the wonderfully titled Last Tango In Harris, it typifies the Breabach approach - lilting melody alternating with often ramped-up syncopation, producing a sense of rightness that’s decidedly uplifting. Though still primarily an instrumental outfit, there are four vocal tracks this time around with Patsy’s voice on Allan Taylor’s The Morning Lies Heavy having just the right balance of resignation and elegiac beauty to coax goose flesh.

Elsewhere there are moments of full blown oomph, which when contrasted with spacious and wistful laments add up to an absorbing record with an inventive yet timeless flavour making them as of now, my new favourite band. They deserve to be yours too!

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.