Link to Living Tradition Homepage





Sleeve not available
SKYEDANCE - "Labyrinth" - Culburnie Records CUL116D

Skyedance is probably the world's best combination of fiddle, flute, pipes and accompanists. They play their own compositions in traditional styles, and this is their second album. The title and blurb indicate a reflective mood, and there is quite a bit of contemplation in Labyrinth's 51 minutes: track 2 is a gentle European-style waltz from Eric Rigler on low whistle and elbow pipes, track 3 is a mistful slow air which could be from anywhere, track 7 is a beautiful Highland air on solo fiddle, and track 13 is a lovely wailing pipe lament.

In between there's plenty of racier stuff, from the meaty jig "Cat in a Bag" to the lively and very traditional "Boxwood Reel". There's also a sort of 4-track suite woven around the title track, which has more of a World Music feel: the bass and percussion are more dominant, the modes and rhythms have elements of Balkan and Asian music, and there are funny sound effects and guest musicians. I think that's allowed, though - the music is excellent, and a touch of mysticism is probably good for the soul!

Overall, then, this is a very fine collection of original tunes written and played by some of the best in the business. The inventive arrangements complement the melodies, dull moments are totally absent, and the whole thing has a feeling of confidence and maturity which says that Skyedance is no longer an experimental project. These guys are now a force to be reckoned with.

The opening track is a fine example of the power and variety of Skyedance's music: it starts slow, with an understated solo fiddle intro, but quickly moves into a syncopated reel. The highland pipes add an earthy note, and the rhythms become more traditional until this could almost be the music of Neil Gow or Simon Fraser, but the bass and percussion are definitely from the cusp of the millennium. The ending is bold, abrupt and unresolved, leaving you tingling in anticipation. Don't panic: your expectations will definitely be met.

Alex Monaghan

Secure On-line mailorder service Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.