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Private Label JM2 

Solo piping recordings are not everyday occurrences now, or they are certainly not as plentiful as they once were. While once companies like Lismor, Temple and Topic issued solo piping albums on a regular basis, albums by known musicians in a display of the instrument’s power as well as their exponent’s individual repertoires and styles, solo piping recordings are now far less frequent.

With that in mind, and also as a follow-up to his electronic experimental recordings, John Mulhearn created Pipes. This is an album of new music for the bagpipes and most of it is from his own making. It’s also a display of sonic power with the pipes given the space to move and breathe in a suitable environment - that of St Mary’s Space, Appin, which the composer loved on first encounter and decided was the perfect location in which to record. The resultant sound is one of power and space –the full effects of the pipes can be heard and the space is both aural and visual with a clarity seldom found in the studio confines.

Taking three tracks as examples: Apologists opens with sound effects introducing the pipes, The Bigfoot Set contains a varied selection of dance rhythms, while Wedding And Wales is introduced with subtle electronic loops before the pipes make their entrance. The use of electronics both as effects and as a secondary instrument to the pipes supplies a surprisingly effective nod to modernisation and music concrete, adding ambience to the pipes. Thus, Pipes is a thoroughly modern recording using an ancient instrument; the music based in old rhythms, tempos and styles, yet thoroughly new in composition and execution. There hasn’t been a piping album like it since….? Pipes is at once boldly new and boldly old, and it’s boldly great too.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.