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ROCK SALT & NAILS - Live & Hazardous

PAUL MOUNSEY & OTHERS - Tha Na Laithean A'Dol Seachad / The Days Flash Past

Paul Mounsey clearly adores Brazil, for her influence now permeates all of his music. His treatment of Scottish and Gaelic song and poetry here are intriguing; piano/keyboard arrangements act as a springboard for a host of beautiful Gaelic voices. He sets them alongside Brazilian vocal and percussion samples, drum loops and keyboard programming - the effect is stunningly contemporary.

The album celebrates the opening of An Lanntair Arts Centre in Stornoway, and its magic ingredient is the beauty and strength of the voices used - Alyth McCormack, Kevin MacNeil, Anna Murray, Christine Primrose, Mary Smith, Ishbel Macaskill, and Mackenzie all distinguish and lend authenticity to this collection. Mounsey's earlier albums (the Nahoo series, City of Walls) were less cohesive by comparison, though he's a musician who often rewards his listener with dazzlingly inspired moments.

Alyth McCormack opens the album, her unmistakeably beautiful voice gradually riding a wave of Brazilian voice, percussion and guitar. Outstanding is his treatment of Mary Smith's 'Thig am bata' - her lovely voice is caught up in a mesmerising 'loop' - the supporting electronic instrumental arrangement is exquisite - a mournful bell hints at the sad content of the lyric. A beautiful string arrangement acts as the calm before the storm on 'A' Feitheamh fad', where Mackenzie's voices are suddenly swept along by Amazonian voices and samples. Brazil's hold over Mounsey is ever-present, with marimba-led percussion enveloping Ishbel Macaskill's voice and bagpipe with ambient results - the sound is huge, percussive, and fluid.

Kevin MacNeil recites the words of two Scottish poets, Iain Crighton Smith and Murdo MacFarlane to dramatic effect, speaking in both Gaelic and English. These poems, about the relentless march of time, are wrapped up in huge arrangements that build crescendo-like around MacNeil's clear voice.

A brilliantly contemporary album that celebrates the vibrant Gaelic culture of the Hebrides.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 66 of The Living Tradition magazine.