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Private Label MDMC002

This second duo release by Mary MacMaster (harps and vocals) and Donald Hay (drums, percussion, vocals and samples) reveals their further development of a singular soundscape that combines harp and percussion and exploits their electronic sonic possibilities to the full.

The 11 tracks include two rearrangements of traditional material, four of their own pieces, and songs and music by Fred Morrison, Donald McDonald, Peggy MacInnes, Chris Wood (Lusignac), Nuala Kennedy, Elvis Costello and Clive Langer (Shipbuilding), and a brilliant medley set of Breton tunes.

Mary’s singing, mostly in Gaelic, is gentle, light, and sweet. Underpinning the songs and central to the instrumental pieces is an entirely modern electronic sound. With the harp, they take advantage of the formidably deep, metallic and sonorous sound opportunities at the low end and, at the high end, its scintillating filigree, chiming and tinkling possibilities. The accompanying percussion is woven in sparingly and discretely, further charging the music with atmosphere and mood. It’s very modern and contemporary, yet somehow rooted, with an ambient feel for place, and suffused with echoes of the ancient and the tradition.

Particular to this second release is a barer, more pared down approach. Using simplicity in the service of sophistication, it involves lots of space and often employs pulsing and looping techniques to achieve moving and hypnotic effects. Myhrdin’s Run (musique d’ici et d’allieurs) trio project achieves some similar harp sounds but not the depth of magical and haunting qualities with which this music is imbued. Finding something more stirring and beautiful than some of its tracks will be some challenge this year.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.