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Northern Lights Dubh agis Geal

 

 

 

David Kidman – The Living tradition

Dubh Agus Geal – Darkness And Light
Private Label LMM011001

Lorcán MacMathúna, from Cork, is an excellent young sean-nós singer whose work I first encountered three years ago on his intense CD Rógaire Dubh. Here he unveils the first release of his ambitious ongoing Northern Lights project, which traces similarities in Irish and Scandinavian traditional music by means of what Lorcán terms “explorations of Gaelic-Norse folk roots”. That description might betoken a musical approach that’s vaguely trendy or else drily academic, but this intriguing disc is in fact neither, instead being a brilliantly listenable and stimulating musical experience.

In many ways it’s a natural continuation of what we encountered on Rógaire Dubh, where maximum impact is gained by the compelling and evocative vocalising of Lorcán himself and principal collaborator Raphael De Cock, cradled within opulent yet lucidly conceived textures that, while often sparsely-stranded, embody a bleakness that never lacks warmth, one which though invariably transparent remains highly telling.

Lorcán’s central thesis, expounded in the essay hectically crammed onto the inside first page of the admirably informative and voluminous accompanying booklet, is that folk music is part of the collective consciousness and experience rather than a single person’s story, and this is aptly demonstrated by his open-hearted sharing of modes and idioms familiar from traditional Irish and Scandinavian musics, which are performed in parallel and in empathic union on the same musical stage, as it were. The very sequencing of the dozen items on the disc accentuates this approach, and the listener remains riveted throughout, while it’s impossible to tire of the constantly changing soundscape where the panoply of accompanying instrumental colours (pipes, whistles, flutes, hardanger fiddle, bouzouki, guitar, jew’s harp, shruti box, bodhrán) is used ever-inventively (yet often quite unobtrusively) to enhance the texts and melodies. The sheer power of the words and music transcends any potentially disconcerting impact of the constant switching between sung languages (full texts and detailed synopses are all available in the booklet), and the overall effect is both timeless and gently epic.

Over The Waves (Craggie Hill) juxtaposes stories of departure and separation by sea from two perspectives, economically too (in under three minutes), whereas several other tracks stretch out the mood and experimental pairings in more extended fashion yet still don’t overstay their welcome. The Frozen North presents two interlocking narratives of loss, the Irish elegy Tuireamh Mhic Finín Dhuibh and the Norwegian ballad Dei Frealause Menn, given an eerie supernatural demeanour by the incorporation of overtone singing, while the dreamlike vision Aisling Gheal is characterised by a weird stringed accompaniment from a chatkhan (Siberian harp). The aching resignation of Ardaí Chuain is expressed in a vocal line of extremely poignant beauty, and further contrast is provided by The Chickens Lip, a glorious and vigorous melding of dance tunes, whereby a gangar (Norwegian walking dance) flows into a jig (the latter gleefully combining Irish lilting and Swedish lalling) before tripping off into a jubilant reel. Moments of repose are provided by the reflective “listening tune” Nordlys (played as a hardingfele solo) and the lovely lullaby that prefaces Bog Braon, to which a brief coda-cum-bonus track (a reprise of Nordlys) is appended, setting the seal on this enchanting, mesmerising disc.

read the review in The Living Tradition

 

 

Neil McFadyen - Folkradio.com
Northern Lights – Dubh agus Geal *****

I woke tonight from an ancient dream, a dream where tales of murder, exile and oppression flowed around my consciousness like the churning of the North Sea. A dream where voices, centuries old and worlds apart, enthralled me. A dream where Gaelic & Viking music, stories and song implored me to listen, to learn, to remember. And when I woke from the dream, all I longed for was to return to the green hillsides and the frozen seas, to immerse myself again in the timeless tales”.

Regular visitors may remember that back in July, Folk Radio UK reported on the completion of Lorcán Mac Mathúna‘s Northern Lights project, promising a ‘fascinating and beautiful’ album, Dubh agus Geal (Darkness And Light). Well, we’re delighted to confirm that was no understatement. In collaboration with Raphael De Cock (voice, pipes, Siberian harp, shrutti, hardanger fiddle, jews harp), and James Mahon (uillean pipes, whistle flutes), Lorcán Mac Mathúna has created an album that educates and fascinates.

Drawing on the historic affiliations of Gaeldom and Scandanavia, Dubh agus Geal celebrates the cultural traditions of folklore and music, unearthing both harmonious and contrasting associations. There are tales of exile and emigration, such as Over the Waves, where a young man looks forward to making his fortune on foreign shores, while his sweetheart dreads the inevitable separation; or Ardai Chuain, exploring the pain of unending exile.

Each song on the album comes from the musical and oral traditions of Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Throughout, these traditions intertwine to produce songs that traverse the geographical boundaries. In, for instance the well known Irish celebration of a pastoral spring, Aililiu na Gamhna, The jews harp and bodhran instill a Nordic flavour. In Ceannabhan Bana / Paidin O’ Rafairte, pipes and jews harp combine in a lively session set.

Folklore the world over is full of dark tales and in The Frozen North, supernatural tales from Norway and Ireland combine in an eerie, lamenting epic, where throat singing adds a ghostly voice. In Sven In the Rosegarden medieval voices present a murder ballad that has parallels in many cultures, and is hauntingly reminiscent of ‘What Put The Blood?’ The song becomes more strident as the question and answer session continues, with soul stirring harmonies.

Life, however, isn’t all murder, mayhem and mystery – even in the frozen north. The Chicken’s Lip provides a set of dance tunes embracing the combined cultures, with hardanger and uillean pipes supporting mouth music traditions. To compliment the dancing, there’s music from the Nordic chill-out tradition of Lydarslått in Nordlys, and the beautiful and uplifting Bog Braon, a lullaby that gently skips toward a joyous conclusion.

This album defies reviewers, in the best possible way. It’s a challenge to do justice to the level of artistic and academic achievement presented. The best possible way to appreciate the wealth of creativity, imagination and study that’s gone into the creation of this masterpiece is to immerse yourself completely… lose yourself in the music, feed your mind with the extensive information provided in the sleeve notes. Anyone interested in the shared influences and traditions, musical, oral and political, of Northern Europe and Scandinavia will find Dubh agus Geal a treasure and a fascinating resource to return to time and again… I’ve only just started listening, and there’s still so much to learn.

read the review on Folkradio.com

 

 

SIOBHÁN LONG -The Irish Times

Dubh agus Geal – Darkness and Light Claddagh Records ****
It’s refreshing to hear musicians explore the crosscurrents that might have influenced (and clearly are now influencing) traditional music, particularly when those tidal patterns extend to Scandinavia. Sean-nós singer Lorcán MacMathúna has a deeply expressive voice that readily entwines itself in the syllables and rhythms of a song. His band mates (Belgian hardanger fiddle player, piper and jewsharpist Raphael de Cock, and piper, whistle and flute player James Mahon) feast on both shared and complementary repertoire here, which is at its most exotic on Sven in the Rosegarden , based on a Swedish murder ballad. The highly charged harmonies are at times monastic in their bare settings, while at others the stark contrast of pipes, fiddle and voice render the music deeply meditative. The Chicken’s Lip explores the lilting and lalling traditions of Ireland and Sweden to spectacular effect. A bold ride into uncharted terrain.

read the review in The Irish Times

 

 

Tom Keller - Folkworld.eu

The second ‘Celtic influenced’ album takes me by surprise. Singer Lorcan Mac Mathúna plays together with the Belgian top musician Raphael de Cock and uillean pipe and flute player James Mahon. This collaboration results in a marvelous album on which the trio re-arranged traditional Irish and Scandinavian tunes and songs. Top quality music in which the tradition of the music is kept really well, without sounding out of date. Wonderful (harmony) vocals, well arranged instrumental parts. It’s an album which brings the ancient atmospheres back to life in a wonderful way. Listen to Mac Mathúna’s great vocals, which fit perfectly with the voice of De Cock. Softly backed by the flutes, pipes, hardanger fele and other strings. Definitely one of the best Celtic influenced albums from 2011.

 

 

Bart Vanoutrive - Folkroddels.be

An ambitious, hypothetical reconstruction of musical cross-fertilization between the Celts and Vikings, offering timeless haunting musical adventures ...

....These ‘music anthropologists' brought this challenging project to a successful conclusion. They wonderfully managed to evoke the mystique of the dark ages, not least by the full use of drones and sympathetic qualities of their instrumentation in the supporting accompaniments. This provides a number of magic, hypnotising, and sometimes meditative experiences, while the music stays still very accessible. There is much to discover and enjoy. Although very archaic in design, this music has something timeless. It presents a soul for the listener to lose her- or himself into...."

A translated extract from the extensive Folkroddels.be CD review

 

 

Dai Jeffries - Folking.com


Lorcán Mac Mathúna is best known in Ireland as a Sean-Nós singer. He’s also a man of great imagination and Darkness And Light (Dubh Agus Geal to give it its Irish title) is the first result of his Northern Lights project, exploring the links between the music of Ireland and Scandinavia.

If you think that’s odd, Lorcán explains that a thousand years ago Dublin was a major Viking ship building port and the cultural cross-fertilization was evident as late as the 16thcentury. If you still doubt consider ‘Sven In The Rosegarden’ and ‘I’m Sick To My Heart’ which bear strong similarities to British ballads. All the songs on this album are traditional, sung in Irish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and English. Lorcán is joined by Raphael De Cock, James Mahon, Connor Lyons and Joey Doyle in a band heavy with drones, whistles and flutes. There are two sets of pipes, hardingfele and Jews Harp producing a haunting, almost mediaeval sound when coupled with the vocals of Lorcán and Raphael.

‘ Over The Waves’ mixes two songs, ‘Hermond Don Idde’ and ‘Craigie Hill’, with alternate verses in Danish and English leading into two rather jolly tunes. ‘The Frozen North’ again alternates verses, this time in Norwegian and Irish, telling a story which has parallels with ‘The Ship In Distress’ and is the most haunting performance on the album.

Although Dubh Agus Geal may appear at first to be a rather scholarly and esoteric work it is also extremely listenable. Not only do the players mix songs they also mix dance tunes with hardanger fiddle, pipes and lilting into something new. There is a great deal to discover in this record and much to enjoy.

read the review on Folking.com

 

 

FATEA Magazine

Album:Dubh Agus Gael - Darkness And Light Loric Colloquies
Label:Foras Na Gaeilge

" Dubh Gael - Darkness And Light loric Colloquies" is an album that celebrates the similarities between Celtic and Norse music streams, though unlike the other albums that I've heard exploring that area this year, this one is rooted in Ireland. That makes a lot of sense as Dublin was a major trading city during the dark ages bringing the two cultures together. Northern Lights are a trio of traditional musicians drawn from other bands and projects who have got together under the stewardship of Lorcan Mac Mathuna to deliver an exciting and interesting album.

 

 

 

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