Monday, 20 June 2011

Grá agus Bás - Donnacha Dennehy

The 24-minute title track on this album is the stand-out piece although the following song cycle is utterly memorable as well.
Grá agus Bás (Love and Death) features Sean-nós singer Iarla O Lionáird's hypnotic voice set against a an edgy, discordant score performed by the aptly-names Crash Ensemble.
Composed by Donnacha Dennehy, who co-founded the ensemble, the music seems to amble aimlessly as do O Lionáird's vocals.
It takes a couple of listens to ascertain the hidden patterns that undulate underneath the abstract meanderings of brass and strings.
Sean-nós singing is not to everyone's tatse, although O Lionáird has made a mission of popularising it, particularly with the Afro Celt Soundsystem.
It is a wavering, keening type of singing, traditionally unaccompanied. Sung in Irish the songs have an ancient, tribal feel to them.
The vocals surf along with the instrumentation and then drift off into their own pattern, sometimes causing the various instruments to do the same thing before they are all drawn together again into a loosely agreed structure.
This is music for late at night and listening to on your own. It demands attention and once you have tapped into its aural fractals it is hypnotically addictive.
That the Night Come is a series of six WB Yeats poems set to music by Dennehy and sung by Dawn Upshaw. Once again the music is discordant but less so than Grá agus Bás.
It is easier to find a hook here, less challenging but still rewarding and again slightly unnerving.
As a whole Grá agus Bás will either infuriate or entrance listeners. Visit the website here for sample tracks.

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