Album Review | Peatbog Records | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5
The Peatbog Faeries have been delivering their special blend of twisted Scottish Traditional Music, Electronica, Folk, Jazz and Rock since 1991. Their exciting Celtic Fusion music has been wryly described as Acid Croft. Given the Peatbog Faeries origins in Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, Acid Croft aptly describes the band’s exciting mix of ancient and modern, with traditional Celtic arrangements and instrumentation mixing with sequencers and trance music. The Peatbog Faeries gloriously stick two fingers up at the idea that modern electronic dance music is exclusively the product or soundtrack of urban clubs, bypasses and shady gatherings in empty inner city warehouses. Seamlessly from loft to croft, this is the powerful stomping heartbeat of wide open spaces and early morning kissed beaches. There is romance and invention in the idea that vital music is made in isolated stone buildings at the end of un-made roads as well as in bedrooms in high rise flats lit by flickering headlights on nearby flyovers. This album, released to mark twenty five years, is a glorious testament to the rich sound of the Peatbog Faeries in concert. Is it because of the process of playing it live, or the space of the room that it is played in, or the tension of the expectant audience, but tracks like “Jakes on a Plane” have a depth, or a space in their sound that lifts them far beyond their studio version. Some of the subtle sample voices and acoustic guitar elements are deeper in the mix and the track has a bigger richer sound. It’s like the difference between solid state circuits and valves, or vinyl and digital, everything is bigger warmer and more real. Colour after black and white. There is also a beautiful blend of tempos as the album shifts between big beat music that compels you to move and shifting airs that invite contemplation. Alongside the electronics and exquisitely played fiddles, bagpipes and whistles, there is some spikey edgy guitar with the chime of Zimbabwean Jit and great old school Hammond organ. In a great sonic Tardis the whole of musical history from the last 60 years and beyond is being appropriated, repurposed and pulled into the swirling whirligig that is The Peatbog Faeries. Tracks like “Spiders” and “Marx Terrace” take dance beats and spiralling sqeaking keyboards, throw in some dubby syth bass to bend off into a shifting fiddle tunes, before adding in gritty electric guitar. This is true fusion, where disparate elements are melded together to make a new whole. This is not tokenism or olde music played loud and electric. To the Peatbog Faeries eternal credit alongside the storming dance numbers are pieces like “Fishing at Orbost” with piano and pipes creating a shimmering image of stillness, space and tranquillity that is about the exact opposite of chucking yourself around quickly. Graeme Stafford’s piano is a thing of beauty shifting between classical and jazz, sharing the limelight with Peter Morrison’s pipes and Ross Couper’s fiddle. There is subtly and passion, light and shade. The inventiveness of the sounds and textures shifting alongside beats on tracks like “Strictly Sambuca” demonstrates how completely the Faeries new music has eclipsed the electronic dance music it has borrowed from and consumed into its folk tradition, creating a 21st Century ancient and modern that is simply stunning. Cinematic enough to be headphone music as every nuance and shade comes alive in your ears, but infectious enough to make you want to jump up and down with a fist in the air. The playing and tempo on “The Folk Police” suggests that experiencing this lot live will require a trip in the Folk Ambulance followed by an old fashioned Folk lie down in a crumpled heap to the gentle come down closing track “The Skyline Of Skye”. Bands like the Peatbog Faeries, the Afrocelt Sound System, Skipinnish, Manran and a host of others are carrying forward the traditions of musics from across the Isles and the world, into a future where musical and geographical boundaries are fluid or even cast aside and everything is possible. Listen to “The Humours of Ardnamurchan” or “Folk Police” from this album and prepare to be transported spiritually and physically.