Ross Anslie and Ali Hutton – Symbiosis II

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

Symbiosis II is the follow up to Ross Anslie and Ali Hutton’s excellent instrumental album Symbiosis. Ali and Ross are a pair of musicians who together or apart consistently turn out interesting and exciting music. They have gathered around them an impressive set of supporting players making a bigger and more adventurous sound. Duncan Lyall’s keyboards or production seem to be making a big impact everywhere at the moment. Patsy Reid’s strings fill everything out and the presence of three drummers and percussionists means the album never sits still. “Kings” and “Docs” are built around a pulse that is part percussion part Moog thump, building an infectious tune with the skittish whistles and guitar. This is a stand out element of the album and is 21st Century folk dance at its best, layering old and new together. “Birds” is altogether more delicate with a picked guitar refrain and fret squeeze suggesting the movements of birds. The playing of the Highland pipes and whistles is deft, making images of intricate dance moves. Like the previous track the electronic keyboard part is both a contrast and an important element in this dance. “Goretree” opens with beautiful guitar harmonics, breathy atmospheric whistles and rippling keyboards, conjuring up the spirit of a harp. Timeless and haunting. “Love” starts as a found sound or texture, introducing the superb crackling whistles and pipes that hob and weave around each other with a slow grace. Mournful, beautiful and steamy. “Mick’s” is part Bladerunner atmospheric rainstorm part frantic dance, managing to be frenetic and brooding at the same time, collapsing into a squealing hurdy-gurdy swirl. “Mink” is another that knits together ancient and modern in a way that sounds invigorating rather than contrived or self-conscious. Textures, electronic beats whistles and pipes build a beautiful whole with a wonderful crescendo. This album offers the best of both worlds combining and contrasting thumping deftly woven intricate but pounding up tempo dance numbers with others so delicate and slowed they hang in the air like mist. Aptly named the album consistently blends and combines the best of ancient and modern to make a perfect synopsis.