Breabach – Frenzy of The Meeting

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

“Prince’s Strand” is a slow swirling tune, written by Breabach’s Piper James Duncan Mackenzie. Rather than insistent music to drive the feet this is steeped in atmosphere and portent. One of this Scottish band’s strengths is that they are equally as at home playing for the listener as they are the dancer. Track two is “Knees Up”, a more straight ahead tune for the dancing, but Megan Henderson’s beautiful vocal crackles with a mysticism that moves it beyond just dance music. “Winter Winds” is a more reflective, wistful ballad, contrasting the interwoven furious bagpipes on Western Isle Dance. “Birds of Passage” conjures up breathy images of flying birds and their passage with beautiful layers of vocals and instrumental. Lilting whistles, flutes and fiddle evocatively draw pictures on this track and the improbably titled “Goggle This”. “The Oban Ball” shifts subtly to hold our interest through two tunes, the first “The Ball That Was in Oban” starts with a hypnotic percussion rhythm before blending into the softer “Thunderstorm on Thunder Bay”. “Invergordon’s Welcome” also features a contrast, setting a gentle guitar riff against the more intense pipes. Further contrast comes from the guitar and Megan’s, Gaelic vocal on “An E Mo Chur Fodhad”, which manages to be both technically breath taking, beautiful and a total departure from the first tune in the set. “Frenzy of the Meeting” is another of those contrasting pairs of tunes that Breabach do so well, with opening “Incahoots” brooding menace contrasting the circling music and “Ceòl Mòr” or mouth music of the closing piece. The album closes with the band’s take on Iain Mac Dhùghaill’s nostalgic poem about the braes of Ruskich. An epic track, Megan’s stirring vocal backed by the rest of the band builds to a triumphant close. My benchmark for beauty, subtlety and power in instrumental folk music is Donal Lunny’s eponymous live album from 1987. Breabach can do the furious, metronome precise dance music, but rarely they can also do the brooding slow beauty and there is real grace and power in their restraint. Building on the ideas and experimentation of their 2016 album Astar Breabach have opened up a rich musical landscape with “Frenzy of the Meeting”.