Words by Billy Rough
Scots strings, pipes and whistles go global
Astar, meaning distance or journey, is a fitting title for Breabach’s new album. Incorporating influences, and guests, from all around the world, including Norway, Québec, Australia and New Zealand, Astar finds the band in confident multicultural mood. With its strong mix of original compositions and well-chosen covers, the album sees Breabach stretching their wings and developing into a formidable talent.
‘Muriwai’, for example, merges the pipes and whistles of Calum MacCrimmon and James Mackenzie over a Maori haka with a remarkably powerful effect. ‘The White Sands of Jervis Bay’ takes a traditional song from Northern Australia, ‘Guku Manikay’, and sensitively links it with one of MacCrimmon’s originals. Similarly ‘Les Pieds Joyeux’ takes a Québécois tune and layers it with Breabach’s characteristic verve. ‘The Ramparts’, on the other hand, is undoubtedly Scottish – with fiery pipes and a pulsating, sweaty, rhythm. The album closes with ‘The Last March’, a sweet Cape Breton tune.
With Scottish rhythms and melodies still at the root of their sound, Astar sees Breabach in an electrifying new phase – one that illustrates the band’s strength and interest in experimentation. Exhilarating, energetic and accomplished Astar is a rare, beautiful treat.