Ceòl’s Craic have been running interesting looking events in the CCA for a few years now. All about bringing together contemporary Gaelic culture and creating a space where people can meet and share that.
I tell you this as that’s the background to the first band of this evening. WHYTE I’ve seen billed as Gaelictronica. Which makes no sense to me as I have no basis for what that label should sound like.
Despite sharing the same surname, Ross and Alasdair Whyte, who make up the band of the same name, are not in fact related. They met at one of these previous events and this band came out of the collaborations and experimentation that followed. “It’s been hell” Ross quipped to much amusement from the audience.
Musically I’d describe them like taking the electro minimalism of someone like Boards of Canada and the kind of sweeping sounds of Sigur Ros and adding quite haunting song to that.
All of it in Gaelic – with Ross playing keyboards, samples and other instruments and Alasdair purely on vocals. All the time behind them there were huge visuals and trippy films being projected. It was all very stark and all pretty cool.
Second band of the night were Anamoch, who are Marit Fält from Norway and Rona Wilkie from Argyll. The former on mandola and the latter on fiddle, but with some unusual playing and some looping of rhythms too.
They were the most traditional band on this line up as they played reels, Gaelic songs and mouth music. But they did it all in their own way.
They also told utterly hilarious little stories between each song. Like how they went to Estonia for a festival only to discover it was a singing competition. So they had to sing a compulsory song, but did it translated into Gaelic and accidentally won the competition.
Lastly was Dublin-based band IMLÉ. They’re one of the most interesting bands that I’ve come across in recent years and their music is like a sound clash of many different things.
There’s threads of rock, indie, blues, funk, rap, poetry and trad that they’ve woven into something their own. Also, the lyrics are almost entirely in Gaeilge.
Maybe that means they might always be stuck in a “Traditional” or “Celtic” bracket when really they probably have more in common with a band like Stanley Odd than anyone you’d find under those categories – the same way that you wouldn’t reclassify Super Furry Animals or Björk for making records in their native languages.
The most Celtic they sound was on the last song of the night Peacach. Which as bassist Cian Mac Cárthaigh tells us means “sinner”.
The sung melody is pure Irish folk music but the band are playing pure funk. Most of the singing duties are shared between front man MC Muipéad and keys player Riona.
Some of his vocals are rap, some are sung. They can go from the edgy sounding Croichfort to slightly more chilled sounds to the heart wrenchingly beautiful and ethereal.
Probably the stand-out song on their album is also probably the stand out song of the night – ‘Go Deo, Go Deo’. Or as Cian introduced it, “the Riona Sally Hartman show.” With good reason too, her vocals on this song are out of this world.
It’s a song about a woman writing a letter to her husband on the front line of a war praying for him to come back alive. One of those songs that just makes the hairs on the back of your neck stick up.
And one that deserves a bigger audience than the admittedly happy and appreciative crowd of 200 or so that can fit into the CCA.