Folk music has always been evolving, but there seems to me to have been an increasing trend in recent years to not so much create contemporary rearrangements as to completely reframe traditional sounds into a modern framework.
One of my favourite albums from last year saw Irish band Lankum taking the drone of traditional Irish instruments, and marrying it to modern drone music. Likewise, one of my favourite albums from this year (so far) sees Georgian musician Giorgi Mikadze integrating traditional Georgian folk with microtonal jazz fusion, and it’s honestly not a stretch to compare Rinne Mé Iarraidh, the debut release from another Irish outfit, Fós, to both of these albums.
However, while Lankum concentrated upon recreating the tone of traditional Irish instruments as the basis for their drone work, Fós utilises the traditional Irish singing style (or sean nós), and this is where the comparison with Giorgi Mikadze comes in as the vocal timbres, microtonal intervals, and florid ornamentation of sean nós bear a similarity to traditional Georgian folk singing.
With sean-nós singer Orla Cadden Patel, Fionn Murray has recorded four traditional Irish ballads and added guitar, loops and samples into a beautifully dissonant concoction. I will not be surprised if this will be a challenging listen for some, even those who enjoyed Lankum’s release last year. It might take a couple of attempts for some listeners, but it is genuinely worth the effort.
The EPK for Fós mentions comparisons to Sunn O))) and Boris, which on the surface many people might fail to understand. Fós do not really sound like either of those two bands. However, while In style, ethos and volume, Sunn O))) often seem indebted to slabs of heavy metal drone, there has always been more to their sound. For within their atonal drones are elements of free jazz and microtonal passages. I suspect it is from this, that the comparisons are being made, and it is a reference more to influence, than to what you might hear.
My favourite track of the four on this release may well be the hardest for some to listen to. Gabhaim molta Bride for me is the greatest collision of the two sounds of Rinne Mé Iarraidh – one ancient, and one modern – sounding potentially discordant and ugly when placed together, but actually (once your ears are accustomed to it) an absolute pleasure to listen to. Perhaps I’m more ready to easily enjoy this track (and I loved it on first hearing) because of the many repeated plays I’ve given Giorgi Mikadze’s Georgian Microjamz? I don’t know. But I do know I love all four songs on this far too quickly finished EP, and Gabhaim molta Bride especially.
Fionn Murray’s use of gritty guitar, field/found sounds, and harsh industrial noises both complement and contrast with the beautifully clean vocals of Orla Cadden Patel. There’s a sense of a place that, however modern, has an ancient past. Romantic, wild, melancholic, and immensely evocative, Rinne Mé Iarraidh is an incredible EP, which leaves me longing to hear a full length release. Don’t let this one pass you by.
01. An raibh tú ar an gCarraig? (5:26)
02. An buachaillín bhán (7:14)
03. Gabhaim molta Bride (5:40)
04. A chomaraigh aoibhinn ó (6:54)
Total Time – 25:14
Fionn Murray – Instrumentation
Orla Cadden Patel – Voice
Record Label – Independent
Country of Origin – Ireland
Date of Release – 14th March 2020