Linda Buckley is an Irish composer whose music combines, among other things, traditional Irish vocals, classical instruments, of more or less conventional form, and electronics to create an entirely unique sound world. This new album starts off with the most substantial and, to my mind, most interesting, piece; Ó Íochtar Mara (From Ocean’s Floor). The four movements combine Iarla Ó Lionáird singing in the traditional sean nós style with string quartet (Crash Ensemble) and Buckley herself on electronics. Each movement sets a poem in Irish with an accompaniment that is quite sparse and never overwhelms the vocalist. It’s mostly electronic drones with the strings kicking in in similar vein. It’s very beautiful and quite haunting. The vocals are sung with a great sense of the proper style and it’s an object lesson in how to combine folk vocals with classical instruments without making it sound like Victorian parlour music.
The rest of the album consists of music for various instruments and electronics. The first; Fridur, Icelandic for “peace” for piano (Isabelle O’Connell) and percussion starts off quite spare and peaceful but becomes gradually more agitated and disturbed. And that’s the quality that seemed to dominate in the rest of the programme. Discordia, for canna sonora (Joby Burgess) and electronics adds the additional weirdness of that strange percussion instrument.
For Haza (Magyar for “home”, Buckley is joined by the ConTempo Quartet for a piece inspired by Bartók’s homesickness in exile in New York. Kyrie combines Buckley’s voice and her electronics and Exploding Stars continues Buckley’s collaboration with long time colleague violinist Darragh Morgan. I did find the instrumental pieces a bit “samey” but maybe I just need to listen to them more. I shall certainly be revisiting the lovely opening piece.
The technical quality of the recording, made in Dublin last year, is excellent. I listened to an 88.2kHz, 24 bit .wav format but other physical and digital formats are available. There’s a very informative booklet with full Irish texts with English translation. Definitely worth a listen.