World/folk

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

The Source Afro Celt Sound Sys­tem ECC/Planet The ex­ces­sive wait for an al­bum of fresh ma­te­rial from the Afro Celt Sound Sys­tem, pro­longed by what ap­pears to be an ir­rec­on­cil­able schism be­tween band per­son­nel, has ex­as­per­ated fans. Their frus­tra­tion has been re­lieved by the re­lease of a 20th-an­niver­sary of­fer­ing — the first stu­dio record­ing un­der the col­lec­tive moniker since 2005’s 10th birth­day al­bum, Anatomic. Fur­ther cause for op­ti­mism comes with re­ports that it’ll be fol­lowed soon by a counter-re­lease from the break­away Afro Celts, led by sev­eral orig­i­nal mem­bers. If Born is half as good as The Source, long-time fol­low­ers should be ec­static. Founder Si­mon Em­mer­son’s de­ci­sion to aug­ment his core band with a stel­lar guest list has more than off­set the ab­sence of the afore­men­tioned play­ers. The res­i­dent West African sec­tion of djembe/talk­ing drum and kora/bal­a­fon vir­tu­osos has been con­sol­i­dated with a Guinean fe­male vo­cal quin­tet. The Ir­ish com­po­nent of the Celtic part of the equa­tion is ex­panded via cameos from three dis­tin­guished uil­lean pipers/whis­tle play­ers and a gun fid­dler. Mem­bers of Shooglenifty boost the Scot­tish pres­ence, along with an eight-piece fe­male Glaswe­gian cho­ral group and a new res­i­dent bag­piper cum Gaelic rap­per, Gri­o­gair Labhruidh. Johnny Kalsi’s dy­namic dhol drum­ming con­tin­ues to add In­dian spice to the mix. If the ar­rang­ing is a tad un­bal­anced on the open­ing three tracks, pro­ducer Em­mer­son’s de­ploy­ment of this not in­con­sid­er­able fire­power is spot on there­after. All el­e­ments com­bine mag­nif­i­cently in the med­i­ta­tive, moody and multi-phased Where Two Rivers Meet and the suitably cli­mac­tic fi­nale, Kalsi Break­beat. The Afro Celt Sound Sys­tem’s most ex­pan­sive al­bum to date re­tains the band’s renowned en­ergy while tap­ping fresh cre­ative in­spi­ra­tion.

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