THE WEST OCEAN STRING QUARTET An Indigo Sky West Ocean
Records New dawns are proclaimed far too nonchalantly in traditional music, so we proceed with caution with each passing sunrise. But The West Ocean String Quartet proposes an intriguing expedition on their fourth, magnificently elegiac recording.
Neil Martin, the quartet’s cellist, composer and arranger, is in characteristically impish form in his testing and tasting of the divisions that separate reel from jig, and delighting in what he acknowledges in the sleeve notes to be the genre-defying “quirky metre” that characterises some of his compositions.
The scene is set from the deliciously austere opener, The Woodturner. The quartet pursues its lurching rhythms like a parent after an errant offspring. Their treatment of Thomas Moore’s well-worn The Minstrel Boy renders the melody line anew, replete with a melancholia utterly in keeping with the spirit of the original piece. Carolan’s Planxty Hewlett wears its baroque origins beautifully, tempered by the warm tones of cello, viola and violins conversing with one another like old friends. In between nestles the titular suite of tunes composed by Martin to commemorate the late musician Joseph Browne.
Wide in its horizons, and plumbing emotional depths to which few musicians dare venture, An Indigo Sky lures the listener to its own netherworld, full of the joys and passions of a prematurely quenched light: a musical evocation of a life lived well. Rarely are biography and musical composition so richly intertwined.
Seamus McGuire’s highly distinctive fiddle and Martin’s throaty cello lines intersect those of Niamh Crowley and the viola of Ken Rice with a freshness that belies their almost decade-long collaboration. A shimmering delight. wosq.com Download: Ely’s Shuffle, Áilleacht Bhrónach