Released on October 21, 2016,
Fairich – the debut album from Whyte – is well worth a listen for fans of Gaelic music and electronica.
Whyte is a collaboration between electronic composer and musician Ross Whyte from Aberdeen, and Gaelic singer-songwriter Alasdair Whyte from Salen on the Isle of Mull, both of whom are based in Glasgow.
I have known Alasdair for years now and have heard him perform in many capacities (I was lucky enough to sing backing vocals on his debut solo album, Las, a few years ago) but nothing I have heard him do is quite like this new venture.
The experimental nature of the music is certainly not to the detriment of the Gaelic songs because this album is far deeper than simply experimenting for experimenting’s sake.
Alasdair’s huge knowledge of the songs he sings is clear in their musical presentation.
I remember, some years ago, myself and Alasdair were standing at a bus stop in Dingwall having missed the bus to a morning rehearsal in Inverness. I was in a slight panic trying to work out the quickest way into Inverness.
Alasdair decided his time was best spent reading all the place names on the bus stop’s map and waxing lyrical about their ancient toponymy. This, of course, was completely useless in helping us reach our destination but Alasdair was obviously doing something right because, four or five years on, courtesy of his long, hard studies of 17th- and 18th- century Gaelic song and poetry at Glasgow University, he is now Dr Alasdair Whyte.
This is the background to an album put together with a huge knowledge of, and respect for, the songs with which Whyte are dealing.
The collaboration began as a commission by the organisation Ceòl’s Craic which was followed with subsequent performances and a feature on BBC Radio Scotland’s Travelling Folk.
The album was recorded in the late summer of this year at the University of Aberdeen but some of the vocals were record- ed in a cave beneath Dunottar castle – providing exactly the ambience and atmosphere on the vocal that the songs and the arrangements require.
The timbre of Alasdair’s voice and the evocative quality of the electronic accompaniment convey perfectly the sense of loss in songs such as Gaoir nam Bàn Muilleach and Cumha Ni Mhic Raghnaill.
If you like to populate your music library with singalong three-minute wonders, then this is definitely not the album for you. The first track is over 10 minutes and the second one is a brief nine minutes 38 seconds.
If, however, you are in the mood for immersing yourself in very old songs with rich history attached, then I really cannot think of a better record than Fairich.
You can catch Whyte performing Fairich live at the Scottish Storytelling Centre during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from August 21-28, tickets for which are currently available from their website www.whytenoise.co.uk