Glas­gow Let­ter

The Oban Times - - LEISURE - ROBERT ROBERT­SON robert.d.robert­son@hot­mail.co.uk

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

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