Treacherous Orchestra are an 11 piece band featuring musicians from (amongst others) Shooglenifty, the Peatbog Fairies and Salsa Celtica. Following their hugely successful debut at Celtic Connections in 2009, the band have been bringing their considerable talent together and have, at last, produced a studio album titled ‘Origins’.
Like something from a Celtic Noah’s ark (and, let’s face it, we get the rain for it up here) this band come in two-by-two… double helpings of pipes, fiddles and percussion are joined by accordion, banjo and guitar to produce a sound that’s as big as the band, and then some. The membership reads like a who’s who of latest generation of Scottish tradition based music…
Ross Ainslie – Bagpipes & Whistle: Ali Hutton – Bagpipes & Whistle: Kevin O’Neill – Flute & Whistle: John Somerville – Accordion: Éamonn Coyne – Banjo & Tenor Guitar: Adam Sutherland – Fiddle: Innes Watson – Fiddle: Barry Reid – Electric & Acoustic Guitars: Duncan Lyall – Double Bass & Bass Guitar: Martin O’Neill – Bodhrán: Fraser Stone – Drums.
As you’d expect from such a gathering, it’s loud and it’s lively – but there are some soothing interludes which, other than providing a rest for the tapping feet, help underline the breadth of talent and level of craft that’s gone into Origins. Not surprisingly, pipes and fiddle are the predominant voices throughout, but in an instrumental album there’s always plenty room for the other contributors to shine, and Origins is no exception.
Following the short warm up of Overture, the first 15 or so minutes of the album are a whirlwind of delights. The opening stomp, March Of The Troutmen heralds the arrival of a set of three tunes (Sheepskins Beeswax / Taybank Shenanigans / Superfly) in which Superfly‘s symphonic strings seem to justify the creation of an eleven piece band on their own.
With irresistible jazz/gypsy riffs and alternating frantic and freaky dance grooves, Look East brings the opening exuberance to conclusion, before the vintage feel of a short Prelude introduces Sea Of Clouds. This track soothes the listener like an idyllic Hebridean holiday – blissfully peaceful in the sunshine, with a ceilidh to herald the sunset. Equally soothing and melodic, is Easter Island. Caught between these two gentle offerings, Sea Of Okhotsk contrasts sharply, and has an opening Tangerine Dream would have been proud of, before it dives headlong into a frantic multi-instrumental dance.
The album closes as it opened – in a light hearted mood. Sausages is an epic, lively set of tunes. A reggae inspired opening introduces electro-ceilidh beat building towards a trance conclusion that owes almost as much to Shooglenifty and Martyn Bennett as it does to the band’s prowess.
For anyone who’s new to Treacherous Orchestra, this should be an exciting and invigorating breath of fresh air. For those who’ve enjoyed them live, Origins should be just what you expected and hoped for – but with the added benefit of crisp, clear production and the option to enjoy the whole performance again as often as you like.
Origins is about energy, joy, exuberance….if we could bottle this energy there’d be no more arguments about wind farms.
Review by: Neil McFadyen