Following on from their 2010 EP, and re-presenting a couple of those tracks, Origins is billed as the first full-length recording from the new Leviathan of Scottish music. Forget The Unusual Suspects, forget Big Sky: this eleven-man pan-Scottish ensemble is where it’s at. The members of Treacherous Orchestra include Kevin O’Neill, John Somerville, Innes Watson, Ross Ainslie, Adam Sutherland, Éamonn Coyne and Ali Hutton, all with enviable reputations. Uniting them is a passion for the music, a freshness of approach, and a prodigious technical ability. There’s also the musical glue provided by Duncan Lyall, Barry Reid, Martin O’Neill and Fraser Stone on bass, guitars and drums.
From the precious thirty seconds of piano and precipitation that is Prelude to the thirteen-minute multi-instrumental madness called Sausages, this collection is as eclectic as its creators. Flute, box, pipes and fiddle vie for the front line, while the style swoops from Acid Croft to Salsa to Folk Rock to Balkan and back again. Elements of Scandinavian music, forays into Forres Country Dance, hints of heavier rock influences, and a big beefy bowl of bagpipe stew: all this and more is packed into Origins. The website www.treacherousorchestra.com mentions many of the Scottish bands whose music fed into this fiery crucible, but it would be impossible to name them all. A couple which sprang to my mind were Bongshang and Burach, with their idiosyncratic use of box and banjo, but the Treacherous sound builds on everything from The Easy Club to Ceolbeg.
Most of Origin is upbeat and energetic, dictated by the frantic scribblings of these precocious pyromancers. Superfly is pure contemporary Scottish folk-funk, daringly chromatic, with the Uzi rattle of pipers’ fingers and the gratuitous use of modern technology. Look East moves more into the remote modal territory of Shooglenifty or some of Gordon Duncan’s music. Contrast these with the serenity of Sea of Clouds, a beautiful slow air on flutes followed by a box slow reel. Weirdness and powerful rhythms return on Sea of Okhotsk, before the rock anthem Easter Island shows off the shock and awe offensive of which this bunch are capable. Finally comes that mega thirteen-minute mash-up, featuring more of the finest pipes, fiddle, box and flutes, ably supported by a thunderous rhythm crew. Impressive firepower is backed by surprising finesse. On the evidence of Origins, Treacherous Orchestra has every right to consider itself Scotland’s musical first eleven.