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The Graham Album Review #2195

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Notify: Airnean

(Liosbeg Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 5/1/2024)

I enjoy it when musicians skillfully mix seemingly disparate styles. Such conglomerations are not always successful, and sometimes the result can some off a gimmick, but when done with a combination of still, understanding and creativity, genre mixing can make for some engaging, and sometimes innovative music. Combining world music sounds into such a hybrid can make it all the more interesting.

This week, we have a new album by a group that mixes Celtic influence with elements of jazz, not a mixture that has often been attempted. The group call themselves Notify, and their new, third album is called Arneán. Now a sextet, this Irish group was founded in the early 2010 by concertina player Padraig Rynn, whose degree is in Music Technology, so he readily puts that to use with Notify combining the sound of the concertina with an often jazzy electric keyboard sound, and rhythms that are based on Irish jigs and reels, but add a bit of swing and some atmospheric electronic textures.

Since Notify’s last album, In Concept from 2016, which we reviewed on this series, the personnel has changed almost completely, with Rynne the only holdover, though the sound is fairly similar. The current lineup includes fiddler Tara Breen, keyboard man Brian McCarthy, whose electric piano adds a retro jazz element, guitarist Hugh Dillon, bassist Adam Taylor, and drummer-percussionist Davie Ryan. There are some guests on the album, including Uillean piper Tyler Duncan, and vocalists Niall McCabe, Seamus and Caoimhe Ui Fhlarharta. The presence of the vocals sets this album apart from its all-instrumental predecessor, eight years ago. The vocals on a couple of tracks adds a further textural element, with the lyrics sung in Gaelic.

The relatively short album of under 40 minutes, opens with a piece called The Other Side of the Glass, which epitomizes the jazzy sound of the group with the very Irish concertina as the lead instrument, eventually sharing the spotlight with the fiddle. It’s a pleasing combination <<>>

A piece called The Strangest Thing takes on an almost plaintive texture <<>> before building to a crescendo with the drums and a rock beat. <<>>

The first of the vocals is a medley of a traditional piece called Ta Mei mo Shui in a medley with a original jog called Murray’s Potion. Adding the jazzy harmonic textures to this Irish ballad gives it an especially appealing sound. <<>>

The album’s lenghiest track is one called Arty’s Words which has all the elements that have become Notify’s trademarks. <<>>

The group does a beautiful version of another traditional song, A Chomaraigh Aoibhinn O, with an atmospheric setting featuring mainly with a sparsely played piano. <<>>

Another highlight of the album is Le Grene an original jig composed by guitarist Hugh Dillon, featuring Dillon on both acoustic and electric guitar, before the lead passes to the concertina and fiddle. <<>>

The album concludes with another traditional song, a lament-like piece called An raibh tú aran gCarrai. The atmospheric sonic treatment of the recording adds to the plaintive sound of the song. <<>>

It has been eight years since the last album by Celtic-fusion band Notify, and since then, except for founder Patraig Rynne, the personnel has entirely changed. But the trademark sound of the group, with their distinctly Irish lead concertina, and distinctly jazzy keyboards and harmonic structure, has remained. The new album Airneán features a fair amount of traditional material, and unlike their previous all-instrumental recording, this one features guest vocalists, with all the lyrics in Irish Gaelic. The added vocalists and musicians are a definite plus for the sound. The result is a pleasing blend with an easy-going melodic sound with some of the most appealing qualities of traditional Celtic and jazz-rock fusion.

Our grade for audio quality is an “A” with a clean, warm sound, decent dynamic range and effective use of atmospheric effects.

One would think that traditional Celtic music and jazz-rock fusion would be poles apart, but Notify, on their new album, again proves that the blend works very well, and makes for some engaging listening.

(c) Copyright 2024 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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This page last updated May 13, 2024