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PEATBOG FAERIES - "Mellowosity" - Greentrax CDTRAX124

This exciting melange of cosmopolitan sound sensations is clearly engineered for those who like to inject their music directly into their heads by wires - loud - and preferably while travelling through the scenic splendour of Scotland's west coast. Ideally from Skye, through Glen Cluanie, to Invermoriston.

The Peatbog Faeries belong to the generation of Scottish musicians who have their roots planted firmly in our traditional folk music idiom while simultaneously and fearlessly exhibiting a willingness to experiment eclectically. This new tradition can be traced through such bands as Bongshang, Shooglenifty, Talitha MacKenzie, Baka Beyond, and the Afro Celt Sound System. The Peats switch effortlessly from one influence to another often within the space of a bar. This stylistic shifting, which can take them from a bagpipe jig to an afro rhythm and from a reggae beat to rock guitar riffs reminiscent of Pink Floyd and back again to Scottish fiddle jigs, may upset, offend and raise the hackles of many purists but the overall texture is thrilling and full of the unexpected.

Their technique of painting with sound is ably demonstrated in the manali beetle where an electronic cicada introduces a solo chanter before Caribbean rhythms and an arrangement of bagpipes, synthesiser and echoic guitar chords are joined by a strong percussive dance beat which all fades out in an atmospheric swarm of insects. The final track which gives the CD its title displays the band's full palette of colourful sounds which create a complex landscape that begins in deep space, travels to an ambient New Age encampment where synthesiser, keyboards and bluesy guitar riffs set the stage for haunting bagpipe refrains and raunchy bass lines before the whole fades out in a shimmer of electronic tweakings.

This band has been gigging around the Isle of Skye for about five years undergoing many transformations while maturing into their present lineup. Consistent throughout this time has been the dexterous thrapple of piper, Peter Morrison, the jazzy bass playing of Innes Hutton, and the virtuoso picking of various stringed instruments by Ali Pentland. These founders are joined by Ben Ivitski, fiddle, Norman "Nurudin" Austin, synthesiser and keyboards, and Iain Copeland on percussion. Of the nine tunes on "Mellowosity" four are composed by Peter Morrison and two, based on trad arrangements, are by the band supporting the assumption that their ideas are self-contained and firmly Skye-based. The CD graphics include a painting by John Bathgate of Dun Studio at Borve and ironically thank the Skye Bridge Company for its "financial atrocities".

During their five year growth the Peatbog Faeries have done away with a vocalist resulting in an instrumental ensemble that probably sounds better live in a dancehall where the audience have as much freedom of movement as the band have freedom of musical expression.

Marshall Anderson

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This album was reviewed in Issue 21 of The Living Tradition magazine.