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MARTYN BENNETT - "Bothy Culture" - Rykodisc RCD10381

Ground breaking hardly seems to cover what Martyn Bennett is doing with his music, it's more akin to a total metamorphosis. "Bothy Culture" follows on from his quirky 1996 self titled debut. Back in the summer of last year I tried to phone Martyn, only to get a cut up message of jibberish from his answer machine, I had no idea then that whatever he was working on was likely to be at odds with anything I'd yet heard, he hasn't disappointed. "Bothy Culture" has more in common with present urban culture than the current new folk scene. Heavy usage of percussive breakbeats so common in contemporary dance music augment Martyn's fine pipe and fiddle playing, at last a musician who doesn't have to hide behind electronic gadgetry to cover a lack of technical proficiency. As a classically trained musician he really is a master of his chosen instruments.

The albums opens with the storming "Toungues of Kali" which never lets up the pace during its entire seven minutes of DJ tinged mayhem. This moves swiftly onto "Aye" which I can only describe as hilarious, and really has to be heard to be understood. A Grappelli-esque "Sputnik in Glensheil" leads us into "Bothy Culture's" only weak moment, the over sentimentalisation of "Hallaig", Bennett's cinematic tribute to the late Sorley Maclean. Although Maclean's reading of his poem is moving and sincere, the music lacks a certain substance and direction which only seems to confuse the subject matter.

Closing the album is "Waltz for Hector" a majestic coupling of Bennett's modern and traditional playing. Ten minutes and hundreds of years of musical dichotomy ending in a lone pipe playing a pibroch called "Lament for Red Hector", suddenly the whole album makes sense as one piece of music. It's easy when picking out individual tracks for praise/critique to loose sight of the fact that an album is intended to be listened to as one body of work. The case is certainly true here.

Keith Witham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 26 of The Living Tradition magazine.