Niteworks, the band at the cutting edge of the current Scottish electro-trad scene, return for their third album, A’ Ghrian. With a title translating as The Sun, the album sees the quartet from Skye expanding their source material to give English and Scots traditional songs their trademark 21st century treatment, alongside their stock in trade of bagpipe-based instrumentals and Gaelic songs.
There’s plenty of the down the line house belters which have become Niteworks’ calling card, as the album opens with a grandstanding synth intro on brisk march Each-Uisge. This is followed by Gura Mise Tha Fo Éislein with a hypnotic synth line on the offbeat as Ellen MacDonald’s vocals circle round, and John Riley which positively surges forwards.
Alongside these more uptempo numbers, the band keep the pace varied as they explore different tempos and textures. The rich timbre of Alasdair Whyte’s vocals appear on the brooding Thèid Mi Lem Dheòin, while another of the album’s six guest singers Hannah Rarity lends her voice to the ethereal Gloomy Winter, and along with some lush synth pads envelops the listener like a heavy fog.
The real strength of Niteworks’ approach though is the way that the traditional elements sit comfortably along the uber-contemporary synth and drum accompaniments. On The Guns of Ajaccio the pipe reel, baseline and steady snare work in perfect lockstep.
Slipjig Bumpth hangs in the air, excerpts from the main tune working their way in as a synth line counterposed to Allan MacDonald’s piping. Meanwhile Teannaibh Dluth sees them add Gaelic garage to their repertoire, the cascading synth figure creating a dramatic ending.
On A’ Ghrian, Niteworks have found enough new moods and rhythms to provide a point of contrast with their previous work, while living up to the high standards set there. But possibly the highest accolade is that while continuing to experiment at the margins of what’s possible with Scottish traditional music, they remain eminently listenable and danceable.Nick Brook
Released on CD and digitally January 14th 2022.
2. Gura mise tha fo Èislein feat. Ellen MacDonald
3. Gloomy Winter feat. Hannah Rarity
4. Guns of Ajaccio
5. John Riley feat. Beth Malcolm
6. Old Ghost’s Waltz
7. Thèid mi lem Dheòin feat. Alasdair Whyte
9. Teannaibh Dluth feat. Sian
10. A’ Ghrian feat. Kathleen MacInnes