Over the last few years, there’s been a flowering of a new generation of Scottish bands and musicians who are as comfortable incorporating synths and drum machines into their work as fiddle and bagpipes. The latest to the party are Valtos, taking direct inspiration from fellow Skye-based acts Peatbog Faeries and Niteworks to produce their own brand of electro-trad.
It’s clear from listening to the 13 tracks on their self-titled debut album that Valtos are no mere dabblers in electronic music. Their instinctive feel for how to programme beats and basslines that kick along and finding melodic hooks comes over on Charlie’s on The Run, featuring fiddle that alternately scuttles in reel-like patterns or digs in on the off-beat for a percussive effect.
But what gives Valtos’ music a real sense of craft is their integration of a wide variety of spoken and sung vocals in English and Gaelic into the fabric of their music. On Air a’ Mhuir the Gaelic lyrics are sampled and put through all manner of effects, while the tight rhythm of the original bounces off the sprightly backbeat.
On Gu Math the two words of the title are looped into an incantation, while on Skye the archive speech sample is cut up and rearranged beyond recognition against the clean lines of the backing track. Samples of Eilidh Cormack’s singing fed through a long reverb swirl around her lead vocal on Home, while on Air Falbh they form an epic conclusion to the album layered over a garage beat.
Rather than two producers simply using trad sounds and melodies as a flavour, Valtos clearly have an understanding of the pull of traditional music forms and why they’ve endured into the modern age. A perfect example is S.T.W, where while Gary Innes explains the basic premise of what a ceilidh is, a jig with more than enough lift and swing to be danceable bounces along underneath.
Several others have attempted this sort of fusion of Scottish traditional and electronic music, but few have managed it as convincingly as Valtos.Nick Brook
Self-released digitally on June 10 2022.
3. Ceòl Dannsa
4. Home (Prelude)
6. Charlie’s On The Run
7. Air A’ Mhuir
11. Gu Math
13. Air Falbh