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Cuar: Roscanna

Ian Patterson By

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Roscanna is the debut of Cuar, a trio led by composer and bassist/flutist Neil Ó Loclainn that adopts a chamber-esque approach to Irish folk music, though one that is open to quite disparate influences. A regular collaborator with the late Louis Stewart as well as in David Lyttle's trios, Ó Loclainn is an adept in both the worlds of jazz and, as in Ensemble Ériu, pan-global contemporary folk. Roscanna falls into the latter category, for despite the sean-nós , dance and piping influences undeniably at the root of Cuar's music, there are significant elements suggestive of modern classical, Carnatic, ambient, minimalist, and to some degree, jazz music.

Roscanna, or rosc, were the spells or chants of the ancient Irish druids and there is an incantatory, meditative quality about much of the music. The five-part suite is described in the brief CD notes as a "specular suite"—specular meaning the mirror-like reflection of light waves. It's an accurate pointer to the way in which Ó Loclainn on flute, clarinetist Matthew Berrill and fiddler Aoife Ni Bhriain follow each other's melodic lines, or how fiddle, clarinet and bowed bass in turn embrace sustained drones—a blueprint gently unravelled from the outset on the lilting air "Fonn Mall Rosc."

Fiddle and clarinet gracefully entwine on the slow waltz "Damhsa Tandava" over Ó Loclainn's spare bass lines. The episodic third part of the suite, a suite within the suite, passes through bucolic, brooding and uplifting passages. At one point, on "Zezere," Ni Briain flirts with a reel but the collective animation sparked soon recedes against the swell of bowed bass/fiddle drone and Berrill's lulling melancholy. Greater gaiety infuses "Damhsa Corrguineacht," with cheery fiddle and clarinet lines intertwining over Ó Loclainn's deceptively bouyant bass.

And, just as the suite began, so too it ends, with Ó Loclainn's wooden flute announcing a slow air -the set's sole traditional tune, "Fonn Mall Bádaí na Scadán"; as flute passes the batton to fiddle, bass drone sounds, maintaining its unrelenting course as Berrill's bass clarinet, and fiddle once more, reinforce the mournful nature of this achingly haunting piece.

Something of a slow-burner that amply rewards the patient listener, Ó Loclainn's Roscanna nevertheless exerts an unyielding grip from the first note to the last of these softly rendered magic spells.

Track Listing: i:Fonn Mall Rosc; ii:Damhsa Tandava; iii: Abria; Cappanwalla; QfwfQ; Zezere; Breac; iv:Damhsa Corrguineacht; v: Fonn Mall Bádaí na Scadán.

Personnel: Neil Ó Loclainn: bass, flute; Matthew Berrill: bass, bass clarinet; Aoife Ni Bhriain: fiddle.

Title: Roscanna | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Raelach Records

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