Alyth McCormack / An Iomall (The Edge)
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Alyth McCormack
An Iomall (The Edge)
Compass (

cd cover The contributions of Scotland's Alyth McCormack to the innovative 1994 release by The Colour of Memory, "The Old Man and the Sea," are recognizable in her debut solo recording "An Iomall," yet amplified by a focus on her sibilant yet insistent vocals, in Gaelic but for one track, and carefully complementary industrial accompaniments that would not sound out of place in one of Tom Waits' more experimental productions. A fine balance between tradition and novelty is maintained throughout, Jim Sutherland's hyperactive percussion meshing surprisingly well with Davey Trouton's staid piano to add both playfulness and dramatic power to these twelve songs. McCormack's vocal is a wonder, retaining its quavering beauty through a wide variety of moods and amplitudes.

"Dheannain sugradh"
On "A Mhairead óg," slow, mournful piano and sliding guitar chords emerge from a background hinting at both radio static and nautical warning, McCormack's vocal powerfully emotional despite its whispered fragility. "MacCrimmon," the most dramatic track on the album, begins with the percussion of a beating heart, mutating into clattery slack trap drums behind McCormack's tremulous, heartrending vocal, an inspired haunting effect well played out in the lingering percussive outro. Simple, glub-glub percussion and jazzy piano chords, quite reminiscent of the production of The Colour of Memory, ground "Mo Thruaigh," McCormack's reedy yet powerful vocal echoed back in its sing-song verses as if through a malfunctioning ethereal telephone. On "The Selkie," the sole English lyric on "An Iomall," fiddle, cello, and whistle like an undead chamber ensemble add an unquiet edge to a tale of changelings and fate, no less disturbing for its familiarity.

The peculiar run-on phrasing of the vocal solo "Bothan," with every breath and fricative audible, suggests that we overhear McCormack's internal musings. On "A Fhleasgaich óig," the most traditionally produced track, stern, rolling piano and scratchy fiddle counterpoint are dominated by McCormack's full-bore vocal, its trilling beauty if anything magnified by volume. On "Mar a tha," swinging, clattering, 6/8 percussion with almost random emphasis beats is in striking polyrhythmic tension with McCormack's common-time vocal, an effect at once disturbing and exciting. The recording ends with "Hi Horó," upbeat rock-Celtic fusion with playful percussion.

Liner notes are Spartan, but lyrics in both Gaelic and English are available on McCormack's web site. But even without liner notes at all, "An Iomall" would be thrilling. - Jim Foley

Available from cdRoots

Audio (p)(c)2001 Alyth McCormack/Vertical Records, administered in the US by Compass, used with their kind permission.
McCormack's web site:

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