Treacherous Orchestra - Grind

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Treacherous Orchestra
Reveal Records (

What does it take to make a supergroup? Two pipers (Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton), two fiddle players (Adam Sutherland and Innes Watson), one banjo player (Éamonn Coyne), one master of the bodhran (Martin O'Neill), one bass/synth player (Duncan Lyall), one accordionist (John Somerville), a flautist (Kevin O'Neill), an electric guitar player (Barry Reid), and a drummer (Fraser Stone)? If you answered 'yes,' then you've got the make-up of the Treacherous Orchestra, whose members have played with some of the great Scottish bands (i.e., Croft No. 5, Salsa Celtica, Wolfstone), and learned from legends (such as the towering piper, the late Gordan Duncan). With one EP and a previous album (Origins, 2012) behind them, the lads of the Treacherous Orchestra go full-tilt deep into the Scottish peat and emerge with instruments blazing. With tunes that really stretch out and merge into each other (for example, the massive opening onslaught of “The Long Count” and “Masters” really make for a twelve minute suite), Treacherous Orchestra's Grind has an energy that never lags.

Listen "The Long Count"


With all of the instrumentalists working together, the charts of these tunes allow for everyone to shine. “The Sly One” starts off with some choppy riffing, which gives way to the fiddles of Sutherland and Watson working in consort. Underneath, the bass begins to chug, joined by the drums, and a whirling banjo. The band then drops out, to allow for Fraser's drums to keep laying down the beat. The band passes the riffs around over the drums, and then Coyne is brought forward. It's a headbanging folk number, but then the Treacherous Orchestra blasts off with twinkling synths before re-entering the atmosphere, coalescing around the central melody. The arrangement is complex and clever, off-kilter and constantly engaging.

Listen "The Sly One"

Treacherous Orchestra do get funky. There is a swing and swagger to “Hounds,” an absolute corker of a tune that begins with pipes before the band kicks in, unleashed with slap-bass at the ready, reeling away as O'Neill lays down his flute solo. They are working on how to redefine a big folk band, and the group clearly revel in having their compositions whip audiences into a dancing frenzy.

While there is so much to take in on Grind, I found myself thinking of minimalists such as Terry Riley and Philip Glass – in that Treacherous Orchestra love to employ looping rhythms that motor along, providing drama and drive to what occurs on the surface of the music. The lovely closing “Numbers” is a good example. It starts out softly with Reid's guitar meeting a circular fiddle gesture, and opening up with Somerville's box taking the lead, underpinned by Coyne's banjo. There's a lush roundness to the tune, a tension between the quiet grace at the center and the punch of the Orchestra as it builds to full flight, all anchored by the sparks of the ongoing rhythmic repetition.

Listen "Numbers"

Treacherous Orchestra deliver nothing less than the heavy, heavy monster sound of the new Scottish folk-rock. Grind is exhausting in the best way; it is impossible not to be swept up in the instrumental prowess on display throughout the album, and impossible not to hit 'repeat.' – Lee Blackstone

Find the band online.

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