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Keltik Elektrik
Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Sit Down
Greentrax 2000 (

cd cover The Celtic tradition has benefited and suffered mightily from contemporary music's urge to fusion. Celtic-themed dance, ambient, and techno projects are among the least reputable and most disappointing examples, characteristically star-studded, pretentious, and unadventurous mock exotica. This surprising Scottish instrumental release by Jack Evans and friends not only deploys the usual suspects from both sides of the stylistic divide - fiddles, pipes, whistles, and concertina from the trad shore; electric guitars, synths, and drum machines from the rave bank - but redeems the genre almost inadvertently with its casual grace and artistry. There is little posing here; traditional and modern instruments and electronic effects purposively support Evans' compelling vision of Groovus Celticus.

The vision opens in "The Long Note" with a shuffling rock beat reinforced by synthesized claps, atmospherics from wah-wah guitar, and fey synth whistle, making way for a relaxed fiddle reel before Tony McManus' acoustic guitar takes on the melody and some surprising improvisation before the return of Kathryn Nicoll's fiddle. On rock march "Caber Feidh" Mike Katz' small pipes and Simon Thoumire's concertina carry the melody in unison and fugue, an irresistible goofy prance, dignity and silliness successfully poised in fine balance. "The Fair Maid of Takla Makan" is the narrative centerpiece of the album; ominous piano and hand drum intro with plucked banjo and low whistle approach from the distance and resolve into a jazzy beat, jagged banjo figures leavened by a smooth, meandering flute. The energetic peak occurs in "The Oyster Wives' Rant (Cheesy Remix)," roots-rock rhythm guitar and a driving beat whipped on by wicked fiddle, 'cheesy' organ somehow right at home backing the verses and dominating the refrains, the final verse hysterical as pipes and concertina join the fray.

Keltik Elektrik simultaneously excites and ingratiates with credible organic fusion of traditional Celtic and dance/house influences. - Jim Foley

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