Iarla Ó Lionáird
Mostly recognized as the lead vocalist for Afro-Celt Sound System, Iarla Ó Lionáird is one of Ireland's premier sean nós (Gaelic, meaning "old style") singers. But as evidenced by his work with the Sound System, Lionáird is a traditionalist with modernist leanings in song styles like trip hop, drum and bass and ambient drones. As composer and arranger for I Could Read the Sky, featuring music written for and inspired by the film, Ó Lionáird (along with special guests Sinéad O'Connor, fiddler Martin Hayes, beatsmith Ron Aslan and others) has crafted a superb album of effortless beauty and smooth, intoxicating melody. Ó Lionáird eschews the Sound System trademark of hyper fiddle reels mixed with pounding house beats, and reaches for the ethereal electronic ambiance of Brian Eno crossed with the traditional, acoustic underpinnings of fiddle, piano and voice. The mesh is seamless and surprisingly organic. When Ó Lionáird sings his voice is pure, like a calm breeze. His tongue is relaxed and glass-like in texture, virtually devoid of the stereotypical accent you may expect. Sandwiched between the Ó Lionáird vocal cuts are spare, instrumental songs, both traditional as well as more experimental, avant-garde ideas. What makes I Could Read the Sky work is Ó Lionáird's sensitive, intelligent arrangements of song styles centuries apart without sounding exploitive, or even worse, fashionable. A timeless fusion of music where Ó Lionáird should intensify his efforts, without the bogus Afro-Celts. - Todd Dominey
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