Seldom am I so captivated by a new album, but Hypernova feels like one of those generation-busting pieces of work. To anyone who has ever wondered what Folk Fusion Music might be, this is probably it. So whatever age you are, whatever music you are into, just put on some headphones and soak it in.
The album begins with "Back to Belfast", with its earthy rhythms fused with dance that are reminiscent of The Peat Bog Faeries album ("Faerie Stories"). After three deep listens now I am still trying to understand how Jiggy have managed to fuse so many elements of the music I love to listen, yet still make it all work. Pure mastery.
This one songs combines the atmosphere that only Irish flute playing can deliver and diddling that tops even Dave Swarbrick's effort on "Sir B. McKenzie". It carries hints of The Afro Celts, but somehow with more direct energy.
"Crossing the Rhine" follows with its tabla and fretless Dub Reggae bass intro providing an air of eastern charm, before something much more traditional kicks in. This is one of those tunes that will hang around my head for some time, with its carefully crafted South Asian style vocal and sensational beatbox and tabla middle section evoking atmospheres of the Raj.
Friday's Child" delivers more primeval atmosphere, with its bodhran beat accompanied by a strong, direct and stunning genre-crossing lead vocal. Yet the song remains unmistakeably Irish. A wonderful duet between fiddle and flute floats beneath a vocal collage of chorus "Fridays Child she keeps the peace we must honour her memory" to bring the song to a close. This is a song that should be in everyone's collection.
"Hypernova" eases into being with a mix of synth and percussion, complemented by low register fiddle, and as the title track is also the album's true earworm. The layered vocal is sensational, and the song has one synthesised voice moment that demonstrates this band are not afraid to experiment in building their overall sound.
"Man of Arran" feels like a more conventional tune by comparison, and provides a perfectly placed change of mood. It's always hard to follow a track with such energy and variety, but this is the perfect complement. The Reggae influences again shine through, with a crisp bass tone underpinning more beautiful flute work. I struggled to identify the origin of the vocal, which I think may be a Balkan language but I am more than happy to be corrected.
The heartbreak of leaving Ireland behind, whether to escape the poverty of home as my maternal family did, or being pressed into service for the American Civil War is the subject of "Paddy_s Lamentation". There is real fire in the lead vocal and the harmonium backing seems to fortify its message. "Road to Errogie" is all about rhythm from both percussion and voice, supporting some vibrant whistle, flute and uilleann pipe moods. An eastern themed diddle section in the middle of the song rides the continuing rhythm of another excellent tune.
"Séamaisin" powers through with another strong reggae bassline and world percussion overlaid with a more traditional sounding lead vocal. "Tal" simply flows. It's gorgeous, with South Asian style female vocal, tabla and handclap rhythms overlain with flute, bass guitar, synth and pipe layers.
For me Jiggy leave the finest songs to the end of this truly fabulous listen. "Who Put the Blood" is about the murder of a child - "it's the blood of the boy I killed yesterday I killed him most manfully". It sparks into life with a terrific vocal that brings storytelling into the modern world. The song contains an uilleann pipe break to die for (excuse pun), backed by a bass rhythm that could have come from a Muse album. Mournful strings bring the song to a close: "there's no more welcome for me".
"Wild Rise" surprises with a piano intro that leads gently into a short pipe section and an outrageously good vocal in a song that feels almost like a lullaby compared to what has gone before. Another standout track.
The bonus track is a tune that many music lovers will have heard many times before "Music for a Found Harmonium". Jiggy's version begins like an early Pink Floyd song, quickly becoming something very much more familiar. It has the feet tapping and the hips swinging and the heart jigging.
"Hypernova" is like a light shining in these dark times. I wish I could understand more of the vocal, and one day I will discover what it all means. Some may class this album as "World Music". So please will someone tell me…with all this incredible fusion going on, how actually do Jiggy get Hypernova to retain a clear Irish identity? Genius.
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