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Monster Ceilidh Band Monster Ceilidh Band
Album: Mutation
Label: Haystack
Tracks: 10

Newcastle-based Monster Ceilidh Band have been on the circuit for a few years now, bringing their own take on the melding of folk and electronic dance music to the frantically frugging masses. There's been a bit of a line-up revolution since their last album "Charge", and it certainly seems to have shifted things up a gear or two.

The main change is that the Monsters' previous solo fiddle, Carly Blain, has now been replaced by a duo of Shona Mooney and Grace Smith. The pair open proceedings with a slow air, "Venus", repeated a number of times, and are then joined briefly by fellow newcomer Kieran Szifris on octave mandolin, before the familiar tones of Amy Thatcher's accordion joint the throng, backed by David de la Haye on bass and Joseph Truswell on drums. The same mournful fiddle air slowly builds over loops and treated chords, with a joyous quasi-Mediterranean beat taking over, to fall away again, leaving the fiddles to finish. The track seems to have a much more natural dance-orientation that might have previously characterised some of the Monsters' earlier material, and sets the tone of an album that really does seem to have an organic fusion of styles.

The curiously-named "Trouser Worrier" is up next, Thatcher and the rhythm section kicking things off, in a near drumbeats style, and some nice treatment of the octave mandolin. "Lusty" starts rather woozily, fiddles akimbo over a wee funk work-out for de la Haye, Truswell and Szifris, Thatcher clearly relishing her duels with the violins. "Reasoning" has a lighter, jazzier feel, with fiddles again interplaying with accordion. "Mutated Beeswing" may, or may not, have something to do with their trip to Galloway a couple of years back, or it may be something to do with the Derby winner after which the village was named. Or the Richard Thompson song. Who knows? Whichever, it starts out as a delicate polka, and finishes life as a full-on dance work-out.

"All the Swingle Ladies", fittingly, has an upbeat swing drive to it, where "Never Will" uses a "rawck" riff from Szifris to underscore some delightfully light-fingered trills up and down the keyboard from Thatcher, and this theme continues on "Octopus". "Twisted Bridge", takes a lively wee accordion tune, adds plentiful cry-baby octave mando and Shandesque snare, and keeps the bpm up as the album speeds towards the closing "Disgrace". All comes crashing to a halt before, harking back to "Venus", slow fiddle and accordion introduce thumping drums and bass.

The whole album was recorded live, and the band really benefits from this, with things tearing along at a terrific tempo, but also being able to slow things down where they need to, with the occasional authentic club rush.

Definitely a great album to use to display the band's live potential, and a real advance on their previous work.

Harry Thomson