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Reviews

Solasta Solasta
Album: A Cure For The Curious
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.solastaband.com

Debut album from a trio of virtuosi; a joyous and compelling hybrid of folk and classical music, without either the ponderous pomposity and symphonic pretentions of contemporary art music or the embarrassing hyperbole and posturing of the mono-dimensional photogenic classic-lite brigade.

The band are made of up folk fiddler Elisabeth Flett; cellist Hannah Thomas, on a break from her day job in musical theatre, and guitar-slinger for hire Jamie Leeming (Alfa Mist, Emily Mae Winters).

This is an album of the complex made to sound simple played with passion and brio. It kicks off with 'The Plate Smasher' (from Orcadian fiddler Gavin Marwick), with fret noise and random bowing, then a scratchy pizzicato rendering, as if on an old time 78 shellac pressing, which sets the scene for the number, played with love and humour, accelerating and frenzied.

Mostly instrumental, with two vocal numbers, the album comprises a mix of covers or trad numbers, plus two originals, one being Flett's l 'Lost and Found'. Led by a gently picked guitar, with bluesy overtones, before fiddle drifts into the mix, like mist rolling in from the sea, a band give us a slow air, underlying menace building with a percussive pizzicato section, a slow violin theme unpinned by a busy counter melody on cello, then picked up and restated on fiddle.

'Bedlam Boys' is a sparse and terrifying reading, starting with a breathy, desperate, deranged vocal, over a menacing drone, before the rhythm picks up and a harmony voice comes in on the chorus, the piece propelled by driving cello, weaving complex rhythm patterns with guitar, going into an (uncredited) jig for the insane, Flett's psychotic fiddle leading the listener on a tour of the asylum.

Thomas' cello work is superb throughout, driving rhythms and eloquent counter melodies, particularly on the standout track, Leeming's suite, Whitecaps. Starting with an Alistair Taylor jig, there is something of the Penguin Café Orchestra in the subtle musicality of the piece. A brief cadenza from Flett and a duet with Thomas, leads to a rising chord, underpinned by harmony vocals. The driving and percussive cello work on the allegro section reminds of the work that Kathryn Locke did with Token Women and Jo Freya. Leeming is consummate accompanist, his guitar underpinning all that goes on. And all is topped by it is the coruscating fiddle of Flett, leading to a joyous climax, and then release, as the harmony vocals, wordless yet eloquent, lead into a haunting pianissimo resolution.

The album closes with the new- age ambience of Port na bPucui, a high drone, the fiddle evoking birdsong, picked guitar across the beat of the piece, but still propelling, sonorous cello gliding over the modal runs of this air, familiar from the playing of Ronan Browne, before fiddle matches the melody. Beautiful.

The band have a 10-date national tour in October, and, if their live shows are as much fun as the album, are well worth catching.

Laura Thomas