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JOHN MULHEARN – “The Extraordinary Little Cough” (CD, self-released)

Posted: September 6th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

Right. How the hell do I go about describing this? John Mulhearn is a Scottish musician, brought up touring around the highland games circuit as a solo piper of traditional folk music. He is also extremely interested in electronic and experimental music and has crafted an album combing these interests. Yes, that’s right, this is an album of experimental and electronic adaptation of traditional bagpipe music (with one exception).

What? Why are you running away?! This is ace, honest.

No seriously, it really is very good indeed. John has spent vast tracts of time to craft interesting textures and timbres as settings for traditional melodies, mucking around with their arrangements and styles to create an experimental electronic music album that manages to break new ground by looking at its distant past. There are bagpipes on here, but you’d barely notice them for the digital shudders, samples, MIDI pipes and horns.

All tracks are arranged, recorded, performed, mixed and produced by Mr Mulhearn, but he has numerous collaborators assisting with snare drums, french horns and other of their ilk. Undoubted highlights on this record come from the piobaireachd (go look it up) vocal contributions of Allan MacDonald on “Lament for Own Roe O’Niall” and “The Desperate Battle of the Birds”, the latter featuring some tenebrous horn drones, gorgeous plucked acoustic guitar and lilted (yes, lilted) pipes. It’s absolutely gorgeous and probably the best cut of the 9 tracks on offer here.

I was lucky enough to visit the Outer Hebrides this summer as part of a pilgrimage to some of the most desolate and beautiful countryside these isles have to offer, and every time I chanced upon an all-too-rare place to refuel with nutrition or culture they were playing fucking Runrig on the stereo. I should have brought a dozen copies of this with me and shoved them in the faces of everyone I encountered. This is true traditional music: embracing the present and looking to the future.

John Mulhearn at Myspace

Dave Stockwell

David can always be relied on to end his e-mails with one of those 'np: blah blah' things in order to remind us of how much more music he listens to every day than anybody else. His interests include rockin ' out in a major style as guitarist in Souvaris, throwing frisbees from tall buildings "just to see what happens" and simply kickin' back with his bitches in a gold-plated jacuzzi.


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