IAIN COPELAND – A Northerly Land
Skye Records SRCDX002
This debut release from the drummer, producer and composer Iain Copeland, associated with Peatbog Faeries, Session A9 and Sketch, stems from his year-long residency with four other artists in the remote Mackay Country of North West Sutherland (an area of 2000 square miles lying east and south of Cape Wrath). It was part of a local community history project, Moving Times & Telling Tales, exploring the themes of seasonal migration and travelling and, secondly, the former practice of sending children away to board in ‘hostels’ for their secondary schooling.
Well known instrumental accompanists helping present his music include Malcolm Macfarlane (guitars), Ross Ainslie (whistles, cittern), Rick Taylor (trombone), Nigel Hitchcock (saxophone), with several other guests on pipes, guitars, bouzouki, bass, fiddle, whistle and trumpet. Stirring vocal and spoken contributions come from poet George Gunn, Gaelic singer Fiona J. Mackenzie (two of the other project artists), storyteller and traveller Essie Stewart and her grandfather Ailidh Dall of Lairg.
Over nine pieces, the music aims to capture and dramatise the project themes. This is powerfully effective when, drawing on a worldwide array of influences, it creates moody, sometimes moving, filmic backdrops to spoken words and poetry rich with references to the genius loci and its changing seasons and communities. These soundscapes provide atmosphere by melding and layering traditional folk sounds with modern programming and cleverly using dynamics and shifting sequences of melody and discordance. On some pieces, traditional tunes tend to be overinflated with jazzy, sometimes brassy and funk tinged grooves. Here the contemporary, often heavyweight feel is a little too dominant and the achievement less successful.
Kevin T. Ward