What the …? If this had come on vinyl, the opening of ‘After The Storm’ would have sent me straight to the deck to check the speed, as an insanely fast pipe medley dizzies itself over some waka-waka electronic rhythms. Once the thumping old-skool house pulse kicks in at the bottom end of the register, some sort of sonic normality (it’s all relative) is established, as fiddle and electronics vie for which can produce the craziest sounds. It’s that rare breed of folk-based tune that has you reaching for your whistle and Vick’s inhaler.
Iain Copeland’s programmes, loops and beats throb relentlessly beneath deft and imaginative acoustic playing, particularly noteworthy from Angus Binnie on pipes and whistles, and Neil Ewart on fiddle. Darren Maclean’s occasional vocals embellish the sound, which is also filled out by some solid bouzouki playing from Seumas Maclennan. At times you can’t help thinking, ‘How does this work? – the vocal on ‘Homeward Bound’, for instance, has a nice 1920s gramophone ambience – but it’s a measure of the band’s vision that it all does.
For all its many strengths, though, I can’t help thinking that Sketch really need to be experienced live. This is music for jumping about, sweating and grinning like a loon, and I can’t do that at home without frightening the cat.