Peatbog Faeries,
Welcome to Dun Vegas
(self-produced, 2003)

The opening notes of Welcome to Dun Vegas suggest a move from Celtic jazz to space music. But the Peatbog Faeries are full of surprises, and "Wacko King Hako" flows into a jazzed-up bagpipe with enough of a rockin' background to make sure the listener knows this is no traditional setting. There is enough of an electronic jam going on here, I kept expecting to see laser beams on my ceiling; there are layers of sound that definitely evoke a "space music" idea, with some '80s retro to boot. The bagpipes keep on top of it all, making it a fun switch on Scottish music that's definitely something very different from the norm.

Plenty of neo-Celtic bands have tried -- and failed -- to make the electro-jazz blend work, but Scotland's Peatbog Faeries are here to prove it can be done with exquisite musical flair. The album is filled with similarly inventive -- although distinctively different -- tracks.

"Fear Eile" is mellow and fun, featuring completely incomprehensible lyrics -- like a song that's been run through a kaleidoscope. Turns out (according to the liner notes) that it's a traditional Skye rowing song. Lyrics aren't included, but so what? The words don't matter here; the voice here is an instrument. "Phat Controller/The Red Bee" is whizzin' along with pennywhistle and fiddle that match the fingerskills of any trad player out there; the traditional sound is backed with a funky layer of drum, guitar and, um, a ringing phone? "That's nice," the man says repeatedly, and it is.

"Ironing Maiden" has the air of an '80s video game, a dance mix with kickin' fiddle and whistles. Play this in a dance club and the people -- at least the more adventuresome of them -- would dance. The occasional use of industrial sounds -- to say nothing of a hard-rockin' electric guitar -- adds juice. The title track (a slant on Dunvegan, home of the band's Skye studio) is a somber small-pipes air with what sounds like a car alarm in the background, sometimes a laser gun from an old sci-fi movie, and a distorted fiddle at the end. It's strange but very effective and lots of fun.

The P.Faeries are Peter Morrison (pipes, whistles), Roddy Neilson (fiddle, vocals), Innes Hutton (bass, percussion, guitar, vocals), Tom Salter (guitar, vocals), Leighton Jones (keyboards) and Iain Copeland (drums, percussion, guitar, vocals).

Dun Vegas boasts very solid fiddle, whistles and pipes all the way through -- and that in no way disparages the other musicians, who work together to create an amazing fusion of sound! The music is melded into jazzy, rocky style by a band with a very inventive collective mind.

How inventive? "Morning Dew," one of the few traditional pieces on the album, is reinvented here as a demented music box, or maybe a slightly drunken rocking chair. The surprising blend at the end of electric guitar and piano works. "Teuchstar" is an upbeat pipes and drums ensemble, seguing in and out of a guitar groove with vocal sampling and some frantic fiddlework. "Skeabost Monsoon" is an intricately arranged slice of electro-funk. Album closer "A Taste of Rum" has an ambling pace, some relaxed whistle and fiddle lines, and the laidback voices of the Veganites, a gathering of Dunvegan party-goers.

Oh, to be invited to such a party! Welcome to Dun Vegas is an excellent recording of Celtic roots and jazz branches.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 28 August 2004

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