TARAN - Catraeth

TARAN - Catraeth
Own label YNYS001

A Welsh group assembled specially for the Lorient festival in 2008, Taran includes eleven musicians playing about sixteen instruments, plus programming and allied jiggerypokery. They remind me most of the big Breton bands, Bleizi Ruz or Sonerien Du for example, and some of the more modern bagadou who create cinematic soundscapes centred on traditional instruments. Catraeth ranges from the relatively traditional Suo Gan to the celtic disco of Colled. Some tracks stretch a single short melody line over four or five minutes, and can become monotonous: Milkwood and Mach 3 have this problem. Others are full of interest, such as Carlam (reminiscent of Moving Hearts) and the title track which combines a whole family of bagpipe sounds with a stirring 6th-century Welsh battle poem. Sounds like they lost, by the way.

The P-Celtic (Breton and Welsh) piping is a strong feature of Taran's music, and characterises most tracks on this recording. There's also a strong fiddle strand to Catraeth, taking the lead on Hyd A and Carlam, with some nice hurdy-gurdy in places too. The flute performance is weaker, and there are some tracks where less would definitely be more: the hand-clapping on Aber is the first thing I'd cut, and Taran seem to have had a kitchen sink moment on the aptly-named Do Not. However, in general Catraeth sustains its big festival sound without too much cringing. Tri Gofal provides a powerful climax, with a bit of everything including some fine female vocals.

I can't tell you much more, except that there's a myspace page called "ourspacetaran" which includes several samples. There's a shortage of information on the CD and on myspace, but basically Taran seems to be the product of the KilBride brothers who started out as a fiddle-based group and have moved into Welsh and Breton bagpipes. If you like Breton electric folk, you'll probably like this. If you're tolerant of the whole world-music trance-dance thing, or you have fond memories of Moving Hearts' Storm album or Clannad's Magical Ring, this CD may well appeal. Same applies if you are curious about Welsh bagpipes (including the rare bagless bagpipe). If you can't abide drum machines, programmed loops, or simple melodies repeated ten times, then Catraeth is not for you.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.