Puirt a Beul

Mouth Music

1991: Triple Earth Records/Ryko RCD 10196

  1. (A Mhic Iarla Nam) Bratach Bana / (The Son of the Earl of the) White Banners
  2. Co Ni Mire Rium? / Who Will Have Fun with Me?
  3. Mor A’ Cheannaich
  4. Martin Martin
  5. Chi Mi Na Morbheanna / I See the Great Mountains
  6. I Bhi A Da
  7. Seinn O! / Sing
  8. Mile Marbh’Aisg Air a’Ghaol / A Thousand Death Shrouds on Love
  9. Air Fail A Lail O / Falalalo
  10. Fraoch A Ronaigh / Heather of Rona

The lovely collaboration of Talitha Mackenzie (q.v.) and Martin Swan. While it takes its name from the Scots musical tradition of a capella vocalization to circumvent a ban on traditional instrumentation with the percussive rhythms of nonsense syllables, something perhaps more accurately presented by Zap Mama’s first album, nonetheless it got a nifty modernized, world-music treatment by Swan & Mackenzie. Swan took it further afield and into contemporary musical styles with the Mouth Music albums which followed, ironically reaching (in its latest incarnation, with the Mouth Music album The Scrape) a vocal-less album of traditional instrumentation…sort of like a logical predecessor to this album, actually.

Which makes for a strange trip, but you wouldn’t suspect the Möbius-Strip journey Mouth Music has taken when you hear this album. It’s a nice blend of instrumentation and generally solo vocal lines with a deft and sure beat always sustained elegantly. Mackenzie’s vocals are a little sharp-edged (in timbre, not pitch) and thin by comparison to the instrumentation, but otherwise the production is perfectly suited to its material and components.

Favorite tracks on this? “Martin Martin,” for sure, because it’s just on the sophisticated side of goofy fun, and “Mile Marbh’Aisg Air a’Ghaol,” which here gets a windy-and-rainy-walk-on-the-moors moody presence overlaid on a pretty cold percussion pattern.