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Afro Celt Sound System - Flight (ECC Records)
ALBUM OF THE MONTH (December 2018)
If ever a band was to use a name that perfectly described what was in the tin, then the Afro Celt Sound System would be it. From the outset on this, the collective's latest album release, Griogair Labhruidh sets out their stall with a fine reading of Marbhrannn do Shir Eachann Mac'illEathainn/Lament for MacLean, leaving us with little doubt as to where the 'Celt' bit fits into the brand name, whilst N'faly Kouyaté and the Amani Choir swiftly follow with the show-stopping Sanctus, which shows us where the 'Afro' bit comes in on equal terms. Just two tracks in and we're fully up to speed about what this bunch of brilliant musicians are all about.. but then there's so much more besides.
At the core of their eighth studio album, is Simon Emmerson, who along with N'faly Kouyaté and Johnny Kalsi are joined not only by the Amani Choir, but also Stone Flowers and the Johannesburg-based African Gospel Singers, each outfit bringing something rather tasty to the party. If the restrained introduction to Sanctus has the power to lead the listener into a dreamlike state, then it's not for long, as the heart-stopping power of the dhol drum kicks in, effectively bringing the Afro Celt Sound System very much to life. This all works tremendously well in a live setting as anyone who has caught one of the band's festival appearances or live shows will testify, but this extraordinary powerful sound can also been captured in the studio, and in this case, it certainly has.
Armagh's Ríoghnach Connolly is here once again to lend her highly distinctive voice (and flute) to proceedings, notably on the four-part Migration Medley, a suite dedicated to the inherent comparisons between both bird and human migration, combined subjects close to the hearts of Simon Emmerson and Mark Constantine, who share an interest in bird-watching and for the work the Amani Choir musical director Emmanuela Yogolelo and Ríoghnach Connolly have done within the refugee community of Manchester and surrounding area. Night Crossing Part 1 from the medley is utterly gorgeous, as is the later Rippling.