Album Reviews

Brìghde Chaimbeul – Carry Them With Us

(tak:til / Glitterbeat) UK release date: 14 April 2023

Scottish smallpipes player’s second album delivers plaintive and evocative sounds that intrigue and captivate

Brìghde Chaimbeul - Carry Them With Us Carry Them With Us is the second album from Scottish smallpipes player Brìghde Chaimbeul and it sees her continue to enhance her already impressive reputation as one of the leading players of the instrument and a committed proponent of experimental Celtic music. It consists of nine tracks that merge fluidly into one another, all centred around the distinctive sound of her chosen instrument, a bellows-powered set of bagpipes with a double-note drone.

Chaimbeul was born on the Isle Of Skye and is a native Gaelic speaker, and the nine pieces have Gaelic titles, often with bracketed English elaborations. She describes Carry Them With Us as an album of stories and, even though it is predominantly instrumental, it does still feel like there is an underlying narrative at work. It quickly becomes apparent that this is an album to immerse oneself in order to reap the greatest rewards. From the opening moments of first track Pililiù (The Call Of The Redshank), the warm, gauzy sounds of the smallpipes floods the ears, starting a short musical journey that brings with it both mystery and beauty.

Chaimbeul explained how some of the tracks grew out of traditional pieces while others were formed out of studio improvisations. Saxophonist Colin Stetson contributes to Tha Fonn Gun Bhi Trom (I Am Disposed Of Mirth), adding circular motifs deep within the linear passages and sedimented layers. The jig-like Banish The Giant of Doubt & Despair follows, adding further earthiness and colour to the mix. Chaimbeul’s playing is both plaintive and stark, with opaqueness and clarity seeming to somehow defy logic to co-exist. The occasional small irregularities and forlorn sense of drift that feature on many of the tracks only serves to further intrigue and captivate.

Already the winner of a BBC Young Folk Award and a BBC Horizon Award, the album shows how Chaimbeul takes the traditions of folk music and gently reshapes and redirects them. It’s perhaps best demonstrated on the strident and fulsome ‘S Mi Gabhail an Rathaid (I Take The Road), a musical battle cry of sorts augmented by drums. The deconstructed ending in particular shows how she can balance the traditional with the contemporary. The folk melodies are most pronounced on Pìobaireachd Nan Eun, a piece which also features her vocals. It strongly projects a sound that is both natural and organic, fitting given how Chaimbeul explained that birdsong was one of the key influences on the album. As an album Carry Them With Us might be an outlier of sorts but it’s an evocative and beautiful one that helps shine light on a lesser seen musical world.

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Brìghde Chaimbeul – Carry Them With Us