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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Alan Stivell: Back To Breizh


1) Vers Les Iles Et Villes De Verre; 2) Rêves (Hunvreoù); 3) Ceux Qui Sèment La Mort; 4) Arvor-You; 5) Rock Harp; 6) Skoit 'N Treid!; 7) Iroise; 8) Kreiz Hag Endro; 9) Back To Breizh!; 10) Harpe De Vies; 11) Brian Boru In French; 12) Armoricaine Suite.

«Back» is right: the last time Stivell came out with an album com­pletely centered on his native locality was in... 1981? 1979? Whatever. Of course, most people would never notice much dif­fe­re­nce be­tween Breizh, Cymru, and Eire in the first place, but it's been a long, long time since Alan recorded anything for «most people». Back To Breizh, too, is strictly for the fans.

For those nostalgic fans, actually, who dislike Stivell's synthesis of Celtic and anti-Celtic musi­cal traditions: at the expense of sounding too monotonous and retrograde, he sticks to Breton melodi­city all the way through, ending the album with a massive re-recording of 'Suite Armoricaine' and offering new variations on old melodies that I would hardly dare to call exciting.

The good news include a major improvement in production values. Synthesizers are used sparing­ly, so that the «swampy» New Agish effect is generally missing; most of the tunes show a clean, sparkling sound that we really hadn't heard on Stivell's song-based albums since the 1970s. At the same time, he is not abandoning modern technologies at all: the title of 'Rock Harp' speaks for it­self, as the man attaches yet another distorted technogadget to his instrument to make it sound like one of Adrian Belew's treated guitars. And on the title track, memorable mostly because of its sentimental-nostalgic melodica 'n' bagpipe curve, he toys a bit with voice encoding (just a bit, punctuating certain moments in the chorus — just so that you wouldn't mistake the album for something recorded around 1976).

Other than that, there is not much to say, except that this might be Stivell's most «authentic-soun­ding» record from the last part of his career, and in 2000, when it must have been lying around at least in some of Europe's musical stores, it was no big crime to use it as an introduction to his world. These days, there is no reason to seek it out instead of going straight for the real thing.

Check "Back To Breizh" (CD) on Amazon

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