Our Daily Bread 395: Bróna McVittie ‘The Man In The Mountain’

September 1, 2020

Review/Dominic Valvona

Bróna McVittie ‘The Man In The Mountain’
(Company Of Corkbots) Album/2nd September 2020

The diaphanous voiced and ephemeral harpist Bróna McVittie once again beckons us into her imaginary gossamer world of alternative Celtic fables and mystery with a second album of poetic imbued brilliance. Following on from the much-admired trip-folk cinematic debut We Are Wildlife (which evidently made our choice albums of that year), the Northern Irish enchantress roams a similar gauzy landscape of lingering, lightly-touched evocations; a place in which giants fight over causeways and warrior suitors declare chaste love for the chieftain’s “flower of the hazel glade” daughter.

Though the cover interpretations of old have been “dialed back” for more original songs, the evergreen Man In The Mountain album is heavy with references and inspirational threads from such gifted luminaries as Siegfried Sassoon, Pablo Neruda, William Wordsworth and Henry Williamson. The music is pretty timeless too; a misty shrouded soundtrack based more on the hushed cadence of Bróna’s voice and the subtle trails and wafted semblance of instrumentation than rhythm or the traditional perimeters of folk music.

Yet there’s a modern touch to those both pining and woodland sprite entranced folklores with collaborations from both the electronic duo Isan and Nordic avant-garde composer Arve Henriksen. The former provides an understated ripple of incipient bobbing and skimming percussive Techno for, and co-arranges, the nuclear fusion updated vision of the Greek tragedy, ‘Falling For Icarus’, and the cantering Bert Jansch-breaks-bread-with-Curved Air swoon ‘Eileen Aroun’ – a peaceable, softly-plucked take on Carroll O’Daly’s 14th century declaration of love. Henriksen, for his part, helps entice Bróna towards the airy amorphous soundscape visions of Jon Hassell and Eno’s ‘fourth world’ ambient jazz traverses, Dingo era Miles Davis and a lulled Don Cherry on her transformation of Samuel Ferguson’s famous ballad, ‘The Lark In The Clean Air’.

Legendary Irish mythological figures, ill-fated sacrificial souls and even the “green man” are placed in less familiar settings: a sort of resonance from a banjo sounding instrument takes us away from the Emerald Isle towards the waning drift of Miles Cochran’s alternative Americana soundscapes. It’s a sound inspired as much by the Boards Of Canada as it is the Incredible String Band.

Despite being so softly sung, it’s Bróna’s vocals that seem to be the highlight; improving all the time; holding notes so breathlessly long and yearned, and almost raspingly, dreamily emerging from the ether of some ancient headland to lull pursed lip sonnets and tales.

Beautifully conceived and imaginative, Bróna McVittie and her subtle foils on this eloquent lush songbook push Celtic imbued folk gently towards electronica and experimental jazz. This is done with such ease and grace that those seeking the traditional will find little in the way of discourse or friction, or even anything approaching radicalism. The Man In The Mountain is rather a caressed, vaporuos doorway into an alternative musical tapestry of folk that isn’t afraid to expand into the synthesized and modern.

See also…

Bróna McVittie   ‘The Green Man’ (Here)

‘We Are Wildlife’ Album Review  (Here)


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