Colm Mac Con Iomaire: The River Holds Its Breath review – One beauty on top of another

Third album from The Frames’ man fuses traditional sources and contemporary music with ease

The River Holds Its Breath: Tost ar an Abhainn
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Artist: Colm Mac Con Iomaire
Genre: Soundtrack
Label: Plateau

"At the heart of The Frames whirlwind was a still centre," writes Nuala O'Connor of Colm Mac Con Iomaire in her artist biography for the Irish musician's website. It is an incisive observation, especially so for Mac Con Iomaire's solo work, which, while rooted in traditional Irish music spreads gracefully outwards from that source to embrace orchestral, classical and cinematic elements.

His third solo album, after 2008 debut The Hare’s Corner (Cúinne an Ghiorria) and 2015’s And Now The Weather (Agus Anois An Aimsir), can be viewed as an episodic outing, a gathering together of commissions that nonetheless also work as final pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

Collaborating with Bill Whelan (himself no slouch when it comes to fusing traditional sources with contemporary music), the Contempo Quartet, Colm Quearney, and Wyvern Lingo, without any apparent fuss, Mac Con Iomaire just piles one beauty on top of another.

It is almost impossible to pick out the highlights, but tunes such as Late Afternoon (Tráthnóna Beag Aréir) and the title track display impressive control of innately sublime and textured push and pull.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture