Notify: Airneán – Contemporary and traditional worlds intersect effortlessly

This is an organic, deeply thoughtful collection infused with a curiosity and an appetite for exploration

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Artist: Notify
Genre: Contemporary
Label: Lios Beg Records

From the syncopations of Other Side of the Glass, the opening track of Notify’s third album, Airneán, it’s clear that this is something special. The concertina player, composer and arranger Pádraig Rynne has long occupied those liminal spaces where traditional, jazz and ambient music intersect.

Airneán, meaning Night Visiting (a nod to the band’s nocturnal recording patterns), feels like a meeting of the waters, with sounds ebbing and flowing around Rynne’s lithe concertina, Davie Ryan’s drums and percussion, Tara Breen’s fiddle and, crucially, Adam Taylor’s languid bass lines. Hugh Dillon’s acoustic and electric guitars and Rory McCarthy’s piano and Fender Rhodes complete this acoustic helix, one that curves and swerves in patterns that are drenched in contemporary composition but shot through with traditional influences.

Notify are a wide church, too: for this album they invite as collaborators an eclectic mix of musicians, introducing vocalists, to what has been traditionally an instrumental band, to impressive effect. Seamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta, the Connemara sean-nós singers whose sibling harmonies have already marked them apart in the past few years, bring a fittingly pensive contribution to three tracks. Hugh Dillon’s composition La Grene is another standout, a delicate guitar-based tune that lures the listener in to its orbit effortlessly.

Tyler Duncan adds that low whistle along with pipes to another track, the nimble Arty’s Words. He’s a former member of Notify and a founder member of The Olllam, and there are some resonating influences to be heard throughout this album, as both bands occupy spaces they’ve made all their own where the percussive elements of traditional music are mined to their core, while the melodic intricacies of the tradition are celebrated wholesale.


Tara Breen’s fiddle is another joy. Her distinctive tone and disciplined pursuit of the essence of a melody line are an essential component in Notify’s tapestry, and nowhere is that more evident than in the opener, where her fiddle shimmies and slides in and around concertina and bass.

The singer Niall McCabe brings another layer of riches, as guest vocalist on Tá Mé i Mo Shuí, tonally distinctive from the contributions from Seamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhatharta yet utterly in tune with the tone of the album as a whole.

Nothing in Airneán sounds forced. It’s an organic, deeply thoughtful collection infused with a curiosity and appetite for exploration. It bears testament to the depth and breadth of the conversations that are happening these days between traditional and contemporary music: conversations among equals, and no longer preoccupied with the tired tropes of whether it’s one thing or the other. Music for music lovers and adventurers alike.

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about traditional music and the wider arts