mouthmusic is a band I've followed for several years, and which has spun off a number of my favourite artists, including Martyn Bennett and Talitha Mackenzie. The spinning off seems to have been rather too successful, and now the founder of the band, Martin Swan, seems to be on his own. However, on this latest album, he has some very talented guests helping him out: Martin Furey, Ishbel Macaskill and Kaela Rowan. At their best, mouthmusic seamlessly weave togther traditional Scottish folk music, Middle-Eastern and African music, electronic music and jazz. It might sound an odd mixture, but believe me — it works!
In recent years, I felt that they had gone off course a bit, but with this collection of sea-themed songs, they seem to be navigating a good course again (do you see what I did there?) Martin Swan's genius is for hypnotic, off-kilter rhythms, and these emerge to great effect on 'Whaling Ship'. The track starts with a simple guitar riff, then brings in percussion and vocals to fill out a very complex arrangement, until you almost feel as if you are on a creaking whaling boat, rolling in the swell. It reminds me of my all-time favourite mouthmusic track, 'Maudit (Cursed)'.
The other tracks are all quite different, but all show superb musicianship. Odd instruments, like the shawm and the bowed psaltery — and even a wok stand, appear from time to time and add a bit of exoticism. The songs fit the guest vocalists very well, and play to their strengths. mouthmusic are back on form.