VA: An Taobh Tuathail Volume II

Filled as it with pieces by Susanna & The Magical Orchestra, Colleen, Murcof, L Pierre, Songs of Green Pheasant, and ten others, the second volume of An Taobh Tuathail (Irish for “The Other Side”) plays like a textura playlist brought to life. An Taobh Tuathail is actually the name of a radio show on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta/Anocht FM that's been broadcasting off-the-radar music from around the globe since May 1999. West Kerry native Cian Ó Cíobhain, who holds down the 11 pm-1 am slot on weeknights, compiled last year's inaugural volume and now does the honours again with this follow-up. In keeping with the show's late night broadcast time, the release focuses on material more inclined to induce contemplative surrender than hellacious raving.

The collection is worth acquiring for Susanna & The Magical Orchestra's sublime “Believer” and Colleen's stirring “Sun Against My Eyes” alone, with the former an ideal showcase for Susanna Wallumrød's inimitable vocalizing and the latter a marvelous encapsulation of Cécile Schott's artistry. The melancholic trails etched by the clarinets against her delicate acoustic guitar playing sound as affecting in this context as they do on Les Ondes Silencieuses. L. Pierre's pastoral, folk-tinged landscape “Weirs Way,” Songs of Green Pheasant's lilting folk chant “Fires PGR,” and Elisa Marzorati's piano outro “Foliage” are lovely too, plus a number of energized cuts leave strong impressions: Heftord's jubilant overhaul of Cane 141's “Disco Toys” is an infectiously swinging delight while Sarsparilla's (Damien Lynch) “Gigi Go Deas” offers a rambunctious sampling of Plaid-styled electronica. In what appears to be an affectionate homage to Steve Reich, Somadrone's “Our Ears Were Like Canyons” presents an uplifting romp of sparkling vibraphone and string patterns. Murcof's “Rios” (excerpted from Remembranza) naturally guides the album down a darker and more dramatic orchestral-electronic path but it's the exception to the rule on this generally placid set.

Admittedly, the compilation won't be essential if you already have much of it in your collection, and furthermore, though some previously unreleased tracks appear (Mad Theory's “Numbers,” Heftord's remix of Cane 141, and Ranger 3's “Sense of Direction”), there aren't enough to make that big of a difference. If, on the other hand, you own none of the material, the selections represent a more-than-solid, seventy-minute roundup of high-grade electronic artistry.

November 2008