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Album Review

Mouth Music (the collaboration of American vocalist Talitha MacKenzie and Scots musician Martin Swan) may flavor the Gaelic with a touch of the African here and there, but the tone is definitively Gaelic, as is the music. What they've done is more of an updating than a crossbreeding; they've taken the best cues from various sources, including the ethereal tone exploited by Enya and the hard, rock-based sound that Horslips, in the '70s, brought to traditional Irish material such as "An Bratach Ban" (here as "Bratach Bana" in a slowed, elegant rendering, MacKenzie's vocals alternately merging and separating, an effect that's worth wearing headphones to hear). Martin Swan gets to strut a little, too, with a couple of very nice instrumental outings — "Martin Martin" seems somewhat frothy initially, but the mix of Celtic and electro-pop carries a nice edge with it. The vocal material is handled in a manner that's becoming common — softer-edged female vocals floating in deep reverb, imparting an ethereal sense to the singing. Based against Swan's percussive arrangements, it's very effective — even more so when the vocals fade into the distance, trading places with melancholy pipes or violin (as they do on "Chi Mi Na Morbheanna"). It's a good album, perhaps an inch or two away from being great. It's one of the new and interesting things to have been done with Gaelic and Celtic music since Horslips hung it up in the late '70s.


Formed: 1990

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Some of the most unusual sounds in contemporary Celtic music were created by Edinburgh-based band, Mouth Music. Combining the mouth music (puirt-a-beul) tradition of Gaelic Scotland with African rhythms, the group fused the two musical cultures into a truly unique sound. According to Entertainment Weekly, "Mouth Music's combination of intelligence, beauty and nerve has the power to unite both world beatniks and mainstream rock fans in mutual exhilaration." The concept that resulted in Mouth Music...
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Mouth Music, Mouth Music
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