Avalanche Big Mann BMANN003

This award-winning Glasgow-based quintet are: Mohsen Amini (concertina) from Glasgow; Ryan Murphy (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle) from Cork, lreland; Tomas Callister (fiddle) and Adam Rhodes (bouzouki) from the Isle of Man; and Adam Brown (bodhran, guitar) from Suffolk. They originally met as teenagers through Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, the Irish traditional music network that tutors young musicians not just in Ireland but throughout the UK as well. Ímar’s second album, Avalanche, is almost entirely composed by the band, but you still feel its deep roots in traditional Irish musical sensibility.

At a time when fast-and-furious is fashionable, Ímar stand out. Even playing at breakneck speed, they retain a lightness of touch, fingertip control, and deep sensitivity to the supple interplay between the instruments. This album is further enriched by the plangent harmonies provided by guest musicians Donald Shaw (electric piano) and a string quartet led by Greg Lawson.

It’s hard to pick a favourite track. The mighty Setanta is a spaghetti Western swagger of sultry bouzouki, wailing bluesy uilleann pipes and fiery fiddle. The utterly exhilarating Deep Blue has razor-sharp instrumental playing in delicious cross-rhythms with breathtaking, turn-on-a-sixpence switches from tune to tune.

The slow pieces are equally good. Be fhou is Ímar’s graceful arrangement of the Irish traditional tune Slane (to which the hymn Be Thou My Vision is sung). It opens with soulful fiddle leading the melody, which then moves to the uilleann pipes before passing to bouzouki and acoustic guitar for the gentle, diminuendo concluding verse.

Paul Matheson