Celtic Connections review: Duncan LLyall, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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IF THIS “New Voices” commission from Celtic Connections was indeed more or less Duncan Lyall’s composing debut, it was an substantive one, quite apart from being, as he remarked, a rare chance for this weel-kent bassist about the folk scene to move front of stage.

His composition, Infinite Reflections, inspired by the image of two facing mirrors and informed by the clearly useful input of a Distil composing workshop, was performed by a sterling seven-strong band, including pianist and accordionist Angus Lyon, piper, whistle-player and guitarist Ali Hutton and a trio of fiddlers, one of them, Innes Watson, doubling on guitar. Emerging out of a susurrus of electronic sound, like background radio noise, the sequence of several movements opened with chiming harmonics and deep, resonant bowed bass before coalescing into steady forward motion. There was occasional recourse to the inevitable elaborations on jigs and reels, but there were also engaging echoes of Steve Reich-style minimalism, the strings (Watson, Seonaid Aitken and Gillian Frame) working up compellingly repetitive riffs.

There were some memorable moments, as when strings and chiming piano drifted sublimely over Martin O’Neill’s walloping bodhran and Lyall’s bass, while a slow movement, introduced by Lyon’s gentle piano, worked itself into a dramatic climax as Lyall switched to electric bass guitar and Hutton brought in Border pipes. Then bass and pummelling drums suddenly switched off, to leave a hypnotic flicker of strings and pipes, before it all gradually subsided into a warm-toned conclusion.

Rating: ****