In my own private hell, there is almost certainly ‘social dancing’. Having been born with two left feet and the spatial awareness of a blind naked mole rat (feel free to correct me if the blind naked mole rat is in fact a creature that can bust a move on the dancefloor) dancing, especially of the kind that requires me to know what direction I should be moving in, who I should be dancing with, whether I’m to move to my left or right, or indeed, which requires me to know my left from my right while moving at the same time, has always been an act of personal humiliation. It’s like a live-action version of one of those horrible 3 dimensional reasoning questions you get on IQ tests and I can’t do it. When I found myself at the wedding of friends from the ‘New Scotland Country Dance Society’ a few years back, I spent a large part of the evening photographing other people dancing because it gave me the illusion of something to do and everyone else seemed to be on the dancefloor.
Oh, and bagpipes. They’ll be in my little corner of hell too. Maybe it’s having lived in the centre of Edinburgh for the last twenty years, but I really struggle to think of a less pleasant sounding musical instrument. I mean, who actually listens to bagpipe music by choice? So its fair to say if I’m going to appreciate overtly Scottish folk music, of the kind that you could imagine being played by a ceilidh band, then its going to have to be good enough to overcome certain irrational prejudices of mine.
Still, the Peatbog Faeries are not a straight ceilidh band, but a ‘fusion’ band, mixing Scottish folk with various electronica. Which might work. Or it might not. When I was about twelve or thirteen, a Romanian DJ had a series of hits by mixing Gregorian chant with a 4/4 eurodance backing track under the nom de plume Enigma. And he was really just ruining Gregorian chant by making it sound like something you might hear in a provincial nightclub on a Friday night. Though at the age of 13, being too young to know any better, or indeed, to have the faintest idea what Gregorian plainsong actually was, I rather liked it.
Thankfully, Faerie Stories is a rather more professional effort. If it had just been ceilidh music with some electronic drums thrown in, or worse still, someone using a sampler to stick dance beats on top of traditional folk music just to show that it could be done, I suspect I would have quickly lost interest, but it does what it does quite well.
Caberdrone takes the whole ceilidh-trance thing to its logical conclusion, while Mr Problematic makes this the third album in as many weeks which has at least one track that brought to mind 70s prog rock. The use of echo on the drums on several tracks reminded me of the more experimental end of reggae music that I’ve heard (I’m not going to pretend to be an expert though – most of my exposure to reggae comes either from living two doors down as a kid to Northern Soul impresario Roger Eagle, hearing Lee Scratch Perry playing in his front room as I walked past, or from the flatmate who used to play the Easy Star All Stars’ take on OK Computer, Radiodread.
It might be coincidence, but it was the longest tracks, the 8 minute Mr Problematic and the 6 minute + Cameronian Rant and Get Your Frets Off that I liked best. Because this is music that works through repetition, drone, a kind of folk version of the sort of trance music that echoed from the walls of my halls of residence years ago. I know this sounds like damning with faint praise, but for me, it was great background music. Something conducive to getting on with work. Or dancing. Some say: “Dance like nobody’s watching.” I say “Dance when you think nobody’s looking”) but if I’ve got the flat to myself, and I’m sure that nobody’s peering through the window…
Highlights Get Your Frets Off, Cameronian Rant, Mr Problematic