Album Review

Fourth Moon – Odyssey: Album Review

Supported by Creative Scotland, Fourth Moon release album number two with Austrian, French, Scottish and Italian influences thrown into the pot.

Release Date: 26th November 2021

Label: Self Release

Format: CD / Digital

Formed back in the mists of in 2014, the band’s music is an almost-exclusively original melange of chamber and traditional folk styles. Dubbed “absolutely amazing” by BBC Radio Scotland, they have also seen support from international festivals including Celtic Connections and Le Son Continu for their truly original sound and instrumental prowess.

The new album explores the experiences of the quartet of musical migrants, each excelling in a culture of traditional music not native to their homeland. From Austria, Géza Frank (flute and whistles) is joined by Italian David Lombardi (fiddle) and Jean Damei from France (guitar), who bizarre as it sounds, have all established themselves as top instrumentalists in Irish and Scottish music. Closer to home, we find Andrew Waite cropping up again – spotted him with Breabach at Underneath The Stars this Summer and always remember him living it large with Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band.

The many influences and varied backgrounds of the core quartet combine to push the boundaries of traditional music. They’ve also enlisted Scottish singer and step dancer Ainsley Hamil, integrating her voice as a fifth instrument with which to showcase their signature style. Merging cultures and breaking down borders is a fine philosophy. One that results in a joyful collection, much inspired too, by the vast landscapes and nature with which Fourth Moon clearly hold an affinity.

The moment where the fiddle breaks loose two thirds through the opening track, Open Sea, confirms the sense of joie de vivre that comes with the quartet coming together. Each instrument seems to follow its own path yet there’s a magical synergy with the way they intertwine. Even though it sits in the background of Northern Star, playing second fiddle to the lead, the guitar provides not only the platform but a mesmerising journey of its own. And that’s the key to Odyssey – there’s so much happening musically that little treasures constantly reveal themselves and previously unheard passages open. Each musician and instrument acting as catalyst for the tunes to soar and fly.

Borealis provides another fine example of the ebb and flow within the arrangements; the tune picking up the pace as it nears its close following a tranquil opening. The chamber calm not quite shattered but given a gentle shake by a flurry of notes and bouncing gait. More ominous is the take on The Elf Knight; possibly one of the most threatening versions of this aged tale. The urgency of the raw fiddle lines is what I’d term ‘Lakemanesque’ as the narrative and its accompaniment picks up pace.

Pick of the set though might well be Voyager. A personal highlight that seems to reinforce the odyssey/travelogue theme. The sort of tune that would lever even the most staunchest chair dancers to their feet at the Summer festivals. The deftly fingered guitar picking ringing out and giving hints at what’s to come, joined slowly by the ensemble and in full flow two minutes in before the rhythm kicks in with a vengeance. It also provides a tremendous finale. Ending the album on a high note with the no place to go but back to the start for another odyssey.

As flautist Géza Frank talks about a new sound, he pays tribute to how the creation of the music has been the real ‘Odyssey’. Listen and judge for yourselves – how right he is.

Here’s Marine Clean from the album:

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