Album Review / Adenine

I have seen Ailie Robertson live on stage a few times, playing her harp with various excellent people in different Celtic and Folk lineups and combinations. And I got to talk to her briefly after the Outside Track’s amazing gig at CC2019 – what a lovely person she is!

Being familiar with her previous solo projects – excellent all of them – and the Outside Track catalogue, I was thrilled to learn last winter that she was working on a solo harp album, to which I contributed a few euros on the Kickstarter project site – I mention this not in order to make me look good but to remind you that you can support your favorite artists this way too 🙂

And here is Adenine the album, by Adenine the artist. Ailie is faded from view and only appears in the inside cover as ”Adenine aka Ailie Robertson”. I have to say I was a bit huh? when the postman delivered the cd some three months ago and I checked out the credits.

And the track titles were totally out there: Smirr? Flindrikin? Aftak? Pieces lasting eight and nine minutes?

I began to sense I was not about to be served a big platter of Celtic, neither cool nor steamin’.

So, cut to the chase. My main message can be summed up in two sentences:
1. Adenine is 40 minutes of modern classical and sometimes experimental aural construction, realized with only a harp and some digital magic.
2. It is stunningly good.

Let’s be clear: this is music that libraries probably place in the dreaded ”modern classical” section. Right up there with Boulez, Glass, Adams, Saariaho, Messiaen… Far, far away from the Folk Music shelf.

So, frankly, your enjoyment of Adenine will, to an extent at least, probably correlate to the depth and width of your musical taste. If ambient, busy, dark and/or atonal soundscapes are definitely NOT your cuppa tea, it’s possible you might not like this too much.

BUT I strongly suggest you at least give it a shot.

Not only because Adenide aka Ailie has created this musical cosmos by herself, trusting a strong and singular vision and she deserves to be noted for it. But because this is truly magical stuff.

For me, the album works as journey: from the gentle/dark, almost Japanese rain meditation of Smirr to the wild aural silver sparkle of Spindrift, then on to the pulsating Gaelic spell of Flindrikin and from that to the strangely spellbinding ten-minute noise chamber of Aftak whose grip is finally broken by the beautiful, beautiful harp and strings release/epilogue of Haar, restoring harmony and peace before fading into silence.

I suspect Adenine is meant as a cycle or sequence to be played or performed in this particular order. Or then not. Be that as it may, I find it completely compelling, a state and a space unto itself. And it’s also wildly emancipating in the way it throws caution to the wind and lets the creator’s vision shine forcefully, full blast, with no pretensions, false ambition or unnecessary ornamentation.

It speaks its own truth, and very clearly at that. At some points, it can be a bit demanding but so very rewarding in the end.

It’s an awesome statement from a musician so brilliant – and so brave.


Adenine the album can be purchased, in various formats, from Adenine the artist’s Bandcamp site:

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