Album Review / Staran: Staran

Featuring five top musicians in Scottish folk and trad scene, Staran call themselves a collective instead a band. In the olden days of arena rock, this would have been called a supergroup; fortunately we are in another time and another musical cosmos.

The lineup of Carnie-Smedley-Lowrie-White-Lindsay leaves no doubts about musicianship – it is what you’d expect. As for style and approach, I wasn’t sure what I expected – something off-center and slightly experimental, perhaps. After all, these people have proven their talent in trad and modern folk countless times already.

The Staran website tells us that ”while the overall sound is rooted in Scottish traditional music, there are undoubtedly elements of inspiration from the genres of jazz, minimalism and experimental electronica.” I’m not sure I’m hearing much electronica on the album but maybe it’s so integrated into the fabric I don’t even recognize it – a kind of aural CGI. The jazz and minimalist colours are definitely there, resulting in what I think of as contemporary chamber Celtic, for want of a more elegant label.

Staran is, for the most part, a fairly restrained and even quiet affair, thus the ”chamber” in the label. My first listen of the album was during one of my walks and I definitely lost most of the music’s detail there. I strongly suggest you sit down and let the music envelop you because, even if there is nothing truly revolutionary here, it glows with the inner fire and intimate presence only the finest of musicians can create. As such, you need to stop and listen to get the most out of it.

Having said that, it must be noted that none of the tunes is too complex or challenging. The atmosphere, even in this low key mode, is positive and bright, like a forest stream on a summer’s early morning when the sun is only just coming up above the horizon and it’s still quiet… Is that recommendation enough for you? 😉

My favorite moments here are the Back to Glasgow which builds from a serene opening half to a dynamic latter section; Little Waves, John Lowrie’s brilliant little piece of aquatic joy; Gaol a’ Chruidh, with Kim Carnie’s lovely etheral voice at its best; Casino, a recognizably Nordic piece written by Finland’s own Hannu Kella (I may be a bit biased here but won’t apologize, heh heh).

Support this great music and fine musicians and order or download your copy of Staran on the band’s Bandcamp site:

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