CD Review: Au-Dela Des Mots by Alan Stivell

Alan Stivell

Au-Dela Des Mots

(Disque Dreyfus FDM 36224-2, 2002)

It is many years since Renaissance of the Celtic Harp brought Stivell’s work to my ears. He made links between Breton and the music of Ireland, Scotland and Wales and stood up for his own language and culture. I liked both of these facets and still do. Now I have his 21st album, all instrumental and featuring a number of different harps among less traditional devices like loops of electronic soundscape.
The opening and closing track, La Harpe, L’Eau, Le Vent gives you some idea of his territory. It is an impressionistic journey full of rippling harp textures recalling wild coastlines and Atlantic breakers crashing over rocks. There are a number of pieces like this, suggestive of landscape and climate.

Another instrument that complements the harps is the Irish, or uilleann pipes.These are featured along with wind and waves on two of the versions of La Celtie et L’Infini. They are used to even greater effect on Goltraidhe or Music In The Scale Of Sorrow, as their lament skirls over Stivell’s richly atmospheric plucking. It is very moving and evocative, as is Et Les Feuilles Repousseront, which is rendered in more prosaic English as Winter’s End. The shimmering chords and chiming strings are suggestive of hope and respite from hard fingers gripping the land. Sorry, it just brings out the poet in me!

Another renowned harpist inspired Demain Matin Chez O’Carolan in which Stivell successfully re-creates both the delicacy and swagger of the great blind Irishman’s tunes. Whistler and piper, Ronan Le Bars, adds further colour to a lovely melody.
Though Stivell’s priority is still Celtic music it is possible to hear diverse influences from the blues, Spain and Africa. These are blended seamlessly showing what he prefers to call natural similarities between the musics.

If at times there are slight leanings to a Celtic Ambient style it is still miles away from the blandness of Celtic Chillout or Celtic Cafe terrain and I’d certainly recommend it.


Au-Dela Des Mots

Author: Paul Donnelly