Album Review: Afro Celt Sound System – The Source

ACSSTheSourcepackshot1Whilst listening to music to review I am frequently prone to the use of the word ‘unique’.  In almost every instance I would stand by my use of the word as it applies to such a broad range musically, and yet now when I am presented with The Source – the latest album from World folk rockers Afro Celt Sound System  I feel like I have wasted the word and it no longer feels as though it can describe what it is they do with justice.  They are unique in absolutely every sense of the word and unless you’ve had the good fortune to hear one of their albums before then it would be safe to say that you have never heard anything quite like this.

Afro Celt Sound System provide some of the most fascinating and frankly addictive compositions that you have ever heard.  They take a host of musical talents and use them to combine a plethora of instruments from across the continents and bring them together in a way that is almost mind-bendingly contemporary (never before have I considered African styled world music as a partner with fiddles and dance music) and yet at the same time is lovingly crafted with native and traditional sounds.  They have sounds from around the world; drum beats that you would expect to hear in a small tribal village and break-neck Latin medleys that mingle with rocked up guitar riffs, pounding dance music, jazz styled vocals and all of this with what sounds like a full blown orchestra backing them.  They are big, brash and bold.

That said, The Source is almost an album in two halves as it seems to alternate between the raucous and the melodic.  Most of their songs are rich, soothing and resonant with a deeply relaxing tone to them.  The kind of songs you could find yourself laying with in a luxury spa while others are instantly wild and whip back and forth with a deep, thrumbling and jarring feeling to them.  These songs, songs such as Desert Billy, are exemplary as they muster bursts of life within you.  Dextrous, rocky finger picked guitars combine with dancing fiddles and an infectious and resonant chanting.  Close your eyes and enjoy feeling the song flicker around you like a roaring fire in the middle of the night.

Part of what makes Afro Celt Sounds System so special is that they are somehow able to provide music that feels as if it is close to you – despite being a tapestry of music from around the world there is something charmingly comfortable and familiar about it.  Gently plucked harp strings might briefly summon a memory of the Coraline soundtrack composed by Bruno Colais but at the same time it is so audibly different that it projects itself into a realm of its own.  On slower songs such as Where Two Rivers Meet this aspect is particularly charming as it is that much easier to just sit bac and find yourself lulled by the music as soothing waves wash over you.

Afro Celt Sound System are the textbook definition of ‘unique’ and taking a set of instruments that spans countries, continents and centuries they bring to life a traditional but modern blend that is utterly unforgettable and quite frankly, if The Source is to be your introduction to their work then this is the perfect place to start.

Review by Joe Knipe

Summer Festivals

JULY / AUGUST

15 July – Larmer Tree Festival
18 July – Milton Keynes International Festival
24 July – Folk by the Oak
30 July – Cambridge Folk Festival
05 August – Dranouter Festival, Belgium
12 August – Boomtown Festival
13 August – Lakefest
19 August – Beautiful Days
02 September – Helsinki Festival, Finland

The Source Album Tour 2016

OCTOBER

26        BURY ST EDMUNDS The Apex
27        NORWICH The Open
28        BRISTOL Colston Hall
29        OXFORD o2 Academy
30        LONDON Barbican

NOVEMBER

01        MANCHESTER RNCM
02        NEWCASTLE Riverside
03        EDINBURGH Queens Hall
04        SHREWSBURY Walker Theatre
05        SHEFFIELD The Leadmill
07        BIRMINGHAM Town Hall
08        COLCHESTER Arts Centre
09        YEOVIL Octagon Theatre
10        PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms
11        BUXTON Opera House
12        EXETER Phoenix
13        BRIGHTON Concorde 2

www.afroceltsoundsystem.org.uk
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