Album reviews

Fraser Fifield – ‘Piobaireachd / Pipe Music’

Fraser Fifield – Piobaireachd / Pipe Music
(Available from BandCamp. Album Review by Patrick Hadfield)

Scottish multi-instrumentalist Fraser Fifield, born London, raised in Aberdeenshire and now based in Fife, straddles many genres – predominantly traditional music, but he also collaborates with jazz, classical and dance musicians, playing a plethora of pipes, whistles and reed instruments. And he plays many of them on Piobaireachd / Pipe Music too, with the help of loops and overdubs.

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“Piobaireachd” refers to the classical traditions of the highland pipes – ceòl mòr, the big music, to distinguish it from ceòl beag, the little music of dances and reels. There are set formats and structures for piobaireachd; whether Fifield sticks to these, I can’t tell, but the music he presents on Piobaireachd / Pipe Music encompasses laments, salutes, improvisations and even pieces which would pass muster for dance music, reflecting the breadth of his influences.

Traditionalists might not agree, but the result is a lively and enjoyable canter through modern piping. There is a plaintive air to many of the tracks, the pipes lamenting for loss and love. But there is also joy, particularly Fifield’s improvisations and other pieces which incorporate his various whistles, and a gentleness to some tracks which balances the forcefulness of others.

Recorded in lockdown, Fifield’s take on pipe music has a magical, other-worldly quality that may cause one to rethink one’s expectations of how the pipes sound. The overdubs are used to great effect. Incorporating rhythms from other sources with traditional pipe music, Fifield has produced something vibrant and new.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield

LINK: Piobaireachd / Pipe Music on Bandcamp

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