Pipehacker Review: Treacherous Orchestra

When you first look at their album cover for Origins, Treacherous Orchestra appears as if it is just the latest thrash metal group or DJ-dance-hall-fusion-electronica band. Never would you suspect an ensemble that pays a great deal of homage to their Celtic traditional roots and puts forth a sound that is like a Scottish country dance band with a bit too much Talisker in their tea. Or maybe too many peyote mushrooms… Anyway, despite their array of traditional instruments, there is nothing standard or typical in the elaborate arrangements by this group. Thick, layered grooves and deeply rooted Celtic rhythms and instrumentation fused with the aforementioned rock and dance club stylings mix in dramatic fashion. Each track is a jazzy ride of sound that leaves you forgetting you’re listening to, if we have to define them, a Celtic-rock group. Nothing is forced or overrendered, though. Many of these types of fusion groups are unholy combinations of hard rockers and traditionalists who just try too hard. But Treacherous Orchestra is nothing of the sort. Their music is polished and thrilling, and never do they lose the joyful drive that is at the core of traditional Celtic music. Anyone who has seen rising young musicians Ali Hutton and Ross Ainslie kicking it at Piping Live! knows what lies in store. These guys have been a fixture on the Scottish session scene for some time and on this album, as always, they take tired traditional licks and infuse them with new energy. These pipers and joined by an ample troupe of ten other musicians to create a deeply original and exciting sound. Whether it is multi-dimensional tones in the operatic thirteen-minute “Sausage” where the changes are seamless, or capturing a mood that is both frenetic and cheeky as in “Superfly,” where the repeating riffs seem neither redundant nor tired, or the more sombre and traditional “Sea of Clouds,” Treacherous Orchestra gives you a lot to hold on to and leaves you wanting more at the end of each track. Their grooves move forward with a hint of the rock bands of the past, always threatening to careen out of control but always returning you safely at the end. (Dare I say there are touches of Jethro Tull in “March of the Troutmen?”). Anyhoo, twenty bucks not spent on their CD is wasted money, I say. Hit their website and hope they give a concert near you.

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