I often thought that a mix of traditional Highland music and electronic dance music could make a good genre, and I have looked around for it for a while. Martyn Bennett’s music is definitely the closest to it, but as fantastic as he was it’s desperately sad that he died over ten years ago now. I hadn’t heard the like of his music from anyone else, until this month.
Niteworks have been around for a bit as it turns out, but this month sees the release of their debut album NW and it is an incredible piece of electronica fused with Celtic and Gaelic elements in a way that makes it resonate with traditional culture and music in an impressive way.
They seem to me as though their music is very similar in its approach to Porter Robinson’s with NW taking the same inspiration for its electronic sounds from Gaelic music as Robinson’s Worlds did with Japanese.
There are Disclosure-esque star turns from celebrity singers in the Gaelic world such as Kathleen MacInnes, Deirdre Graham and Alasdair Whyte which all add a bit more depth to the songs. These almost all take the form of providing a unique electronic accompaniment to a cover of a traditional Gaelic song, which works exceptionally well. MacInnes’ turn on “Maraiche” is especially good, channelling a really dark sound that contrasts really well with the usual sound of Gaelic traditional song.
My favourite songs on the album are two very contrasting takes on Niteworks’ brand of infusion electronica. Album opener “Beul na h-Oidhche” is perhaps the most typical electronic song, having a strong beat and plenty of rhythm and managing to carry a bagpipe section effortlessly. On the other hand “Aiseag Maol Rubha” is a very soft and quiet song that is completely relaxed, with the odd synth being the only telltale sign of anything other than traditional music. It’s this diversity that adds a lot to the album, and while many of the songs do carry a similar feel, they’re not samey enough to be a cause of boredom.
Another great song on the album is the closer, “Coming Down”, which manages to distil the sound that Niteworks are aiming for and producing a powerful piece of music. The only shame is that it builds and builds before ending all too soon, which is something I feel that many songs on the album tend to do.
It’s a great album on the whole, but it misses a beat here and there. “Somhairle”, while intended as a tribute to the great Sorley MacLean and with a strong message about Gaelic’s survival seems too reliant on the spoken word of the man himself and loses the flow of the album just a little. While wholly forgivable for a debut album, it’s these little things that take the sheen off just a little.
Niteworks have the potential to make Gaelic electronica every bit their own in the way that Runrig did so effectively for rock in generations gone by. Chart success might be a bit away, but the talent is certainly there and if they can continue to evolve and produce great music then with their formula I’m sure they can produce a hit.
If you enjoy atmospheric electronica and/or Gaelic music then this album is definitely worth a listen. Niteworks might be the next big thing in Gaelic music, taking it forward into the 21st century with a flourish.
You can buy NW on Bandcamp or listen to it below via Spotify.