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The Hebrides Suite CATHY LANE
(Gruenrekorder 2013)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

 ‘The Hebrides Suite’ is a multi-layered collection of composed works that reflect Cathy Lane’s ongoing fascination with the Outer Hebrides. A mixture of field recordings, audio diaries, conversations, interviews and oral histories drawn from archives across Scotland, these six pieces explore the history, traditions and ways of life of these ancient islands.

How does history – past lives and past events – leave sonic traces and how do we hear them?

Each piece is based around a particular theme pertinent to island life, be that weaving, local transportation, crofting or religion. All are complex patchworks of sound that have the power to take your breath away. Each one a fascinating vignette that encapsulates its subject in an engaging, imaginative and sophisticated manner. The multifaceted nature of these compositions creates an intensity that is almost tangible, demonstrating once again the power of sound to evoke a feeling or induce a reaction.

‘Tweed’ is a captivating interpretation of the weaving industry of the Outer Hebrides. The clatter and hum of machinery is embellished with disembodied voices that develop their own rhythms, akin to the lyrical nature of the looms used to produce this famous cloth.

The only piece not to feature any spoken word is ‘Gaoth (Wind)’. It’s a beautiful homage to the ever present wind and coming in at the middle of the CD, creates an effective natural break between the more intensive arrangements before and after.

‘Watch Over Us All’ is a sombre conclusion to the suite, acknowledging the central role religion still plays in the lives of the island inhabitants. Community is everything here and the church is at the heart of this. As the singing and the sermon gradually fade, the delicate song of a Skylark takes centre stage, pointing towards the rich biodiversity that exists here.

A huge amount of time, thought, emotion and effort has gone into ‘The Hebrides Suite’. Each work is wonderfully intricate, comprising snippets of recordings that must have been painstakingly researched, collected, analysed and brought together. It demands and deserves attention.

‘In 2006, I sat looking through the misty soft rain towards the ruined chimney and listened to a ship motoring into the sea loch below, almost right up to the whaling station, lifting lobster pots. A little further up the road is the spot where on two separate cycle tours from the south to the north of the Outer Hebrides I was defeated by a mixture of horizontal rain and a ferocious headwind and gratefully turned around and headed back towards Tarbert and the gentler south. On one of those journeys I remember the sound of a weaving loom from inside a shed as we passed it on the road.’
-Cathy Lane

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[Cathy Lane; photo courtesy of CRISAP]

Cathy Lane website
Gruenrekorder website