Album: Martyn Bennett

Grit, Realworld
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The Independent Culture

With Grit, the folk synthesist (if that's not a contradiction in terms) Martyn Bennett attempts to reclaim Scottish music from the "misty-lensed and fanciful" representations of Celtic culture that have flourished in recent years. His method is to go back to roots, using samples of traditional Scottish folk singers such as Lizzie Higgins and Flora MacNeil, and his own fiddle and pipe drones alongside modern synth and drum programmes. The result is a cross between Jim Moray and the Afro-Celts, but less dinner-party polite, the striking voices lending the tracks a stirring, earthy quality - never more so than on the opening "Move", in which the eerie tones of Sheila Stewart are lashed to an 808 bassline and crunching breakbeat, streaked with trumpet and ney flute. It's an album of surprises: "Chanter" is a techno-pibroch, with bagpipes whisked along on urgent techno beats, and digitally scratched vocal stutters reminiscent of Sheila Chandra; while "Ale House" is "The Bonnie Wee Lassie Who Never Says No" as it might be conceived by Nine Inch Nails - skirling pipes, industrial stomp-beats and sheets of synthesised noise. Weirdest of all is "Nae Regrets", an amalgam of Piaf and the Scots vernacular of Annie Watkins, borne aloft on a driving synth pulse. An absorbing reconciliation of the raw and the cooked.