Perhaps best known as a founding member of Kila or for his long-standing association with The Frames, Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s fiddle playing has arguably been the group’s unique selling point and key to the band’s relative success; heightening the sense of drama and urgency on hits such as Revelate and Fake and providing an additional melodic foil for the band’s dual guitar attack. His own work however stands to be seen for itself. Though firmly rooted in traditional Irish music, his sonic palette also lends itself to classical, symphonic and pictorial colours.
‘The River Holds Its Breath’ is Colm’s third solo album, following his Meteor Award nominated debut ‘The Hare’s Corner (Cúinne an Ghiorria)’ in 2008 and 2015’s ‘And Now The Weather (Agus Anois An Aimsir). The album was completed alongside Bill Whelan, himself a mainstay of the Irish music scene thanks to his production for the likes of U2, Van Morrison, The Dubliners and more recently Wyvern Lingo, Contempo Quartet and Colm Quearney.
Though disjointed at first listen, ‘The River Holds Its Breath’ works as a complete article thanks to its collective beauty. Tracks like Late Afternoon (Tráthnóna Beag Aréir) and the title track – with its sparse piano intro and slow build with Colm’s gentle violin playing before a blind-siding, soaring melody change that envelopes the listener – showcase Colm’s skill as a composer, with particular attention paid to his sense of dynamics and arrangement of naturally beautiful sounds.
From The Mountain To The Sea (Ó Shliabh Go Cuan) features a motif section that worms its way inside your brain and burrows and nests there, oddly reminiscent of ‘50s doo-wop melodic tropes, while How To Catch A Star (Conas Breith ar Réalt) – composed for the children’s book turned play that shares its name – is breathtakingly delicate.
‘The River Holds Its Breath (Tost ar an Abhainn)’ is invigorating; a life-affirming listen for a dismal day. The most honest and possibly best testament one can make to this collection of compositions is to call it just what it is: simply beautiful.