When Ímar released their debut album, Afterlight, in 2017 they said they wanted to go back to basics. The result was an album where the tunes were at the heart of the arrangements, all played with exceptional musicianship. A string of awards later and they have released the follow up, Avalanche.
An album of almost exclusively original tunes, Avalanche really showcases the musical creativity that make this band special. Their shared love of Irish music is very present in the tune sets, all of which showcase the amazing technical mastery this group have of their instruments. The driving rhythm provided by Adam Brown and Adam Rhodes really underpins all of these. Brown’s bodhrán playing in particular is exceptional, displaying both immense musicality and sensitivity.
While the virtuosity of the tune sets is impressive, it is the slightly more laid back tracks that really stand out. Co-written by Amini, Callister and Murphy, White Strand is a stunning tune in its own right but the addition of the string section creates an uplifting and energised arrangement that allows the melody to shine, tastefully enhancing the syncopations. Afar, another co-write, also benefits from the strings expanding the sound or what is a very lyrical melody. Ryan Murphy’s flute playing really stands out on this track. The last of the trio is Setanta, a wonderful minor tonality vehicle for Murphy’s uilleann pipes.
Although the majority of the album is original, the inclusion of the traditional tune Slane (Be Thou My Vision) is an excellent choice. The simple arrangement is completely in keeping with the bands back to basics approach that makes the tune the most important component. Anyone who has seen Ímar live will have seen the sheer joy this five piece take in sharing music they love with an audience. That joy is wonderfully communicated in their new album, an excellent advert for the strength of instrumental music coming out of Scotland.