It’s hard to know what to say about Ímar that I haven’t said before. Pan- Celtic prodigies packing a powerful punch, penning passionate yet pensive pieces, performances which are pretty much perfect, and that’s just one letter of the alphabet. Their third album is more of the same, but fresher, feistier, furiously fast, and full of fine new compositions. Here is a band who can change up a gear from a reel to a jig or vice versa, and who keep the tension building through ten tracks without breaking a sweat. It does take a heavy toll on their jeans though. The front line of Mohsen Amini on concertina, Tomás Callister on fiddle and Ryan Murphy on uilleann pipes and flutes emphasises the Irish and Manx characteristics of the band, but there’s a Scottish aspect too, and even elements of the darker p-Celtic traditions. In the engine room are Manxmen Adam Brown and Adam Rhodes, there’s no better team on bodhrán and bouzouki, or indeed in a three-legged race.
Puns are on the menu for the opening mash-up Bangers, the Scotsman abroad with Legal Tønder, and the very irreverent Neachtain’s Wing, which is the only track here without a composition by Murphy, Callister or Amini. A couple of other traditional favourites raise their heads: Paddy Kelly’s and Rose in the Garden (lovely girl, I knew her mother) but the rest of Awakening comes fresh from the fevered imaginations of these three heroes. Not that this is immediately obvious: listen to the set of island- scattering slides on Splinter O’Neill’s and you could be set dancing in Sliabh Luachra, while The Gift Horse is not far behind with its red diesel polkas. Things slow down occasionally: Callister’s Imagine a World is a moving slow air, Waterhorse ripples in rhythmic flux, and Eoghainn’s hides a melancholy edge under its slow velvet march. The final Tree of Life is back to unbridled horseplay, galloping away over the horizon like the mythical figures, which inspired the album cover.