Iain Morrison’s new album ‘Sal’ has had a lengthy process getting onto audio release. It has spent most of 2019 touring around as part of a production of the same name. ‘Sal’ celebrates 100 years of Iolaire. For Iain, it has been personal.
In 1919 a ship sunk off the coast of the Isle of Lewis killing 200 on-board including his great grandfather. With that as the backdrop of all the sounds the album brings, ‘Sal’ feels like the most Scottish meditative folk album you could possibly listen to.
Split into 3 acts with distinct song sections in each, Iain rarely takes over control. Instead, we have guitars, pipes and reeds often creating a drone-like sound or a marching arpeggiator. From there, Iain often adds himself in as backing vocalist to add colour. He will weave around the increasingly complex string additions that flow around each track.
Some tracks will feature poetry, others guest vocalists and towards the end, Iain Morrison himself will eventually sing too. His voice is always weather-worn and emotive and that just adds to the general feeling of loss and contemplation. Much of the final four ‘Roinn’ tracks focuses in on this vibe and they are some of my favourite moments of the album.
Much of ‘Sal’ avoids being outwardly catchy or melodic. It feels like Morrison is pointing towards thoughts and feelings. The album also embodies the fluidity of water throughout too. This makes it far less immediate than his more Celtic Folk centric releases. It wouldn’t be the album to start with but if you are more interested in musical storytelling and rhythmic ambience than melody then ‘Sal’ is your album.
‘Sal’ is a tricky album to review as I’ve not seen the film that originally accompanied it. Its one of those albums that personifies ‘a grower not a shower’. The meditative state it creates perfectly balances the melancholy loneliness of a remote island along with its Scottish beauty. It is unlike anything else I’ve heard in 2019 and I applaud Iain Morrison for making something so unique and compelling.
Recommended track: Roinn III
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