Treacherous Orchestra are an eleven piece contemporary Folk band very much in the mould of Peatbog Faeries, blending traditional tunes and instruments with modern influences and dance beats. I can’t help thinking the title Grind might be an homage to Martyn Bennett’s 2003 Celtic fusion album Grit.
Grind had been long listed for Scottish Album of the Year Award 2015 but failed to make the shortlist after the public vote, a great achievement nonetheless.
The orchestration is wonderful on the opener ‘The Long Count’, it starts slowly with a steady bass and drum line and mellow chords on the accordion and synthesiser but as the tune develops and guitars and fiddles enter the fray it becomes fast and furious. The whistle tells the tale in this composition and Ross Ainslie’s playing is sublime. ‘The Long Count’ finishes abruptly and ‘The Master’ barks into life extending the theme and introducing the bagpipes for the first time and an even heavier electric guitar presence.
‘Halcyon Daze’ starts the middle section of this three-part album. The track starts with a build up which reaches the “drop” and suddenly everything slows and mellow whistles, flutes and banjo lead the melody on into a gradually hardening tune which fiddles and guitar add an edge to. ‘Hounds’ starts with mesmerising bagpipe playing over a driving bass before relinquishing the tune to the flute and keyboard and then grabbing it back and driving for the finish.
‘Banger’ lets the fiddle flirt with us on this slower and less frantic tune, at five minutes in the pace quickens and the bagpipe begins pushing the fiddles as the drumming adds buckets of epicness. ‘The Sly One’ is a more jagged and jarring tune, on the edge of discordant, by far the heaviest tune on the album with shrill fiddles fighting with driven electric guitar, making it my favourite track. The tunes in this part of the album vary in tone and tempo, allowing each musician to bring his part to the fore.
The last three tracks are essentially one whole piece. ‘Rise’, at a little over a minute long, is a rising play of chords building anticipation before the title track ‘Grind’ opens with a haunting uilleann-pipe-like melody that screams ancient and mystical. The music builds slowly as each instrument takes up the theme and moves it on before handing it back to the original guitar melody to move seamlessly into the last track ‘Numbers’. Here we have rocking banjos and bagpipes slowly rising in complexity and power until you expect David Coverdale to start belting out an ‘80’s power ballad.
The world seems to have fallen in love with traditional music played to rock beats and Treacherous Orchestra do not disappoint. I have heard most of the musicians playing at various folky things over the years and always been amazed by their craftsmanship, all together their virtuosity is jaw dropping.