The gloom of discord over the Emerald Isle: esteemed clansman paints cinematic tapestries with subdued grandeur as befits the centennial of the Civil War’s end.
In 2023, when Ireland celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the finale of the bitterest conflicts in the country’s history, one of Éire’s most celebrated ensembles, CLANNAD, embarked on the last leg of their farewell tour, yet that wasn’t a plain sailing towards the end for Pól Brennan. In recent years, the veteran carried on what the band he had cofounded with his siblings and uncles back in 1970 started dealing in in the following decade, and composed soundtracks for a few films and, now, for a television series. And an impressively serious suite it is – “The Irish Revolution” may well be this multi-instrumentalist’s magnum opus, as there’s much more inner turmoil and a deeply felt external drama than in any of Pól’s previous works, and not only because of the album’s context but also because it’s the first platter to bear Brennan’s name on the front cover as a principal artist.
Pól doesn’t sing here, though, and neither does his sister Moya who added her harp accents to his woodwind, guitar and ivories and to Aidan O’Donnell’s violin and viola to create a constantly moving, and hard-hitting, spectacle of sound, the record’s understated magnificence sculpting an orchestral scope. Breathtaking moments are abound from the pregnant anxiety of stygian opener “Réabhóid” via the strings-laden thunder of “IRA Goes To War” and the variously patterned – yet never overtly belligerent, unlike the funereal flow of epic “Volunteers And The Brigade” – percussive pulses of “IRA Strikes Back” and “War Grinds On” to “Atlas Of The Revolution” which bring this all to a close in an almost symphonic, triumphantly peaceful way. While motifs of rebel songs surface in the crystalline “Black ‘N Tans” and cinematic exposition of “WWI” and the chamber ripples of “The Mansion House” paint half-abstract mood-setting landscapes, the stirring likes of “The Revolt” gradually unravel electric storm of a folk-rock sort as opposed to darkly elegiac panoramas that such traditionally rooted ballads as “A Gaelic People” and “A General Election” demonstrate with a lot of keening before “Time To Call A Halt” elevates the already familiar themes to celestial heights.
The listener won’t need any visuals to be riveted to the spot: this masterpiece of an album must keep everybody transfixed by its music.