Both folk and classical, perhaps more than any other styles of music have always been the best at capturing something of the natural world. The former seems in touch with its primal nature, its lore and history, the latter able to use sweeping compositions and grand sonics to describe the natural, and sometimes supernatural, drama of the land around it. And both these genres beat at the heart of Nessa’s Otherworld but like the subjects that the album is musically describing there is also so much more a work here too, both tangible and otherwise.
Celtic is an oft overused term these days, as much part of the marketing of an Irish theme pub as it is used in a more discerning and truer sense. Well, Otherworld is a celebration of things Celtic, though lyrically and musically it is happy to wander across expected demarcations and so we find tracks such as RBG Reel a folk-rock jig in praise of Ruth Bader Ginsberg sitting side by side with reinterpretations of traditional songs such as Sovay and Wraggle Taggle Gypsy.
But, as the album title suggests, there is much found on it which wanders into the more ambient and mystical, music which communicates by stimulating emotion rather than through direct communication. The title track, which opens up proceedings is a drifting swirl of emotive flute and shifting, textured washes of music and Air for St. Brigid promotes the idea of the voice as instrument as it gathers more modern electronic sounds around its own haunting delivery. And between the structured and the structureless you find songs such as Buiochas and A Stitch in Time which blend expected folk forms with a more jazz-soul vibe.
There is an age old joke which says that wherever you go in the world you can walk into a bar and find an Irishman singing…about wanting to go home. Well, Otherworld is proof that home is where the heart lies, that your culture, your heritage, your beliefs all travel with you, wherever you may go. It is also a brilliant celebration of all things Celtic whilst neatly re-inventing what that actually means musically in the modern world. And just one more quote to end on. The past is another country, they do things differently there. Well, Otherworld is the sound of the present. It may look to the past for inspiration but is definitely the sound of things moving forward.