Reviewed by Dancin' Dave Derbyshire
Building on his reputation in Iona, Troy Donockley's first solo venture comes at a time when there appears to be a growing interest in all things Celtic. As I first attempted to adjust the sound levels during the opening crescendo, I recalled how Celtic music can be an acquired taste. It is only now, after playing the album through a few times, that I am beginning to get into it. If you are not that familiar with this style of music 'The Unseen Stream' may not be the best place to start. Troy has dropped any trace of a modern beat in favour of a more authentic Celtic style. I found the warbling sound of the primitive pipes difficult to get used to. But, willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, I pressed on. Troy lives up to his reputation of being a multi-instrumentalist mixing these pipes with organ, strings and percussion. The journey of 'The Unseen Stream' takes us from the choppy sound of the "Wild Black Coast" to the slow and peaceful ride round the "Carousel". The longest track, "The Year 1", lasts nearly 15 minutes compared with most of the others at three to five minutes each, and changes style a number of times. It starts with a very slow string piece that I fear might lose the listener the first time through. A more exciting adventure on the drums is then introduced, which for me evokes the image of a young animal running over moorland and I enjoyed the use of guitar on the strong rhythmic ending. Later in the album a dawn chorus wakes us in preparation to go down the "Tunnels" of atmospheric organ music, chant and rhythmic percussion that fade into a sort of floaty New Age sound from the midst of which a shrill pipe sounds. As the chanters sing the pipes and drums build to a dancing beat. Then I recognise the classic "Finlandia" by Sibelius, the tune to which I remember singing hymns like "Be Still My Soul" and at last I'm on familiar territory, except for those warbling pipes again. But as they give way to strings I find myself in worship with memories of my old Baptist church. All too soon the sudden ending of the short dreamy "Death Of Rainbows" brings the album to a close. Though this album may sound strange to your modern ears and take some time lo get used to, it is worth the effort as it contains some beautiful sounds.
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