After SOAR, another album based on themes of bird and human migration! This one fuses Gaelic vocals, afro house, global rhythms and audacious west African brass.
Time: 13 tracks / 72 mins
A five-minute Gaelic lament may not be the best way to begin an album, especially for a band known for its dynamic grooves, and whose last album (The Source) was outstanding – but at least they get it out of the way early.
They recover their mojo straight away. Featuring the Amani Choir, whose music director Emmanuela Yogolelo has a refugee background, “Sanctus,” is one of the album’s highlights, alternating gospel, a disco-inspired horn section and fiddles. It acts as a prelude to what is coming.
The album’s themes are bird and human migration, hence the name. The album came about through the passion for bird watching shared by businessman Mark Constantine and Afro-Celt founder Simon Emmerson, but it also draws on the experience of band members with the refugee community around Manchester and England’s north-west.
The central piece, reprised at the disc’s end, is the four-part “Migration Medley,” which parallels the two migrations and ends with a lament from Ríoghnach Connolly .
This starts with the title track, whose female hook feels lifted almost wholesale from Steve Miller’s “Wild Mountain Honey” – which is not a bad thing. Its third part “Homecoming” feels typical of the way that this disc is put together. The ‘Afro’ part dominates, with percussion constantly underpinning everything else and waves of featured sounds rolling in, one after the other.
This may have a lot to do with how Flight was recorded. While The Source felt simultaneously very African and very Celtic, with lots of studio layers embroidering a fascinating tapestry of loops and samples over the top, Flight was recorded live. You can almost imagine a bandleader pointing to the next section of the band to bring them in, one after the other.
Having seen them after writing this, I can testify to that happening. On the way to the gig, we had both The Source and Flight on in the car, and they are not that different with a good, loud system and a sense of expectation. (And while I still prefer the former, it was Flight that my brother bought after the show).
This idea has been to reflect the band’s energetic live experience, which may be why the horns have more of a disco feel in “Thunderhead” – there is less ambience here and a higher emphasis on dance. As it slows to a close, we have some delicious trip hop on “Rippling” and elsewhere they incorporate some Afro funk.
So with both albums comprising two sides of the same coin, you could make the case for buying them as a pair.