Seán Mac Erlaine: Music for empty ears

Reviewed on Fri 15 Jun, 2018

Catching the ear from the off with its skewed, dream-like strangeness, it’s an intriguing but altogether involving journey, infused with a soft narcotic haze.

Somewhere in the ether, Scandinavian noir, Irish melancholy, dyspeptic electronics and soulful saxophone have coalesced to create Seán Mac Erlaine’s richly evocative, atmosphere-drenched Music for empty ears. By turns hypnotic, hallucinogenic, haunting and hallowed, the young Irish composer’s third album finds him collaborating with Norwegian jazz legends Jan Bang and Eivind Aarset and Irish vocalist Sadhbh Ní Dhálaigh (think Stina Nordenstam at her most sirenic) to create a Baudelairian dreamscape of disturbed poetry and fractured sonics. Mac Erlaine’s variegated woodwinds – clarinets, alto sax, chalumeaux and Chinese bawu – breathe and blow through shifting interior landscapes variously filtered, framed and formed by synthesisers, live electronics, sampling, guitars and, piquantly enough, a Wurlitzer. Catching the ear from the off with its skewed, dream-like strangeness, it’s an intriguing but altogether involving journey, infused with a soft narcotic haze, spotlit by shimmering ambient details and carried along by jazz-like spontaneity. Most surprising is how lyrical and irresistibly intoxicating it feels. Listen on headphones for maximum effect.
–Michael Quinn