Last year’s album Tiny Rewards showed how Admiral Fallow were ready to expand from their indie-folk origins and embrace a more compositional process of writing and recording music. They’ve also been keen to use festival opportunities to push their collaborative boundaries, performing with the RSNO in Paisley Abbey as part of Spree and soundtracking short films in the Old Fruitmarket as part of the Glasgow Film Festival.
Both composition and collaboration were at the heart of this Celtic Connections concert. The 20-minute-long Common Ground, co-written with American composer Steve Forman and premiered here, thrived on its defined movements, shifting time frames, flights of keyboard and woodwind arpeggios, and intricately funky bass lines. A thrilling electro-jazz-fusion-prog-rock symphony, it wouldn’t have been out of place as Side One of a genre-bending LP in the early 1970s.
The second half saw the band joined on-stage by the 14-strong Auricle Ensemble for six new arrangements of songs from the Admiral Fallow back catalogue. Opera composer Gareth Williams reset Guest Of The Government and Bomb Through The Town, embroidering existing textures, increasing the dynamic range and strengthening the heartbeat of the rhythms. Aidan O’Rourke, fiddler with Lau, added extended orchestral introductions to Squealing Pigs and Building As Foreign that expertly developed themes and chord patterns within the songs.
Admiral Fallow’s drummer, Phil Hague, galvanised the difficult rhythms of Sunday, which the band had never played live in any form, while the Auricle Ensemble’s artistic director Chris Swaffer erased all ‘them and us’ divides been band and orchestra with a euphoric version of Liquor And Milk. An encore of 4 Bulbs, with near-choral harmonies, was a beautiful ending to an ambitious and inventive gig.