We were lucky enough to have The Breath passing by our office earlier this year. As a band that’s signed to our sister company, Real World Records, it’s always a pleasure to see them. It didn’t take much convincing to get them to sit down and record a bespoke rendition of some of their favourite tracks from their last album, recorded in Peter Gabriel’s writing room.
The recording fits perfectly with our #GETTOKNOW series, which shines a spotlight on some of the lesser known bands playing at the festival. If you aren’t up to speed with The Breath, Matt Hacke has put pen to paper, to bring a little light.
Fresh from releasing their second album – Let the Cards Fall – on Real World records in September, The Breath are no strangers to WOMAD. The band played a rousing set at the Ecotricity Stage in 2016, not long after launching their debut, Carry Your Kin.
Since their last visit to Charlton Park, The Breath have pulled their sound back towards its acoustic roots. If their first album traded on expansive folk arrangements and layered vocal harmonies, the second sets lead singer Rioghnach Connolly’s extraordinary storytelling as its focal point. Despite this move, Connolly’s impassioned delivery ensures that a strong cinematic sensibility remains in Let the Cards Fall. The title track builds beautifully, double-tracking stirring vocals over multi-instrumentalist Stuart McCallum’s urgent percussion and swirling string arrangement.
These flirtations with the epic are matched in the album’s lyrics. Hailing from Ireland, Connolly sets Celtic history as a key point of reference, using these images to provide additional emotional heft. When handling these lofty influences, Connolly demonstrates great dexterity in making them feel relevant. Gaelic fragments create visceral feelings of loss and longing, as Connolly drifts between languages to pay homage to her ancestors and the common stories past down from generation to generation. This sense of cultural memory and remembrance is a knife edge throughout Let the Cards Fall, and a tragedy of disconnection shadows each of these recollections. Speaking to Real World about her interest in Irish culture and language, Connolly alludes to this alienation from her roots. She worries: “I’m not fluent; I don’t have my home dialect.”
Disconnected or not, Connolly’s synergy with McCallum is clear. In the studio, the band write through spontaneous outpourings of emotion and energy. Live, the band translates these emotive recordings with incredible precision and power. Building on the success of their new album, The Breath are a band at the peak of their powers. Be moved by their extraordinary sound at Womad this year.
Check out the full line-up here.