Adiemus IV – The Eternal Knot

Album Review by Mark Bayross

This is the forth instalment of Welshman and former Soft Machine member Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus project, and for those who have followed the series from 1995’s debut album SONGS OF SANCTUARY this will be a welcome return to traditional new age roots after the ethnic-retro-mixing experiments of the last album, DANCES OF TIME.

What we have here is a selection of impeccably-produced orchestral Celtic pieces ranging from the whimsical (PALACE OF THE CRYSTAL BRIDGE) to the monumental (CU CHULLAIN). Among the orchestral flourishes and ever-present female choirs, a healthy sprinkling of harp and flute lends every track a cinematic medieval feel.

If this all sounds very commercial, it’s for a good reason: Karl Jenkins has lent his music to a number of award-winning adverts (Renault, BA, De Beers, Cheltenham & Gloucester, Jaguar, and, famously, Delta Airlines). This is much closer to the chart-friendly music of Clannad than the Gothic ambience of Delerium or Dead Can Dance.

Sometimes it does work well. ST DECLAN’S DRONE builds itself up into tightly-wound high drama, while SALM O “DEWI SANT” is plaintive ballad that requires no more than beautiful, striking fragility to grab the attention.

Elsewhere there are hints of brilliance that sadly become missed opportunities: the sinister opening of THE DAGDA, all brooding undercurrents and hinted menace, is shattered by a jaunty rhythm and those Celtic female vocals (that sound more like Enya on helium as the album progresses – the closing MATH WAS A WIZARD is a chipmunks-meet-“Highlander” frenzy).

On the whole, there is something missing from THE ETERNAL KNOT. It is background music of the most picturesque kind, but it’s just too twee to offer anything of lasting interest. It has too much of that soft-focused feel of a clichéd TV advert – horses galloping through cobbled Irish streets, and so on. I kept waiting for a voiceover trying to sell me a pint of Guinness or an airline ticket.

3 stars

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