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Invisible Fields

"This album was always going to be different," he says. "I did it in my own house, with a tight team that I trusted. There are no club beats. It's situated in the natural world, out of which I came and also where I live now. It started with birds. It was initially called 'Psalm for Birds'. It didn't work out that way finally, though birds are still in it. It goes out on birds. It's in part about the triumph of the natural world over religion. I've written new work for it, so there's a pushing forward. But there's also an archaeological aspect to it, a recovery of songs I'd long wanted to sing. It's more bespoke, more personal than other things I've done. I conceived it, wrote the new material, played on it, produced it. There's nothing on it that I didn't want, no pandering to anything. I wanted it to be experientially cohesive. I wanted to make the sound warm and fuzzy rather than clanky and mechanical. We worked hard at that. We used some synthesis but mainly real instruments, a lot of which I play myself. We were very careful about the microphones we used so that we'd get the right, warm sound.

"It's a very personal piece of work. It's about me, things I've felt and experienced. It's about children, how they can teach you and change you. Birds are there, stars too, things in the air, where sound is carried. It goes down into the darkness and back out. The first track is a key to it. It's about the transformative power of song and nature and how they hit me as a child, how I lifted off. You have to face up to what you are, and it was moments like that that made me a singer. The writing of it led to the writing of track five, 'The Day That You Were Born', a song for my daughter. I was thinking I'd be teaching her something, but she taught me. Track eight, 'Tuirimh Mhic Fhinin Dhuibh', is a lament we used to sing in the choir. I sang it for Gavin Bryars and asked him to imagine an arrangement with viola de gamba. It's dark as hell and he shines more black light into it. It comes back up again in track nine, 'Aurora', which derives from 'Ni Ceadmhach Neamhshuim' by Sean O Riordain, a poet from my village. It's about people's rights, their needs and the interconnectedness of life. My father introduced it to me. That's him and my mother speaking on the final track. I taped them from the radio. This is an abstract piece that goes back to where I'm from, where the album begins.

"The album is among other things a love song to the Irish language. I'm infinitely proud of this language. It has a beautiful, poetic sound. When I write in Irish it brings out a way of looking at things that I don't have in the English-speaking world. There's no need to refer to anything contemporary. When I listen to Darach O Cathain I think of the magnificence of the culture that produced that music and his singing of it. That culture is totemic for me. It's an anchor. Poetry and music can take you to it. Both were all around me in Cuil Aodha. Friends of mine told me they saw the Fianna walking on a hill. If you said that to someone in a pub in Dublin they'd think you were a fool. But poets aren't afraid to exchange visions. And music can blur the boundary between the real and the imaginary. It can get you to an exalted place. That's what draws me to it."

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