Alex Monaghan reviews Halocline by Malin Lewis



CD Review by Alex Monaghan.
Hudson Records HUD051CD
11 tracks, 38 minutes June 2024.

Piper, multi-instrumentalist, composer and innovator, Lewis has been prominent on the Scottish traditional scene for a few years now, performing at Celtic Connections, competing for the BBC Young Traditional Musician award, and touring festival stages in Scotland and beyond. This debut CD presents mainly original material, much of it played on the Lindsay System chanter, a Scottish smallpipes chanter adapted to play almost two octaves, invented by Donald Lindsay and built by Malin. It has a distinctive sound, with many of the extra notes given their own character by the acoustic contortions required to achieve them on what is basically a smallpipes chanter with extra holes. Malin Lewis has been experimenting with this instrument for several years now, and is something of an expert in both playing it and composing for it.

Halocline captures Malin’s outstanding creativity on pipes, whistles and fiddle, ably assisted by Luc McNally, Sally Simpson, Cammy Maxwell, Stuart Brown, Maija Kauhanen on voice and kantele, and Matthew Herd on saxophones. The album title comes from an ocean phenomenon, a special world between salt and fresh water, with its own life and beauty. The music here captures that uniqueness, from the poignancy of Hiraeth which draws on the Gaelic culture of Malin’s Lochaber home, to the gentle Estonian jazz of You Are Not Alone. In between we find the energetic affirmation of Trans, one of the key aspects of Malin’s life and creativity; the joyous Cycle Lane on low whistle which reminds me of the late great Oliver Schroer’s compositions; the mystical Luna with Finnish kantele evoking Malin’s time in Helsinki; and the solid piping of Tune 51 and The Old Inn which are perhaps the most traditional pieces on this album. Lewis throws in a couple of Bulgarian kopanitsas, tasty pipe tunes, but most of Halocline lies on the border between contemporary Scottish pipe music and older Gaelic influences, blended and given a new voice by Malin Lewis.