The Sounds Of The Wild Atlantic Way

THE SOUNDS OF THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY
Every great road trip deserves a soundtrack. Solomon Grey drove down the West-Coast of Ireland recording the sounds and people they met along the way. Their aim was to compose a unique score to this inspirational coastline.

Watch the film following their journey and listen to the soundtrack below.

INTRODUCING SOLOMON GREY
TO THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY

The Solomon Grey project really came together in late 2009, when Tom Kingston and Joe Wilson moved, to live and write in The Crookhaven Lighthouse, Co. Cork, Ireland.

This rugged landscape inspired the duo to write much of their first album.

When the idea of creating a soundtrack to the Wild Atlantic Way came about, the band’s connection to the West Coast of Ireland matched perfectly with their creative interests and direction.

Dathanna, the name of the EP, means colours in the Irish language. The title and the individual track names were prompted in part by the colours the band encountered on their trip. But these names are more than this: travelling along the Wild Atlantic Way the band actually felt these colours, in a synesthetic experience hard to define or put a finger on. The music is Solomon Grey’s translation of these experiences. Written in Irish, the words develop a poetic beauty in themselves.

GLAS/GREEN
TRACK ONE
Uilleann pipes

The bagpipes of Ireland, with their tone and their broad range, two full octaves including sharps and flats, have a very distinctive sound. The pipes on this track were recorded by moonlight outside Joe Watty’s pub on Inis Mor in the Aran Islands after an impromptu session.

The pipes bring a distinct taste of Eire to the layered sound of strings, organ and synths, re-emphasising the Celtic chord progression with a uniquely Irish sound.

Cliffs of Moher

Home to a plethora of birdlife, the voices of Puffins, Guillemots and many more were recorded echoing off the tops of the sheer rock faces; these along with the sound of the ocean below form layers within the track.

It was while recording samples here that the core section of this track was written. These giant cliffs had the feeling of an impenetrable ancient fortress; with this track the band wanted to illustrate man’s feeling of insignificance in the presence of awe-inspiring nature.

Captured Sounds
Track One - ‘Glas/Green’

  • The track opens with the crash of a wave at Brow Head, Co. Cork.
  • Ocean sounds and birdcalls were recorded over the top of the Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare.
  • Uilleann pipes recorded on Inis Mor, Aran Islands.
  • The pipe organ part was recorded in St Mary’s Church, Dingle, Co. Kerry.
  • The gong-like sound that closes the track is the ring of an ocean buoy being struck at Mizen Head, Co. Cork.

Church Organ - Dingle, Co. Kerry

This track was written with a classically Celtic chord progression. Access to the organ in the Church of St Mary’s in Dingle brought it to life with a naturally echoing acoustic.

The haunting organ adds to the epic and majestic landscape that this piece evokes: an incredibly beautiful land with a history that is both ancient and still flourishing.

CHURCH ORGAN - DINGLE, CO. KERRY
GORM/BLUE
TRACK TWO
Inis Mor

Gorm/Blue closes with sounds recorded along Inis Mor’s winding lanes – for although the island sits exposed, clinging to Ireland’s west coast, life continues on this beautiful and dramatic far-flung outpost in the Atlantic. This theme threads its way through the track inspiring thoughts of resurrection – being sucked below the ocean’s powerful currents and then emerging refreshed and renewed.

Mizen Head

One of the main transatlantic shipping routes passes close by to the south, and Mizen Head was, for many seafarers, the first (or last) sight of Europe.

It was a dangerous point that claimed many ships – the bell that this track ends on was from one such wreck.

Captured Sounds
Track Two - ‘Gorm/Blue’

  • The gentle swell of water and the gallop of horses that open this track were recorded at the Cleggan and Omey Beaches, Co. Galway.
  • String section was written at Ballynahinch Castle, Co. Galway.
  • The underwater sounds were sampled at Barley Cove, Co. Cork.
  • On Inis Mor, Aran Islands, the band sampled bird life and other ambient sounds around the lanes.
  • The bell this track finishes on is taken from a ship wrecked at Mizen Head, Co. Cork.

Waves - Barley Cove, Co. Cork

It fell on Co. Cork resident surfer to do the honours and catch a wave with the microphone strapped to his board. This sound takes us below the waves, giving a new perspective on the coastline.

When we finally burst from the water, emerging with a sudden injection of energy, it’s as if we’re given a glimpse of why hardy souls brave the waters of the Atlantic to ride some of the World’s best waves off Ireland’s western coast.

WAVES - BARLEY COVE, CO. CORK
DONN/BROWN
TRACK THREE

Ireland’s only cable car, built in 1969, links the tranquil island of Dursey to the mainland. Much of this track was inspired by Dursey Island off the Beara peninsula.

It’s the sound of the cable car that lays down the rhythm, while the energetic piano section seemingly responds to the cyclical nature of this piece of machinery.

While riding it, 80ft above the sea, the world: humans, livestock and vehicles appear so tiny. It was this vision that motivated the tempo of the piano. This part was actually perfected later in the trip, on a moonlit night overlooking Fastnet lighthouse.

Before the cable car was built, residents had to have a boat of their own or hitch a lift. Veteran Dursey farmer Denis Healy remembers the summer it was built. In his words, which you hear on this track ‘it made everything so easy....

CABLE CAR - DURSEY ISLAND, CO. CORK
Kylemore Abbey

Since 1920 Kylemore has been home to a community of Benedictine Nuns. The Castle’s history prior to this is remarkable, with one family’s love and pain mixed in equal measures. Mitchell Henry, a textiles magnate, built the castle as his family home. When his wife died unexpectedly in Egypt at the tender age of 45, Henry commissioned the architect J.F Fuller to build a cathedral in miniature in her memory. It was here that Solomon Grey conceived the piano part of this track.

Crookhaven

Although not the beginning of Solomon Grey’s trip down the Wild Atlantic Way, this story really started here. Seeking a place to write far from the noise of the city, Crookhaven lighthouse, where Joe spent his childhood holidays, seemed ideal. The band came here to write much of their debut album. On their return, they wrote this piano section, wanting a piece that reflected the tempo and looping nature of the cable car.

Captured Sounds
Track Three - ‘Donn/Brown’

  • The cable pulleys on the Dursey Island cable car provide the track’s rhythmic beat.
  • The ‘drone’ especially audible on the track’s intro is cable car rumble – vibration resonating through the wood of the cable car cabin.
  • It was also on Dursey Island that the farmer’s memories were recorded, providing the vocals.
  • The piano section of this track was conceived in Kylemore Abbey, Co. Galway and completed in Crookhaven, Co. Cork

BUÍ/YELLOW
TRACK FOUR

Irish Poetry - Inis Mor, Aran Islands

Treasa Ni Cheannabhain recited this poem in Gaelic, Inis Mor’s first language, on Kilmurvey Beach. The words remember weekly outings to Sunday mass.

The vivid memories illustrate the heritage of the knits still made by hand on the island.

“Their image remains fixed in my memory. White knitted jumpers and white shirts, blue shirts and grey vests, trousers and under drawers from home spun materials. Men, children and elderly would make their way to Sunday mass, long journey on foot that stirs the memories that still remain in my mind. Long red petticoats, blue coats with a dash of colour… heavy shawls sent up from Galway....”

IRISH POETRY - INIS MOR, ARAN ISLANDS
Skellig Michael

The monastery on Skellig Michael was abandoned in the 12th century, but the beehive shaped cells remain. It was on the incredibly rough journey here that the pizzicato string section was written. The strings’ energy being a translation of the excitement and adventure the band found at sea, which upon arrival at the rock transformed into a meditative calm.

Kalimba

Although not a traditional Irish instrument, the Kalimba you can hear on this track was one of the first sounds recorded – played by Ronan Kearney at An Grianan fort. It’s an entrancing instrument with a beautiful melodic sound.

Captured Sounds
Track Four - ‘Buí/Yellow’

  • The Kalimba was recorded in An Grianan fort, Co. Donegal.
  • The poetry was recited by Treasa Ni Cheannabhain on Kilmurvey Beach on Inis Mor, Aran Islands.
  • The solo fiddle part was played by Maire Breatnach in Dingle, Co. Kerry.
  • On the journey to Skellig Michael the band came up with the pizzicato string piece.

Fiddle - Dingle, Co. Kerry

The fiddle is perhaps the archetypal Irish instrument. Máire Breatnach improvised this achingly beautiful fiddle solo to accompany the poem.

One of Ireland’s most prominent fiddle players; she has been featured on albums by artists as diverse as Mike Oldfield, Brian Kennedy and Bryan Adams.

FIDDLE - DINGLE, CO. KERRY
DEARG/RED
TRACK FIVE

Some say Irish music cannot be understood without ‘a deep appreciation of Sean-Nós singing… it is the key that opens every lock’. It’s a highly ornamented style of unaccompanied Irish singing. Teresa Millane was recorded on Inis Mor singing a love song written 400 years ago. Here are a few of the verses:

Young Donal, if you go across the sea,
Bring me with you and don’t forget
You will have the gift of the day at the fair,
And the Greek King’s daughter beside you in bed.

You made a promise to me but you lied,
That you would be with me in the lamb’s pen
I whistled and called you two hundred times
But I didn’t get a response except for the sheep
bleating.

You took east and west from me
You took the light moon and the sun from me
You took my heart from the middle of my breast
My fear is a great king, that you took God from me.

SEAN NÓS SINGER - INIS MOR, ARAN ISLANDS

Choir - An Grianan Fort, Co. Donegal

This was the first recording made on the trip. It was clear that the acoustics were special as soon as the choir entered the fort: thanks in part to its 4.5m thick walls.

This track revolves around a mournful minor chord progression – the traditional Irish key was dropped for a more romantic one to match the choir’s voices – the low hum filling out the Sean-Nós singer’s voice and complimenting the low notes of the organ.

CHOIR, AN GRIANAN FORT, CO. DONEGAL
Brow Head

This dramatic razor blade of rock juts into the ocean on the South-West tip of Ireland. Marconi, the man responsible for the first trans-Atlantic radio transmission lived right here, and undertook much of his research from this remote peninsular.

The sound of waves that closes this track was recorded at Brow Head – its feedback like texture a nod to the inventor of the wireless.

An Grianan Fort

With commanding views of Loughs Foyle and Swilly and counties Donegal, Derry - Londonderry and Tyrone, Grianan of Aileach was a royal citadel from the 5th to the 12th Centuries.

The strength and shape of its fortified walls gave a special acoustic to the voices of the local choir recorded inside.

Captured Sounds
Track Five - ‘Dearg/Red’

  • Choir recorded in An Grianan fort, Co. Donegal.
  • Sean Nós singer recorded on Kilmurvey Beach on Inis Mor, Aran Islands.
  • Organ chord progression written in Clifden and recorded in Dingle, Co. Kerry.
  • Galloping horses recorded at Omey Beach, Co. Galway.
  • Track closes with the crash of a wave at Brow Head, Co. Cork.

Horses - Omey Beach, Connemara, Co. Galway

Connemara, where the gallops were recorded, is famous for its native Connemara ponies.

The pounding of horses’ hooves down the beach was a must-have from this EP’s conception. Here they give an emphatically contemporary end to a song with roots that stretch back 400 years.

Strong, hardy beasts bred for this rugged landscape; it is said that the Connemara pony is descended from Scandinavian bloodlines brought to Ireland by the Vikings, with Arabian blood added in the 18th century for speed.

HORSES - OMEY BEACH, CO. GALWAY