Cuar is a trio consisting of Matthew Berrill on clarinet, Aoife Ní Bhriain on fiddle, and Neil Ó Loclainn on double bass and flute. But the music they create is more than a triangulation; it’s a pyramid whose structural integrity depends on the listener as its base.
All the music on Roscanna, with the exception of the final track, is rooted in the mind of Ó Loclainn. The album’s conclusion, the traditional Irish “Bádaí na Scadán,” is an emerald clue into its origins, as well as proof of the trio’s willingness to dig deep enough so that geography ceases to matter. The tale begins, however, with the enchanting overture “Fonn Mall Rosc.” Ó Loclainn’s flute hovers above verdant plains: a ghost deciding whether to leave or to stay, one tendril in the past and the other in the future. The droning strings that join it twine flesh around hollow bone. A bird is reborn.
Flute sheds skin for clarinet in “Damhsa Tandava,” wherein pizzicato bass and fiddle also congregate. In its renewed state, the woodwind picks up right where it left off, as if finishing a sentence in birth that was cut off bu death. And while tracks like this and “Damhsa Corrguineacht” render overcast spaces where past lives immerse themselves in lessons of the ocean, the jig-inspired “Zezere” is decidedly landbound and joyful.
The freely improvised “Abira,” “Cappanwalla,” and “QfwfQ” are chambers of the album’s triptych heart. Each toes the line between dancing and mourning, moving by force of experience through hints of tradition while leaning into winds of untethered expression. Following messages written in the script of silhouetted branches, they seek and find purpose in the most unexpected of places. - Tyran Grillo