By Tony Hillier
Although it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s name will be known to Australian roots music aficionados through his indelible association with two of Ireland’s best-known bands.
For those unfamiliar with his CV, this gifted multi-instrumentalist was an integral part of The Frames and Kíla for many years. In fact, Iomaire, who’s an accomplished violinist, guitarist and pianist (who also plays bouzouki, dobro, ukulele, banjo, cello and zither), did some reunion shows with Glen Hansard and company in July to celebrate The Frames’ 25th anniversary and he still sits in with Kíla from time to time.
But yer man’s main gig these days is leading his own band, and with a new album recently launched and headline concerts at the Melbourne Music Festival looming fast he’s currently as busy as the proverbial bee.
“I’m concentrating on my own music for the foreseeable future,” he confirms via an email interview with Rhythms. The first album under his own name, 2008’s The Hare’s Corner, he says was merely the first step on the road.
Whereas the debut release was a solo tour-de-force on the new album, And Now The Weather, Iomaire draws on a crew of up to 20 musicians, including four vocalists. “Rather than repeat myself, I wanted to draw from a wider sound palette and go a bit more ‘widescreen’,” he remarks. “I was also conscious of not wanting to make a completely violin-centred album. The music was the path. It’s an exciting thing to go from imagining a choir to recording one!”
Colm Mac Con Iomaire previews ‘The White Boat’/ ‘An Bád Bán’ from his new album at Other Voices Derry last year:
For the upcoming Melbourne sortie, he’ll be scaling back to what he describes as a “delicious” 5-piece. “We’ll still give the album a good shot,” he assures. “Arrangements are always guidelines rather than walls. In the early stages, close to the release of a new album, it’s all about learning how to deliver the album live — how to distil the ‘orchestra’ and that requires structure and form. We’re a few months in now, though, and I’m enjoying being back in open mode with the music where more live exploration can happen.”
Iomaire’s emotive compositions on And Now The Weather – Agus Anois An Aimsir, to cite the alternative Gaelic title – are drawn from a contemporary collage of ideas and influences that, while defying specific genre, nod to Irish/Celtic folk music and Michael Nyman and Philip Glass, whose work he greatly admires. And yet Iomaire is very much his own man. “As a creative, I’m acutely aware of the need to keep my own well water clear. After all, what’s uniquely our own as artists is all that we have to bring to the world. Precious time can be lost in the misplaced pursuit of someone else’s magic. Time is better spent searching for your own.”
Colm Mac Con Iomaire performs ‘The Finnish Line’, from ‘his new album, live at The Marquee, Cork in July of this year:
The Irish Times described And Now The Weather as “effortlessly cinematic, conjuring images of weather-beaten coastlines and vast green expanses”. The artist puts it in simpler terms: “I set out to capture the sound in my head, to create something beautiful. I wanted each piece to hold its own and yet to resonate sympathetically with its neighbours like chapters in a story.” The album title, he adds, comes from observations of how the world in general continues to ignore climate change.
Iomaire concedes that Irish/Gaelic folk is an undeniable element of his musical make up. “I liken it to having a particular musical accent or a way of talking,” he comments. “I think folk music has more curves than classical music. I have a classical side but the curves hold their own too. I’m also an Irish-speaker brought up in a predominantly English speaking Ireland. I have always been keenly aware of how rich and vibrant our culture is.”
This multi-talented artist is currently working on the trailer to his first feature film score, for a movie called Dare To Be Wild, which is due to be released towards the end of the year. “It was a vast project and, as part of it, I got to work with the great Ethiopian musician and composer Mulatu Astatke,” he says with obvious pride. Iomaire starts work on another feature straight after his trip to Melbourne. As he says: “Working with picture and sound can be a powerful thing, especially when you can handpick the projects.”
If all that weren’t enough, Colm Mac Con Iomaire is currently writing music for six poems commissioned by The Irish Writers Centre as part of an arts project to commemorate next year’s centenary of the 1916 Rising. “I’ve been making progress on a new piece for it called ‘Solasta’, which you may hear in Melbourne,” he hints.
CLICK HERE for tickets for Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s Melbourne Music Festival concerts on 16th & 17th of October can be purchased at:
And Now The Weather is available in Australia via the Planet Company.
Tony Hillier’s review of the album, incorporating further insights from Iomaire, will appear in the November/December print edition of Rhythms magazine.