Liam Ó Maonlaí
Rian Records KRCD301; 45 minutes; 2006
Rian is the Irish word for ‘mark’, ‘stamp’ or ‘trace’, though Smearadh (‘smudge’) might be a more suitable title for this debut solo album by the erstwhile Hothouse Flowers singer, so indistinct appear his musical intentions. ‘The voice channels the spirit of the entire system – land, wind, fire and water, heaven and earth,’ he declares on the album’s case rear, an artefact blessed with Liam’s own paintings (which even Don Van Vliet might regard as rather too primitive) and scrawled New Age waffle, adding ‘it is so important to listen, again and again and again and again and sing’.
From the evidence of Rian, Liam’s own listening habits encompass sean-nós songs, Gregorian chants and probably anything which might be billed as minimalist, turning the album into a tedious slurry of trite drone-replete arrangements, exemplified by the instrumental Seoladh na Gamhna. Even when he does unleash his undoubted vocal flair on one of the ‘big’ songs of the sean-nós tradition, he emasculates Na Connerys by omitting one of its four verses. This is then followed by a clumsily played set of reels on the whistle hammered into oblivion by the arrival of Justin Adams’ very inapposite ngoni.
Unquestionably, there’s a strong talent lurking somewhere on Rian, but one that requires far more restraint and guidance.
This review by Geoff Wallis originally appeared in Songlines magazine – www.songlines.co.uk.