Dead Rat Orchestra: The Guga Hunters of Ness (Critical Heights/Southbound)

 |   |  1 min read

Dead Rat Orchestra: The Geshin and the Guga
Dead Rat Orchestra: The Guga Hunters of Ness (Critical Heights/Southbound)

Although their name suggests they aren't making a bid for mainstream attention, this British ensemble here serve up a soundtrack album which is rather more interesting than its odd title.

As in New Zealand where certain families have a traditional right to collect mutton birds from remote islands way to the south in dangerously unforgiving waters, so too the people of Ness on the isle of Lewis in Scotland collect gannets ("guga" in Gaelic) from a distant island in the North Atlantic, a journey as hazardous as it is unforgiving.

A recent BBC doco traced the voyage of 10 local men to this outcrop of rock where they slept in 1000 year old abandoned monk's quarters and hunted guga for two weeks before making the journey home.

Dead Rat Orchestra -- Nathaniel Mann, Robin Alderton and Daniel Merrill -- immersed themselves in Hebridean music and specifically the songs of Ness, and created this stark, often gloomily appropriate series of pieces which allude to folk in the scraped violin, the thump of waves on the side of ship in the low percussion (they recorded it on a boat in Essex) and the sheer loneliness of the place by the spacious and quietly droning quality of the music.

For those who get the reference, this is like the Penguin Cafe Orchestra with the whimsy, humour and quirkiness removed.

This won't be for everyone but if the Man of Aran doco/music by British Sea Power appealed then try The Guga Hunters of Ness. It can be strangely compelling.

I couldn't find the link to the BBC documentary so maybe turn down the sound on the clip below and play the sample track. That sort of works.

Like the sound of this? Then check out this woman.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Damien Jurado: Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian/Rhythmethod)

Damien Jurado: Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian/Rhythmethod)

With a lovely, sympathetic production by Richard Swift -- sort of budget-priced Phil Spector -- and melodies which swell with Fifties and Sixties pop-romanticism, this is one of those album (like... > Read more

The Traveling Wilburys: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Rhino/Warners)

The Traveling Wilburys: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Rhino/Warners)

Cannot lie about this: when the first Wilburys album came out in '88 I gave it a cursory listen and wrote it off as some geriatric project which was doubtless enjoyable for all concerned, but was... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

VOLUME: MAKING MUSIC IN AOTEAROA (2016): Songs from us for us

VOLUME: MAKING MUSIC IN AOTEAROA (2016): Songs from us for us

The exhibition of New Zealand popular music at the Auckland War Memorial Museum is now open. It is entitled Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa and runs until May 2007. And it is free. It... > Read more

Kyongju, South Korea: The Sleep of the Just

Kyongju, South Korea: The Sleep of the Just

The middle-aged man was upset I had woken him at the unacceptably early hour of noon. But I guess that's the kind of inconvenience he has to expect if he runs a yogwan, one of the cheap... > Read more