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CD: The Ian McMillan Orchestra – Homing In | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Ian McMillan Orchestra – Homing In

CD: The Ian McMillan Orchestra – Homing In

The Bard of Barnsley serves up a collection of judiciously varied delights

Celebrating a love of the ludic: Ian McMillan

Having chosen John Cage's 4' 33" as his number one Desert Island Disc, and a tandem bike with wooden models of his family on the front as his luxury, it's fair to say that poet, comedian and broadcaster Ian McMillan has a highly developed sense of the ludic.

And for a man who used to work in a factory gluing tennis-ball halves together, that's probably no bad thing.

It's that underlying philosophy which makes The Ian McMillan Orchestra such an unusual, fascinating beast. What it does exceptionally well is to open up the sheer breadth of things that you can do on a recording, couched in settings that range from discofied derangement to a stripped-down, spoken-word solitude. Everything under the sun is grist to the Bard of Barnsley's mill, be it the nerve-jangling tinniness emanating from a fellow passenger's earphones (“iPod”), the ache following the loss of a parent (“Song of Stanage Edge” and “Story Ends”) or the still-vivid ignominy of your first taste of showbiz (“First Gig”).

Viewed through McMillan's singular south-Yorkshire filter, there's the mini-epic “Ten Forgotten Moments from History” in which the Titanic misses the iceberg, the rush of memories stirred by a photograph in “Three”, and the terpsichorean delights of “And the Word was Music” in which each instrumentalist is allowed to shine. Commissioned by The Sage Gateshead for the 2010 Festival of Words and Music, the haunting title track hits a suitably valedictory note.

There's a wonderfully evocative instrumental, too, “Don't Sleep Away the Summer Nights” - penned, as is the bulk of the music, by Luke Carver Goss - in which Clare Salaman's nyckelharpa and Oliver Wilson-Dickson's fiddle spin unbroken contrapuntal tendrils of quite breathtaking loveliness. And then the surprise. Following the briefest of transitions - sustained chords in the accordion set against pizzicato lines in bass and fiddle - we're suddenly thrust into an earthy, almost Bartókian folk dance where you can really feel the rosin flying off the bow.

Settings range from discofied derangement to a stripped-down, spoken-word solitude

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