By Ivan O’Donoghue

Kila have returned to the fray with an exciting new release, their first since 2010’s Soisín. Some say that you need to see Kila live to really get the full experience, and there’s an element of truth to that. Kila live are anarchic and life-affirming, but their studio releases allow you to focus on the sheer musical prowess they have accumulated since the group formed in 1987.

The latest release kicks off with the title track and current single, Suas Sios – a riotous melting pot of ideas, bordering on the epic. My cupla focal were not equal to the task of deciphering Ronan O’Snodaigh giving it banna lanna, but this in no way detracted from the impact of the track. The accompanying artwork includes the lyrics and Google Translate will decode them, if you’re so inclined! The album is a mix of songs and instrumentals, and there’s even one track “as bearla”.

3 jugs, an instrumental dominated by uilleann pipes, is uplifting and beautifully recorded – usually uilleann pipes set my teeth on edge but on this track the dynamics are controlled and the signature upper-mid squeal of the instrument has been tamed. This is just as well, as the pipes dominate quite a number of tracks in the album. Abair spans the divide between hip hop and sean nos, with acoustic instruments producing a soundtrack that is part electro, part world music exotica.

Skinheads stands out for me as the best track on the album – a somnambulent flute intro gradually builds, bringing in guitar and percussion before exploding into a hectic arrangement. It soars and ebbs with a different musical idea around every corner, and reminds me very much of Oldfield’s Ommadawn. The closing track, Tinkly, is anticlimactic as it’s a little light on musical ideas, but there’s no other hint of filler on the album.

Kila are unique. Even if your tastes don’t stretch to traditional and world music, you will be entertained – doubly so if you catch them in concert. The album is out on Dec 21st and coincides with a tour: