Plïnkï Plønkï ~ Pangur Din

Plïnkï Plønkï “tries to create songs that sound like memories,” and on Pangur Din, they succeed.  The new album is as restful as an album can be without causing drowsiness; it’s like the warm blur of a first drink.  The tape is released today to celebrate the European World Day of Languages, and its track titles reflect the beauty of words.  With so many recent books celebrating rare, unusual and prematurely discarded words, the release could not be any more timely.

One irony about the new album is that despite a great augmentation of instruments, it’s a lot quieter than its predecessor, Happy Birthday.  To this we can credit the theme. The piano is usually the lead instrument ~ no surprise given the name of the label (piano and coffee records), but not always; in four of the tracks the guitar takes the lead, while vibraphone, clarinet and harp make a soft acquaintance.  But fear not, fans of the previous release: the lightness is intact, found in the field recordings of footsteps, conversation and closing cassette cases.  And as one can tell from Jordan Amy Lee’s cover triptych (an album and two singles), the ensemble has retained its colorful leanings.

Pocléimnigh (“POH-claim-nee”) is closest in meaning to English words like “frolicking” or “gambolling.” It literally means “buck-jumping,” and is a one-word name for an energetic, excitable leap into the air, or a jump for joy (Mental Floss).

We’ve just added a Welsh word to our vocabulary!  If the song that shares its title makes one want to jump in the air, all the better.  It’s one of the album’s happiest pieces, shared up front to put listeners at ease.  In like fashion, càirdeas means kinship, friendship, family relationship.  The notes wobble a little bit, just like relationships, but they find their footing.  Midway through the piece, a whole bunch of friends drop in and start clinking their glasses.  And at the end, someone has fallen asleep.  No, not because of the music!  They probably had more than that first glass.  Now we hear children playing, escaped from Happy Birthday. They’re not old enough to drink.  But are we too old to play?

Camhanaich (n) [pronounced kav’-an-ach.] A Scots-Gaelic word meaning the half-light of dawn or dusk. At first light, before the day can begin (Writing by Zoe).

We’re either up too early (because we have to work, or go to school, or feed the baby) or we’ve stayed up too late (because we’ve been having a good time, because we have insomnia, because we worked through the night).  The children are up with us.  Someone is still snoozing.  We wish it were us.  Now we feel a sense of hiraeth (and you should know that one by now, as a few artists have graced their albums with that title).  We long wistfully for something that might never have been.  How might we recover?  Perhaps with a 9th century Irish poem written by a monk about his cat.

Day and night, soft purr, soft pad,
Pangur Bán has learned his trade.
Day and night, my own hard work
Solves the cruxes, makes a mark.

There are no words in this song, but the playfulness is there, like a mouse being batted around (sorry, mouse, but this is not about you).  This languid, jazzy piece is like stretching out in a patch of sunlight while a scribe etches his scroll.  At the ladhar bóthair (fork in the road), there’s singing, leading to the humble reul (rest in peace, delivered with affection).  By leading us to new linguistic discoveries, Plïnkï Plønkï has provided a soundtrack to a day that celebrates songs, languages and cultures, and now has an album to call its own.  (Richard Allen)

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