AKUTAGAWA‘ featuring Kevin MacNeil, Willie Campbell and Colin Macleod to be released on Friday 20th May

Akutagawa is Astrid’s Willie Campbell, award-winning poet and novelist Kevin MacNeil, and musician/producer Colin ‘the Boy Who Trapped the Sun’ Macleod. All three are from the Isle of Lewis.

Marrying words and music, uniting the Far East and the Western Isles, Akutagawa sets out with grand designs to provide a ‘deep, different and lasting musical experience’.

We’re named after a Japanese writer, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, who is rightly revered in Japan but less well known in the West,’ said Kevin MacNeil. ‘He was a brilliant writer who led an unusual life. He wrote as though his mind were supercharged with ideas. In his work he blended a Japanese sensibility with a love of Western literature; I wanted to do something similar, shining a Hebridean light on Eastern genius. I love his work for its sensitivity, clarity and depth.’

The songs on the EP are a bridge between worlds – West and East, past and present, the everyday and the exceptional. The title track mixes gaelic spoken word with a haunting soundtrack mixing traditional and contemporary elements that is remarkably effective. From this writer’s perspective it’s refreshing to hear another Highland band using Gaelic very naturally, and not only that, but pushing it forward and away from the tried and tested furrow that has been well ploughed by the likes of Capercaillie, Runrig and Julie Fowlis.

Red Clocks’/‘uaireadeairan dearga’ is about how the heart and mind interact. ‘The red clock,’ says MacNeil, ‘is an image of the human heart. We all have a red clock ticking inside us. The song is about seeing and feeling with clarity and not wasting our time on the earth.’

Akutagawa’ takes two different episodes from Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s autobiographical writings and brings them together. ‘Shortly before he killed himself,’ MacNeil explains, ‘Akutagawa wrote some beautiful but disturbing books about his own experiences. He was only 35 when he died, but he left behind some of the most powerful novels and short stories I’ve read. Had he lived, he’d likely have gone on to create still greater works of genius.’

Natural, Miraculous’/‘nadarrach, miorbhaileach’ is about the beauty of the everyday. ‘This song’s about how extraordinary the ordinary is. Some people who practise Buddhism, as I do, will recognise a few allusions in the lyric. But you don’t have to know much about that to appreciate the song. In fact, this is one of my favourite of Willie’s vocal performances.’

Cuimhne’/’Memory’ ‘This one’s about how we value things,’ says MacNeil. ‘Materialism versus spirituality, nostalgia versus the present moment, the built environment versus nature. I think it’s healthy for everyone to pause once in a while and ask themselves what they truly value in life and why.

Check out more detail on the project at their Facebook page.

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I've always loved music and spent my late teens and early twenties playing guitar in various bands on Lewis and Aberdeen. Other than playing in some truly terrifying pubs in Aberdeen not much came of it and life became focused on family and having a 'proper' job. Inverness Gigs is an outlet for me to quell my inner frustrated musician and the caliber of local acts has even inspired me to take my own music more seriously again. Who knows, one day I might venture back on stage under the fierce scrutiny of an Inverness Gigs reviewer! You can contact Toby direct at Toby@Igi.gs