"This piece sets the scene and tone of the whole album, which is, loosely, conceptual. It begins here with a meditation on the paradox of beauty within systems of cruelty, and the inherent hopelessness of the conditioned mind. The promise and noble dream forged by our ancestors spanning the so-called "Age of Enlightenment" of the late 17th through 18th century, is sharply contrasted by the modern day reality of a global society sliding backwards into a frightening 'Dark Age' of fear and religious extremism."
And so the journey begins…
If you thought the previous quotation, describing the title track from Troy Donockley's The Madness of Crowds sounds intriguing, you may be in for a enlightening experience.
Listening to Donockley's latest has been a real pleasure. For those of you who do not know, Troy Donockley had been a member of the progressive folk band Iona for fourteen years before he decided it was time for a change. Mr. Donockley is an excellent musician specializing in Uilleann pipes but also adding low and high whistles, acoustic and electric guitar, bouzouki, keyboards, mandolin, percussion and voice. Of course, he doesn't do it alone as the list of musical guests is impressive including vocals by Joanne Hogg (Iona), Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn), Barbara Dickson and Nick Holland. This is his third solo album.
This is a difficult album to describe as there is so much happening musically it takes some time to absorb. The music presented is beautiful and elegant, flowing majestically and executed flawlessly. Dreamlike pastoral arrangements hold these songs together, whether it be the luxuriant sounds of violin and cello or the soothing textures of Donockley's Uilleann pipes, there are many highlights to be had. Many of these songs are based in ambience upon which further components are constructed. Although a very mellow listen, the music often has an intensity about it but never in a harsh or overbearing way. As to be expected, there are Celtic themes as well as Eastern motifs scattered here and there.
Starting the CD is "The Madness of Crowds" with its Eastern mellow soundscapes, lush orchestration, gentle acoustic guitar and the beautiful voice of Joanne Hogg. Heavy percussion sounds break the quiet ambience while shards of electric guitar twist and turn giving the song a progressive edge. "Reeds" is a melancholy song which features delicate acoustic guitar creating a pastoral atmosphere. Strings dominate the musical landscape in "The Procession", a song deeply rooted in classical music. Here, the orchestral arrangement is superb. In "Exiled", piano and cello compliment each other in fine fashion which should again please fans of classical music.
Perhaps my favourite song is the ambitious and progressive "Orkahaugr" with its exotic Eastern themes. The song starts with Floyd-like acoustic guitar, before giving way to a lovely pipe melody and soaring electric guitar. This one is an aural extravaganza and has left a lasting impression. The album ends with the dreamy "End of Faith", a pretty duet featuring the vocals of Heather Findlay and Nick Holland.
The artwork is very well done and warrants special mention. The cardboard CD case folds out revealing beautiful photography and it is clear plenty of work went into the entire package. This is a case where the physical CD is a must have.
This is a work of exceptional quality and one Donockley should be very proud of. The following words puts this album in perspective: "If any modern music can shake off the ravages of fashion and hark back to a time when music was created and listened to as Art rather than as commodity and accessory, then by definition this does precisely that….the essence of that 'lost world'."
Nothing else needs to be said. - Jon Neudorf, September 2009. Full review here.
R2 Rock & Reel Magazine TROY DONOCKLEY : THE MADNESS OF CROWDS * * * *
Troy Donockley has worked with Maddy Prior and Barbara Dickson, with his uilleann pipes weaving his ethereal soundscapes around their voices, and for the greater part of his career he was with Iona, the Christian prog-rock band. That’s all changed dramatically with the final track on this album, “The End of Faith”.
The album exudes mystery. The complex fold-out packaging seems like a test of patience at times, perhaps a metaphor for the record itself, and only when it is laid flat can you read the track titles in the correct order. The few words are sung mostly by others : Joanne Hogg, Nick Holland, Heather Findlay and Barbara Dickson, while ‘Now, Voyager’ includes lines from Walt Whitman recited by Tuomas Holopainen and a cast of family and friends.
With this album Donockley has made music of Haunting Beauty and also disturbing harshness vying with each other in the same piece. Like an abstract painting, it invites your interpretation. ‘Orkahaugr’, for example, evokes the wildness of the ocean before slowing and calming as though at the end of a journey or the cessation of a storm. I love the sounds of this record and it will be a while before I truly reach its heart.
Listening to an album for the first time that demands your full attention can be a daunting prospect at the best of times. Imagine the scene then if you will with my first taste of The Madness Of Crowds with the man responsible sitting directly in front of me. It was during a recent visit to the home of Troy Donockley, to interview the man himself, that he invited me to hear his latest solo work. Anyone familiar with Iona, Nightwish, Mostly Autumn, Magenta and countless other acts to whom he’s contributed will be au fait with his musical talents. It was still hard to comprehend however that this modest and easygoing individual could be responsible for the multi-textured, orchestral sound that was filling the room. I had to remind myself that in addition to being a gifted multi-instrumentalist with Uilleann pipes, whistles, guitars, bouzouki, keyboards, mandolin and percussion to his credit he also has a long list of similarly musically minded friends to call upon. On this occasion that includes vocal contributions from Joanne Hogg (Iona), Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) and Barbara Dickson.
Whilst The Madness Of Crowds should appeal to a progressive rock audience, as was the case with his first solo album The Unseen Stream, its roots lie in the symphonic style of 20th century composers like Vaughan Williams, Ennio Morricone, Mike Oldfield and Bill Whelan. A fairly diverse bunch I know, but then so is Donockley’s musical suite, as epitomised by the title piece. A suitably reverential vocal and organ aria of celestial proportions, contrasts sharply with a pounding rhythm and abstract acoustic guitar section, that put me in mind of Morricone’s theme to ‘Death Rides A Horse’. The barrage of electric guitar that follows was aptly described as “carnage” by Donockley during our listening session. Elsewhere in Reeds, The Procession and Now, Voyager the lush orchestrated arrangements add a sweeping ambiance that’s sometimes pastoral, sometimes cinematic. The latter is one of the albums most successful tracks, beginning with the a cappella tones of Barbara Dickson, sounding uncharacteristically folky before going out in style with an infectious fiddle led reel and the unmistakable sound of Donockley’s Uilleann pipes in full flight.
The delicate Exiled is based around the simple premise of solo cello with a little assistance from piano and harp but remains achingly beautiful nonetheless. Yo Yo Ma’s performance on the ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ soundtrack comes to mind here. The penultimate Orkahaugr is the albums longest outing and appropriately given its length, one of the more ambitious. The sound of the bouzouki and whistles takes the listener on a rhythmic dance along the Greek-Turkish border before surging strings, woodwind and keys envelope a heavenly choir. The proggy section that follows would sound very much at home on an Iona album with pipes once again driving a strong melody doubled this time by soaring guitar. End Of Faith is a perfect closer opening with a wave of strings that put me in mind of a summer shower and 10CC’s I’m Not In Love. It develops into a romantic duet with a touch of Oldfield inflected guitar before coming all too soon to a serene close. It’s uncomplicated and beautifully effective.
Donockley has stated that his intention was to “make the most emotional and un-commercial music possible”, free from the “ravages of fashion and hark back to a time when music was created and listened to as art rather than as commodity and accessory”. To that end he has been wholly successful, producing a lyrical blend of classical, folk, prog and modern orchestral music that provides fresh and unexpected delights with each successive listen. This is music at its most mature and sophisticated whilst still remaining highly listenable and accessible throughout. Special mention should also go to the lavish foldout sleeve designed by Tim Martindale and lovingly put together with a little hands-on assistance from the Donockley family. As it’s been over two months since he handed me this disc I feel I should close with a personal apology to Troy. I’m normally very lucid but on this occasion it’s taken me some time to come up with words that do full justice to music of this quality…..
Conclusion: 9 out of 10 GEOFF FEAKES http://www.dprp.net/
Troy Donockley - many will know him for his work with Iona, but did you also know he’s a well respected guest musician? He has worked together with artists/bands like Maddy Prior, Barbara Dickson, Magenta, The Enid, Katrina And The Waves etc. And this spring he went on a world tour as special guest with Nightwish. He’s famous for his Uilleann pipes playing and I don’t know if you ever have seen Donockley playing this instrument live, but I find it fascinating to see him perform and I think the sounds that this instrument produces are very beautiful.
But I fall short if I only recommend him for his playing on the Uilleann Pipes – He’s a multi instrumentalist and a very gifted Composer. He mostly writes for others, but sometimes he writes for himself, and this,The Madness Of Crowds, is his most recent solo work.
For this beautiful album he invited some impressive guest musicians. Most known are Heather Findley and his Iona colleagues Joanne Hogg and Frank van Essen. There are seven beautiful and well-balanced tracks on this album with great advancement and breathtaking instrumental passages. Donockley takes his time to develop the individual songs but they never feel long-winded. The songs are a beautiful mix of classical, rock, folk, Choral and progressive. He can mix acoustic and electric instruments into a breathtaking whole. Maybe you now have the feeling that the music is quiet and subdued, but that’s not the case. Sometimes the music sounds violent but constantly very exciting.
Take the song “Now Voyager”... It has a simple but beautiful theme but he develops it greatly. Like a modern Bolero from Ravell you’ll get sucked into the music. The first part of the title song “Madness of Crowds” is beautifully serene with angelic singing from Joanne Hogg; It sounds like a modern hymn and the guitar solo that follows gives me goose bumps. Such a nice contrast! It’s all so intense! In fact, That’s the keyword for this album.
Iona/Celtic music fans will love “Orkahaugr”. In this song there is a great duel between Uilleann pipes and electric guitar. I think it's one of the best songs on this album. As a reviewer, you want to describe what a listener can expect but with albums like this, I realize how difficult that is! You really must listen deeply to this album to find out how good it is. Listen to it with headphones and I promise you’ll hear new things every time you listen to it. You will also want to have this album because of the genius of the beautiful artwork. It doesn’t matter from which side you look at the artwork, it stays beautiful. Just as the entire album…..
Troy Donockley delights in throwing people curve balls, so far he’s done it on two albums, the first “ The Unseen Stream,” was a glorious rush of pastoral influence and high, folk art, his second “ The Pursuit Of Illusion” more individual but way beyond any meaningless attempt to hang a label on.
Now we’ve his third opus – opus isn’t a word I permit to be banded about loosely either- “The Madness of Crowds,” which in my humble opinion is the most distinctive yet. It opens with the title track which, within minutes reminds you of either a soundtrack for a lost cut of “Lord of the Rings,” music for a high brow BBC 2 documentary or the finest concert hall symphony. All this and another six items to boggle your critical facilities! To try and describe everything would be futile, this man loves to play with sense and sensibilities, yet not in any ad hoc way more in a way that says ‘look I know this shouldn’t work, but let’s live dangerously shall we?’ Thankfully Troy taking risks is one of the pleasures that “The Madness of Crowds,” displays with pride, it wears non conformity like a medal of honour, there is nothing else like it in the racks and probably won’t be until Mr. Donockley releases his fourth offering. Each track shifts and morphs into new shapes and sounds like a kaleidoscope; for instance “Orkhaugr,” opens like a Bulgarian, dance before ushering on industrial sound effects and huge guitar sustain, melting into Arabian textures, then comes a gorgeous melee of Vaughan Williams pastoral influence and soaring moments of Gustav Holst, all pushing out to a free form coda of high octane rock’n’reeling. Truly this man knows no boundaries.
Troy Donockley is idiosyncratic, a true one off, somebody who doesn’t follow the rules, a benign musical rebel who enriches whatever he touches with a certain class and unmistakeable individuality. “The Madness of Crowds,” is pretty well unique. It will endure.
Simon Jones fRoots.
Classic Rock Society.
No introductions necessary as Dr Uillean Pipes himself bursts upon the musical horizon yet again with a true masterpiece for those that enjoy their music with atmosphere of the most magnificent. As Troy himself says, 'get comfortable with a glass of your favourite tipple and get the headphones on... then crank it up.' This album is as dark as it is enlightening and a true 'listening' experience. Sections could be described as musically disturbing but I challenge you not to have a lump n your throat and the hairs not sticking up on the back of your neck where the likes of Joanne Hogg adds her angelic vocals to the title track.
This is an album of thought and totally different from his previous two releases, although his musical fingerprint is obvioulsy etched accross the recording. The orchestration is breathtaking where rock meetsroots meets classical. Essential!
IO Pages - “Vette Krent” (album of the month)
Troy Donockley is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and composer. He plays Uilleann pipes, low and high whistles, acoustic and electric guitars, bouzouki, mandolin, keyboards, percussion and he also sings. He is much in demand as a musician and until recently, he was a member of the band Iona. Next to this, he has worked together with many bands and artists such as (a selection) Nightwish, Mostly Autumn, Status Quo, Roy Harper, Maddy Prior, Moya Brennan (Clannad) and Midge Ure of Ultravox. He is also busy with the band The Bad Shepherds which he formed with, amongst others, comedian Adrian Edmondson from The Young Ones and Bottom. So, Troy is a busy bee. And also a very talented one.
His solo-albums, “The Madness Of Crowds” being the third after “The Unseen Stream” (review in iO Pages #14) and “The Pursuit Of Illusion” (“Vette Krent” in iO Pages #46), consist of a great mixture between classical music, folk, church choral music, rock and interesting experiments. This time he is accompanied by an array of well-known musicians, like Joanne Hogg (vocals) and Frank van Essen (violins and drums) from Iona, Heather Findlay (vocals) from Mostly Autumn, Barbara Dickson and Nick Holland (vocals, known from his work with Maddy Prior).
The CD opens beautifully with the titletrack. It almost sounds like fil mmusic with the second part quite ethnic-rhythmic orientated. “Reeds”, again has a hint of soundtrack music. It shows that Donockley is a mater of the Uilleann pipes but we already knew that and, amongst other things, Donockley brings his famous e-bow guitar sound here. Celloplayer Rosie Biss plays an important part in “Exiled”, and also does Troy on piano. Barbara Dickson sings a fine piece in “Now, Voyager”, a composition with classical traces. The whistles and, again, the e-bow guitar have a place in the really wonderful “The Procession” in which lush strings are added. “Orkahaugr” could have fitted into Iona: it ends in a mix between whistles, pipes and guitar as we know so well. The last track “End Of Faith” again is very varying, and sounds almost like a symphony.
The Madness Of Crowds has become an impressive album from this great musician and composer.
Special mention: The artwork of the CD is also wonderful.
©2009 Paul Rijkens. Dutch rockmagazine iO Pages.
IO Pages - Interview
1. What can you tell me about The Madness Of Crowds? I have dug into the tracks on your website and it seems to me that it is personal music for you. Is this right?
Absolutely. Though all of my work is naturally very personal, this music is, more than previously, very open and explicit in its subject matter. I have been working on it off and on for about 5 years and it is now finished and ready to go out into the world.
2. Does the title track have something to do with the fact that crowds can be effected, like by political or religious extremities? I mean, you mention the murder of the film director Theo Van Gogh by a young Muslim, who said that he had nothing against the man he had brutally murdered; it was his "faith" that compelled him….
The title comes from a classic book "Extraordinary Delusions and the madness of crowds" written by Charles Mackay in 1841. It was a call for reason and rational thinking against superstition. It is a bit worrying to consider that belief in the supernatural, Gods, psychics etc is actually worse now than it was when that book was written. And yes, sure enough when humans form themselves into crowds they tend to lose all personal sense....physical and moral.
3. I know that you are a non-believer in Iona. Does faith play a part on the album? I mean, there is a track called “End Of Faith”?
That is a great question because this is the root of the new album. Although I don’t believe in Gods, fairies or other supernatural creatures, I do appreciate the fantasy aspects of these stories. I love choral and symphonic music inspired by religion and find it beautiful and uplifting but to put it into context, I also love film music inspired by other fantasy stories such as "Superman", "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings”. It is only when I am told, with no evidence, that these stories are REAL and that life should be lived according to them that I get a bit steamed up!
The album starts with a beautiful Benedictus from the Catholic Mass, journeys through torture and conflict into resignation, onto isolation, into awakening and finally the release from all this mental terrorism in "The End of Faith". Sounds a bit heavy but it is very positive!
4. Is Exiled also a personal piece?
5. How does the imagery of Tim Martindale fit it the music?
Well, the imagery is actually mine. I gave Tim my thoughts and visualisations e.g. an old door for ‘Exiled’, limestone with some kind of plant moss growing on it for ‘Orkahaugr’, a church tower against a nebula for ‘End of Faith’ and then Tim, very brilliantly, put photographs together to reflect them. Big credit must also go to the sculptor Alaistair Dickson - it is his work that I used for the front cover and a few of the panels inside. Truly amazing images. In fact, to try to express religious atrocities and carnage, I focused on his bizarre character with the conical hat: I then plugged my electric guitar into a very overdriven amplifier and out it came.... it can be heard in all its terrible glory on the title track!
6. On the album you work with a list of great musicians. How have you selected them?
They are the greatest. I needed nothing and nobody else. I am so privileged to have them...lucky me...
7. Your music is very interesting mixture of folk, classical music, ethnic music, church music and rock. Do you have a background in all of these styles?
I suppose I do yes. I am in love with all music that has soul and deeper meaning but I love good quality musicianship and quality wherever I find it. I have played or performed in all of those styles that you mentioned, and love it all.... I don’t get Jazz though!
8. With Dave Bainbridge of Iona you made the albums From Silence and When Worlds Collide. From Silence consists of improvised music that you played in a cathedral. How did this go?
It was wonderful. We truly made no plans and entered Lincoln Cathedral with a clean slate. We improvised for an hour and it was quite a transcendental experience. It was very, very special and I don’t think we could repeat it.
9. What are the future plans with Iona, apart from the concerts?
Well, unfortunately there are no plans as far as I am concerned. Iona does not function as a professional band anymore and as a professional musician I cannot commit to doing 4 shows a year. There are some concerts coming up but I am not involved in those and the band has a stand in guy playing pipes. It was great while it lasted and I have some great memories...
10. There is always a lot of room for humour during Iona concerts. Is this important for you and for the band?
Well to be honest, I think the band is heading toward (or reverting to) a more overtly Christian "Praise and worship" direction than when I was around so I fear the humour might start to fade and disappear.
11. You have played with Nightwish. I think that the melancholy sound of your Uilleann pipes perfectly meets the sound of the band. How are your experiences with this band?
I love Nightwish. I think it is the best and most interesting rock band on the planet and we are all dear friends. I had the most glorious time touring with the band and we have vowed to do a lot more together in the near future. I am doing a couple of festivals with them in the summer and also the end of tour concert at the Hartwall arena in Helsinki.
12. What can you tell about your musical background? How did you get into playing the Uilleann pipes?
I fell in love with the sound as a kid and was doomed to struggle with them for all these years! I thought, and still do, that it was a mystical creature singing to me from another age and they still fill me with awe. Even when I am playing them!
13. I remember you blew up the pipes during an Iona-concert? What are your thoughts on that?
What? You mean with Dynamite? Yes that is a regular occurrence.
14. Can you explain why at the moment there is so much interest in Uilleann pipes and bagpipes in rock music? I mean, in Germany there is a cult with bands like In Extremo and Corvus Corax that use bagpipes -and sometimes many of them in a rock setting?
I really have no idea...I have been told by a lot of rock fans that they think they can sound like an electric guitar so that might be the appeal?
15. You have worked with so many musicians. How did you end up with Status Quo?
That was great fun. I got involved through a producer friend of mine, Pip Williams. Pip also does the orchestrations for Nightwish, which is how I met them too. Good old Pip! We did some recording and a live video performance featuring Brian May and the Beach Boys which was very bonkers..
16. How was your experience with Midge Ure of Ultravox?
Midge is a great friend and we have had some amazing adventures together - loads of touring through Germany, Italy and Japan, 4 WOMAD festivals and of course our appearance at Live 8. We did a lot of touring as a duo too, which actually ended up as a live CD called "Duet". We see each other whenever our impossibly busy schedules allow us..
17. With whom you haven’t worked before would you like to work with?
Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters would be nice? I was a big fan of Floyd from the age of about 11 so....
18. You play in a new band, Bad Shepherds, along with people like comic Adrian Edmondson and Maartin Allcock. What can we expect from this?
Well, this is a wonderful thing because it is a band designed for Big Fun which is a nice holiday from most of the serious stuff I do!. We are very self-contained and acoustic so we don’t have to drag tons of gear around. Lots of summer festivals coming up and the audiences so far seem to go Nuts for it - Punk and New wave songs done in a folksy style on folk instruments so expect weird versions of songs by The Clash, Jam, Talking Heads and even the Sex Pistols. It is a big contrast to "Madness of Crowds"!!...or is it?.....