Lord of the Isles – In Waves

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Neil McDonald (aka Lord of the Isles) released his debut album, In Waves, on the 11th November with the New York based ESP Institute.

To compile In Waves, he worked alongside the label scouring through his huge catalogue of unreleased music to pick fifteen tracks.

The Scotsman took inspiration for his name from his love of history which came as the result of many childhood trips to the Highlands with his parents. The title, Lord of the Isles, is named after John of Islay (John MacDonald II) who ruled a cluster of islands on the West Coast of Scotland in the 15th century. He was the fourth and final Lord of the Isles due to his struggle for power with King James III of Scotland after which his illegitimate son, Angus Óg, rebelled against his rule before defeating him in a civil war known as the Battle of Bloody Bay.

Alongside history, his obsession with music also dates back to his childhood. As a young boy growing up in Fife he would repeatedly listen to sci-fi film credits and then, at the age of 16, began to travel to acid house raves in remote locations.

It was not until he moved to study art in Edinburgh that he started to play music. Quickly, he secured a residency at the basement bar Negotiates alongside a couple of friends including Lindsay Todd from Firecracker Recordings, who McDonald released his most recent EP with.

Even though music is perhaps more of a hobby for him, taking a side line to his graphic designer career and family, he has released numerous EPs through the likes of Phonica and Permanent Vacation, as well as producing remixes for Jon Hopkins and Little Dragon.

The album starts off with Airgold Meall, a beautiful track with dreamy synths. Weh-in is completely different, taking the listener to a darker place with its gloriously squelchy acid house basslines. There are plenty of quieter moments on the album though, with Years Away‘s dreamy synth motifs and Liobasta‘s nostalgic waltz.

Skylark, perhaps the stand out track on the album incorporates techno, ambient, acid and house sounds, with the squeaky clean synthesizers flurrying along for nearly eight blissful minutes.

It is clear that In Waves is made up of an intricate mix of styles. At times it is peaceful and others chaotic but McDonald rather extraordinarily manages to wrap this all up into one fluid album.