A far-reaching new take on Scottish trad is an irresistible listen

Routes Quartet: Arche

The Strad Issue: April 2024

Description: A far-reaching new take on Scottish trad is an irresistible listen

Musicians: Routes Quartet 

Catalogue number: ROUTES RECORDS RQCD0002

Don’t be fooled. The Glasgow-based Routes Quartet might look like a conventional string quartet, but it’s anything but. For a start, it has two fiddlers instead of violinists, and its self-penned repertoire gleefully hurls together trad, jazz, improvisation and plenty more – plus a good dose of classical elegance and precision too. Most importantly, it does it all extremely well, with masses of passion and personality, and a gloriously natural, warm sense of ensemble.

Ignore the cod-profound Ancient Greek titling throughout this second album: taken just on musical terms, it’s a compelling journey through light and shade, the epic and the intimate, from the sophisticated switchback mood shifts of fiddler Madeleine Stewart’s Not Again to co-fiddler David Lombardi’s reedy, bagpipe-like solo in his own luminous The Letter. Cellist Rufus Huggan showcases his supple bass-line skills in his own bluesy Charlie’s, while violist Emma Tomlinson conjures a stomping tune like something out of a West End musical in Andrew Waite’s Unnecessary Noises.

The fingerprints of new trad luminary Greg Lawson as co-producer are all over Arche’s sometimes club-like waves of euphoria, but it’s a cleverly constructed creation, too, full of intricate textures that draw on the players’ technical prowess. Altogether, a joyful listen, captured in close, rich sound.