Album Review: Tau and the Drones of Praise, Misneach

tau and the drones of praise misneach

Be it established that, as the opening track of Tau and the Drones of Praise‘s Misneach makes plain in its title and hooky chorus, “It Is Right to Give Drones and Praise.” The third full-length and Glitterbeat Records label debut from the so-Irish-they-record-in-Berlin psychedelic world folk outfit blends the terrestrial and the ethereal to such a degree as to be a walking contrast united most of all by its seeming impossibility in addition to its underlying craft. Group spearhead Seán Mulrooney — guitar, vocals, songwriting, and so on — is a factor in bringing it all together as well across the eight-song/35-minute foot-on-dirt journey that is the record, but around his voice circles a breadth of arrangement and purpose that runs from nature-worship and not-quite-new-age-but-not-quite-not, gather-the-tribes mysticism to traditionalist Celtic folk and a final message of hope so vital that, yes, the song is actually called “Hope.”

Songs have their respective foundations in acoustic guitar or piano,  some feel born of the vocal melody, as with the side B leadoff “Ceol ón Chré,” but the scope of Misneach — for which I wrote a dud of a bio; I believe compensated; I should keep better track of these things — is such that everything becomes more. “It is Right to Give Drones and Praise” is the longest song as well as the leadoff (immediate points) at 5:51, but whatever the length of a given piece is, there are realities being made and unmade here. The smooth incorporation of layers as “It is Right to Give Drones and Praise” builds toward its first verse, the opening line, “I am the tree,” and Mulrooney continuing to work from that Loraxian point of view, tells you a lot, and the music becomes a part of the message across all that follows, whether it’s the chanting in “The Sixth Sun” — don’t let me do your Googling for you, you go right ahead and read up — or the sweet banjo-esque plucks and electric fuzz in “Thunder Thunder Hummingbird,” leading to the graceful, chime-inclusive chorus there.

Surrounding Mulrooney throughout is a cast of regular contributors and guests totaling some 16 players, but the amorphousness is part of what makes Misneach so engaging, as well as the ability to hear something new seemingly in each repeat listen, whether it’s “It Is Right to Give Drones and Praise” speaking to Velvet Underground or the wow-who-knew-it-could-be-done non-exploitative worship of femininity that persists in cuts like “Ériu” or “The Sixth Sun,” the sense of earth as mother and more than that ultimately simple archetype. The flutes and dance-in-field vibe of “Na Heilimintí” are gorgeous and insistent, energetic and live-sounding, and there are enough voices working at it by the end that a whole community seems to be singing. These atmospheres are purposeful and lush, but at the same time, Misneach is unflinchingly organic, and that too is essential to the impression it makes. If “It is Right to Give Drones and Praise” is the thesis through which the heart of the album is laid bare, “Ceol ón Chré” as a counterpart is likewise crucial both for its near-mandatory singalong inclusiveness and the spaces it leaves open, even with Irish singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey starting it off and taking part in what unfolds and Clannad‘s Pól Brennan adding flute to the procession.

Tau and the Drones of Praise

“Bandia” offers a bit of attitude to coincide with its acoustic guitar strum — the “crowd goes wild like pink lemonade” — and the talk of an elder setting the sun makes at least a nice verbal complement to “The Sixth Sun” if its coming from somewhere else thematically. Its sound is likewise reflective of sunshine musically, a bright melodic wash of vocals before the verse adding to the classically psychedelic feel, though part of the appeal with Misneach is its ability to stand outside of time and genre. It is here there this that now then soon, speaking to ancients instrumentally with a message of a brighter consciousness for tomorrow. “Bandia” is less directly earth-mystical than “Na Heilimintí,” and markedly less Irish — Tau and the Drones of Praise have always woven through traditions from Ireland, South America, the Middle East, never so clear-headedly as in these songs — but for that rests well between “Ceol ón Chré” and “Ériu,” which pulls back some of the backing vocals and is essentially a flowing three-minute love letter to Mulrooney’s home via the goddess representing the land.

In some ways, its flourish of jazz, psychedelia, classic folk-prog and ‘world’ music is a fitting summary of Misneach, at least in mindset if not sound, but there isn’t really a single track that accounts for the entirety — there’s just more happening throughout than that, even if “It is Right to Give Drones and Praise” is the mission statement. “Hope” might also argue in its own favor. Certainly the closer is a standout, with its more gradual unfurling, graceful bounce, chants to one’s ancestors and posi-vibing resolution around the word “hope.” If nothing else, it underscores a commonality shared between the tracks of message and purpose. These are not haphazard songs about sitting in the sunshine. They are not unconsidered. “Thunder Thunder Hummingbird” feels light, perhaps suitably airy, and feels simple at the outset with just the one prominent vocal from Mulrooney before it hits into the chorus, but the lyrics are talking about receiving a healing blessing from nature, telling the listener that what that thing is that humans constantly seem to be seeking is already around us in nature. And at least so far as I can tell, it’s not a metaphor for casual sex, though even if it was I’m not sure that would make the point any less valid.

The flute and chimes in “Na Heilimintí,” the organic bass in “Ériu,” the whoops and shouts amid the ending choral movement of “The Sixth Sun” — these all become more familiar with time and they become part of the cosmic joy that Misneach ultimately proves itself courageous enough to radiate. Without getting into some heavy-handed diatribe about living in an age of woes, mostly of humanity’s own making, I’ll simply note that the message of love, hope and wisdom through the land is a welcome, beautiful counterpoint. And if in hearing it one takes away and internalizes a bit of the escapism, nobody’s going to be worse off.

Tau and the Drones of Praise, Misneach (2022)

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One Response to “Album Review: Tau and the Drones of Praise, Misneach

  1. J. says:

    Nice review. Looking forward a lot to receiving the LP and seeing them live next month!

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