Clann Zu



October 4th, 2006 | 17 replies

Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Clann Zú blurs the line between celtic/folk, indie rock and elecrtonica almost flawlessly to create a unique, organic listening experience.

I've started this review maybe 5 times over, and while I'll keep this intro, chances are that number has increased several times before the review's conclusion. The reason I'm having trouble describing this album is because it's almost entirely indescribable. Rua is --in the truest sense of the word-- unique. You get unique for a lot of things these days, all of which I want you to forget about. Unique isn't something that should be tossed around, and rest assured this is not the case. The album defies pre-conceptions because there is literally nothing else like this. When I first got this album nearly three years ago, I was at a loss for words. Clann Zú, now defunct, somehow managed to mix Irish folk music with electronica and indie-rock. Clann Zú somehow managed to take three things I had absolutely no interest in three years ago and keep my interest. They managed to release one of the most sincere albums of the year. They managed to stay true to their roots while still experimenting. They also managed to go [almost] completely unnoticed.

I could spend time comparing Declan de Barra's vocal delivery to Jeff Buckley, but even before I finish that statement he's switched to a forceful, angry shout, something which lasts only moments before he begins to sound like a slightly less deranged Thom Yorke. I'm not going to go into anymore detail with comparisons because they still do nothing for anyone. Declan's voice is both serene and aggressive, versatility most exemplified in the album's opener Words for Snow. Words for Snow begins with ambient electronics before Declan enters, singing typically lower than normal (his voice is characteristically in the higher falsetto range). The song, carried along by electric guitar and violin, slowly picks up pace, and Declan's voice follows suit. Halfway through the track, a drumroll is played and you as a listener are instantly made aware of a change. The song picks up and suddenly starts to sound quite serious; the violin becomes more aggressive and, out of nowhere, Declan re-enters, thick Irish accent in tact. And the last touch is always the hardest and the last touch is always the same and the last look is the one that will kill ya and the last touch is the one that will drive you insane speaks Declan. Words for thought, but before you're given the chance to digest it, Declan re-enters to once again speak, though slightly more aggressive; the pace is ever-increasing, the tension building until finally, he screams "for Christ's sake get me out of here! God of all sick things get me the *** out of here! Release me!". The track is exemplary of the groups more Celtic-rooted side, and features some of the most well-written lyrics on the album; telling a tale of a religious man who seems to have run out of options.

Tracks like Words for Snow are what made me fall in love with this group, and more importantly, Declan's voice. While he is an extremely versatile and capable singer, his voice is not without the occasional flaw, adding a crucial human element to their sound. His delivery, weighed by an Irish accent, is just as often harsh as it is beautiful. The attraction to this album, I believe, is entirely due to the fact that Declan is not just a singer, he's a real person. The beauty of Rua lays deeper than the vocals, though. Five Thousand More, perhaps my favourite track on the album, is a fifty-fifty split between folk and trip-hop. Featuring the hardest beat on the album, Five Thousand More mixes heavy percussion with a Thom Yorke-like vocal delivery, all the while being carried by violin and electric guitar (as well as the Bodhran, a traditional Irish percussive instrument). The track slides its way through the gritty to the pretty, all without focusing entirely on one sound. Hope This Day, a track that switches between English and Gaelic at the drop of a hat, is perhaps the most Indie sounding track on the album. While it features a consistent, albeit more organic sounding drum-beat, the track is more guitar oriented than violin, something rare on this album.

For delivering a sound never focused on one element, but rather balanced equally between celtic, folk rock, elecrtonica and indie, Clann Zú's Rua deserves consideration as being one of the most unique releases of the past few years. By utilizing each members skill, poetically grasping lyrics (in both English and Gaelic), Clann Zú manage to add a sincere, organic element to an album where electronics and sound manipulation play a hefty role. While at times it may drag, for the most Rua goes without fault; a truly emotional, spiritual, cultural cacophony of sounds, and while the band abandoned much of this on their second and final release, it's safe to say this is an album that will remain special to me for a while to come.

Clann Zú was
· Benjamin Andrews - Electric Guitar
· Russell Fawcus - Electric Violin, Keyboards
· Declan de Barra - Vocals, Bodhrán
· Liam Andrews - Bass
· Lach Wooden - Sound Manipulation

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user ratings (49)

Comments:Add a Comment 
October 4th 2006


Um... fix the tracklist thanks.

nvm. Anyway, your review was not the most well written review but it certainly made me want to check out the album. Since you recommneded El Cielo, I'll most definitely have to check it out.This Message Edited On 10.04.06

October 4th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, my bad.

This review was really hard to write, but I felt like submitting it anyways because it's such an amazing album. I'm slowly going to pick at it and make it a little easier to read, but for now this'll do. This Message Edited On 10.04.06

October 4th 2006


"mix Irish folk music with electronica and indie-rock" is definitely intruiging and sounds interesting. This plus the recommended will make me check this out, if theres anyway to find some.

October 4th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

For purchase, I spent about a year looking to buy this. You'd be better off just downloading it, to be honest.

October 4th 2006


Album Rating: 2.5

It's a unique album, but it's also very hard to listen to. Plus, there aren't very many electronica influenced songs, it's many irish folk that dominates most of the album. The music can also get very boring especially on songs like "Ri Ra" and "You're Listening to a Dead Man Speak."

Good work on the review although I disagree with your final rating.

October 4th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Understood. The electronic elements are really subtle, but they're there just as often as the irish folk ones.

I dont find it that hard to listen to, really, which is why I gave it the 4. When I got this, I was essentially limited to punk, ska and a bit of hardcore. Somehow, this album, which is nothing of the sort (though at times punk in attitude), opened some doors for me.

October 7th 2006


I was put onto Clann Zú early this year and heard all the stuff from their website which has 3 songs from Rua. I had no trouble getting into the music, it's got that ambience and depressing sound like Anathema but with the added celtic/folk influence.
Five Thousand More is a sweet driving song. I wish I would see the albums somewhere to get them because I know they would be just right for me.
How did you managed to hear this little-known Aussie band when if you were a big ska/punk/hardcore fan?

website with the songs/samples Message Edited On 10.07.06

October 7th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

I was really into Propagandhi at the time, so I went to their labels website and just started listening to shit. My dad was really into trip-hop at the time, so I quite liked it, and so when I heard the mix these guys had, I was really impressed.

They played a show in a cafe here two or three years ago. It was 19+, so I couldnt have gone (went to see BTBaM instead), and now I wish it could've been all ages. Come to think of it, I see no real reason for a cafe show to be 19+, but oh well.

October 7th 2006


your picture scares me. good review.

October 4th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

forgot how good this album was

June 9th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

finally 5'd this

November 16th 2011


all the highland irisk folk stuff on this is so pleasant

November 8th 2012



March 8th 2013



March 8th 2014


sounds cool has some textures and vibes

Digging: FKA Twigs - M3LL155X

July 3rd 2017


this just has something about it

July 14th 2018


Album Rating: 5.0

oh. my. god.

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