Mike Vass
Gig Seeker Pro

Mike Vass


Band Alternative Celtic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"A richly textured instrumental album about the last month of the year"

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4688411c-3b55-11e2-b111-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2OlOB1OeL

This solo instrumental folk concept album about the month of December is richly textured, never more than when the icicle prickle of plucked mandolin on “Cycles” gives way abruptly to piano and glockenspiel; Vass’s fiddle leads are supported by a range of sound recordings, (including the hail that lashes against a window at the start of “Pane”) that he made in Scotland during December 2011. - Financial Times

"DecemberWell Rusty Squash Horn Records"

Going slightly off-piste, we arrive at a really cool place – Glasgow – at precisely this time last year. The month has always fascinated leading Scottish fiddle player Mike Vass. “The simple beauty of winter is the backdrop for cherished reunions with family and old friends and a celebration of our shared history and culture.” Armed with these thoughts, Vass composed a suite of instrumentals to “capture the widely differing magical aspects” of the month. He recorded them, playing everything from fiddle to various guitars, melodica, cittern, piano and the suitably seasonal glockenspiel. The mood shifts between the ruminative and the quietly joyous. Melody-rich tunes (Hallan, Looking Through, Cycles) contrast with the more ominous Pane. There’s no room for Shane McGowan or Bing Crosby in this tasteful seasonal treat. - Irish Times

"MIKE VASS - December Well"

It took a while for this album to grow on me. Perhaps it's the wintry theme, the lack of hotspots and flashpoints, which means the appeal of December Well is slower to develop: but develop it did, like frost traceries or icicles, and suddenly it was there, brilliant and starkly beautiful. The chill of winter runs right through this recording, obvious from the track names, but also evoked musically in myriad ways. The crystal chimes, the rhythmic drip-drip, the jagged bowstrokes and high keening tones: all these contribute to the sense of ice and snow outside, piled against the snug warmth inside, for a perfect December. Fiddles and guitars, keyboards and percussion, create a soundscape which seems both carefully crafted and totally natural, like wind-sculpted snow shapes. The stark notes of Looking Through, the almost trite playfulness of Lights, the raw elemental power of Hallan: these are all engaging pieces in their own right, cast and moulded into a conceptual whole by Mike Vass. Mike plays all the instruments here, and provides the vocals too: no words, just music.
To call this Scottish music is to diminish the scope of December Well. Yes, its roots are clearly Scottish, but it spans Scandinavian and other North European genres, as well as qualifying as experimental classical composition at times. There are traditional forms here - the jig Melter, the slow reel North - but much of this CD defies categorisation. This is pioneering music in the joyous spirit of Oliver Schroer, Martyn Bennett, Howie MacDonald and others: deep rolling percussion, natural and synthetic sound effects, complex interwoven melodies, layering many simple elements to build up a rich textured soundscape. There have been a few Scottish traditional winter theme recordings over the years, but December Well goes further and deeper, capturing all aspects of winter's cold beauty, from the alien frost patterns of Pane to the scarves and mittens of Maxwell Park. If you're looking for a seasonal Scottish CD, this one ticks all the boxes. If you just like good original music, the same applies. I think December Well has slowly drifted onto my 2012 Top Ten list, and should probably be on your wish list too. - The Living Tradition

"Adventures in the Glasgow winter"

In-demand composer and multi-instrumentalist; Glasgow’s Mike Vass is fast becoming hot property on the Scottish folk scene, having picked up awards and commissions, and is now an increasingly sought after accompanying musician.
Vass has written, performed and recorded everything on this second solo record himself, the follow up to his debut ‘String Theory’. 'Decemberwell' is an instrumental meander through various moods, all themed around the month of December; evoking the Caledonia frost and hail, the dark short freezing evenings, the Christmas lights and the warm inviting indoors.

So inspired was he that he has even experimented with a unique guitar tuning that he calls the December tuning (D E C E B E, since you asked), though its actually the violin that takes the melodic lead on these pieces. ‘Looking Through’ arranges a simple folk melody on the fiddle to some wistful arpeggiated tenor guitar, and already one can almost see the snow falling outside the window. Similarly the pizzicato violins on ‘Snowfall’ achieve a complimentary mood. Experimental piece ‘Slide’ explores Vass’ newly invented guitar tuning to sublimely beautiful and lyrical effect, while ‘Pane’ makes fortuitous use of large Glasgow hailstones hammering at the studio window, kept in the take for darker ambient percussive effect, while pianos tinker away questioningly and Vass’s violin counters with touching improvised melodic ideas. It's the record's neo-classical, perhaps avante-garde high point, and hints at greater possibilities within reach.

Vass has captured these moments of inspiration and seasonal evocation impressively. His low-key DIY recording methods ensuring that the occasional unscripted moment, or fortuitous accident is not only welcomed but actively encouraged. He takes his traditional folk ideas, and expands them to cover a pleasingly wider canvas. - Americana UK


Studio Albums
2010 'String Theory'
featured performer: Megan Henderson, Anna Massie

2012 'DecemberWell'



‘quietly joyous and melody-rich’ The Irish Times

‘brilliant and starkly beautiful’ The Living Tradition

‘Vass has an inimitable and distinctive sound that rings clear throughout Decemberwell…. he employs a Midas touch to his work’ Artree magazine

Winner of the prestigious ‘Composer of the Year’ award at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards in 2012, Mike Vass is fast gaining a reputation as one of Scotland’s foremost tunesmiths.

Mike is regarded as one of Scotland’s finest fiddle players, in great demand as a performer, composer and teacher. He has toured extensively in the past few years with leading Scots Song band Malinky, in a duo with twin sister Ali, and with International super group Fiddle Rendezvous, featuring Bruce Molsky, Maryann Kennedy and Gerry O’Connor.

Mike’s New Voices Commission ‘String Theory’ debuted in 2010 at Celtic Connections, and was described as ‘the most direct and honest since the idea was first conceived … precision, subtlety and attention to detail’. One of the highlights, the avant-garde piece ‘Man’s Search’ inspired by Viktor Frankl’s best-selling book, was described as ‘utterly compelling’ and was subsequently featured by the Victor Frankl Institute in Austria to commemorate Frankl’s birthday.

In 2012 Mike went on to release his critically acclaimed solo project ‘DecemberWell’. A highly original, kaleidoscopic work inspired by the Scottish Winter month of December.