- 22 Feb 19
Sárphíosa Ceoil, Uimhir A Trí
This is very special music, albeit difficult to classify. It is traditional Irish music certainly, but there are classical elements and the type of minimalism that one might associate with Steve Reich, or even the Erik Satie of The Gymnopédies, especially in the sometimes hardly there at all yet absolutely central to the whole endeavour piano of Thomas Bartlett. Alongside the subtle, expressive guitar of Dennis Cahill – they combine like two hands of the one man on ‘The Pink House’ - he lays the foundation and floor upon which the fiddles of Martin Hayes and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh are given room to dance around each other. The interplay between them, especially on the half-remembered dream from the cusp of wakefulness that is ‘The Lobster’, the joyous ‘The Old Road To Garry’ or the captivating ‘Sheehan’s Jigs’, is like the shimmering of light in the twilight time of day that gives this project its name.
I curse the stupid young lad I was for turning my back on my native language and I wish I had the learning equal to task of deciphering the lyrics of something as innately poetic as the nagging hangnail on the edge of consciousness that is ‘Áthas’. The notes provided tell me that both ‘Méachan Rudai’ – a second cousin twice removed of Elbow’s ‘Station Approach’ - and ‘Amhrán na nGleann’ which open and close this record are meditations on death, but it is possible to gleam that from the soul and the timbre of Iarla Ó Lionáird’s voice unaided. These are messages sent back from the place beyond language.
By letting air and light in at these often densely packed melodic streams, this collective of master musicians have transmogrified the Irish tradition into classical music fit to stand beside any of the celebrated European masters. If anything, this is more sparse and yet even more beautiful than the previous two records, Ó Lionáird having spoken of allowing “the music to breathe into a more mantric and transcendent space”. That’s the word I was grasping for in vain. Transcendent.