- 17 Feb 16
Stunning second album from traditional Irish supergroup
The theory is that a gang-like coming together of a group of musicians, in which the talents of the various players truly complement one another, will make the whole into something ineffably greater than the sum of its parts.
It is a tough ask, when those musicians include world-renowned fiddler Martin Hayes, sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, New York pianist Thomas Bartlett (Doveman, Antony And The Johnsons), Chicago-born guitarist Dennis Cahill, and fiddle innovator supreme, Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh. Clearly, the starter ingredients are already pretty special. But in the case of The Gloaming, the resulting musical creation is indeed a unique alchemy and the music is nothing short of astounding.
It’s trad, Jim, but not as we know it. Hayes and his merry men take what are often standard Irish tunes, like ‘Repeal The Union’, ‘The Old Favourite’, ‘Slán le Máighe’ (‘Farewell to the Maigue’) and ‘Casadh an tSúígáin’ (‘The Turning Of The Rope’) and tear them apart, before reconstructing the melody in small steps, adding layers of sound and fury as the song is reborn as a brand new entity entirely. Repetition is a key component of what they do, but it’s the antithesis of boring: instead, a particular musical phrase is layered, and twisted and turned, as if to ensure that it looks its best no matter what light you’re sitting in.
Take ‘Fáinleog’, which begins life as a slow air, Ó Lionáird’s magnificent vocal taking precedence, before short piano trills flit in and out of hearing. Eventually, the fiddles start to take flight, augmented by Cahill’s rich but understated fretwork, guiding the listener towards the finale on a tremulous breath of air. Restraint is the order of the day, with far less of the sweat and shoe leather that characterised their debut, but it’s no less beautiful for that, from the slow and sensual ‘The Hare’, like immersing yourself in a warm bath of marshmallows, to the lilting beauty of ‘The Booley House’ or the jaw-dropping ‘The Pilgrim’s Song’.
The magnificent ‘Cucanandy’ is the sound of The Gloaming at their best, the five distinct talents working in imperfectly perfect harmony: Ó Lionáird haunting voice, as pure and sweet an instrument as you could hope to imagine; Cahill’s remarkable talent to augment but never take over the tune; Bartlett’s punk piano noise terrorism; Hayes’ uncanny ability to make the simple sound revelatory and the unimaginably complex sound remarkably simple; the otherworldly sounds of Ó Raghallaigh, who plays a fiddle like nobody else you have ever heard.
If you thought this traditional musical powerhouse had shot their proverbial load with their eponymous 2014 debut, think again. The Gloaming are a gang on a mission...
Out February 26