The Gloaming’s publicity describes their approach as “experimental” but here that does not mean weird but “exploratory”, with influences from jazz and contemporary classical music merging seamlessly with the traditional Irish sound. The band consists of three Irish musicians: Martin Hayes and Caoimhin O Raghallaigh (fiddles) and Iarla Ó Lionáird (vocals), and two Americans: Thomas Bartlett (piano) and Dennis Cahill (guitar)
The opening track of the album, The Pilgrim’s Song has a gentle piano intro, alongside some ethereal sound effects. The haunting vocals alert your ears to the fact that this is not just another traditional Irish recording. There is a beautiful conversation between the two fiddles. Traditional-style Irish tunes weave in and out of the developing soundscape. Ó Lionáird’s vocal style is particularly striking. He comes from a tradition of Sean-nós singing - solo, unaccompanied singing. This singing style is perfectly complemented by the instrumental arrangements.
In Oisín’s Song unaccompanied vocals take over from a quiet opening on the guitar. The voice is joined my minimal piano chords. The dramatic song continues, punctuated by extended, virtuosic fiddle passages. The understated piano is used again in Slán le Máighe which opens with a freestyle melody on the fiddles. The close, edgy harmonies give way to vocals with a simple piano accompaniment. Fiddles and voice take it in turns to come to the fore.
Vocals begin Casadh an tSúgáin (The Twisting of the Rope), punctuated by occasional piano chords before a fuller accompaniment develops. An instrumental interlude follows with sustained notes from the fiddles. Cucanandy is the liveliest track on the album and again the vocals take the lead. Catchy repeated phrases, some of them in English, will have the listener joining in.
Apart from the songs there is some fine tune playing with the influence of the Irish tradition very much in evidence. In The Rolling Wavestrings we hear a repeating phrase which tumbles like rolling waves. The theme develops into a track which is over seven minutes long.
The general mood of the album is gentle and relaxing. The Hare opens with a gentle fiddle duet, one soaring high above the other. The Booley House is a lovely lilting melody with the fiddles taking the lead, accompanied by the guitar. Some of the tracks are more ethereal. Mrs Dwyer has a traditional fiddle alternating with dream-like passages from the piano until the two sounds join together. In the final track of the album, The Old Favourite, one fiddle plays a tune while the other instruments seem to be improvising around it, creating a beautiful soundscape.
A beautifully relaxing album. Lie back, close your eyes and let the music wash over you.Shelley Rainey
Released on Real World Records 26 February 2016
1. The Pilgrim’s Song
2. Fáinleog (Wanderer)
3. The Hare
4. Oisín’s Song
5. The Booley House
6. Repeal the Union
7. Casadh an tSúgáin
8. The Rolling Wave
10. Mrs Dwyer
11. Slán le Máighe
12. The Old Favourite