Pepper Canister Church, Dublin
It has been 16 months since their live debut in Dublin, and in the interim The Gloaming have grown into their skin. Unfurling their music in St Stephen’s Church (more commonly known as the Pepper Canister), they watched it emerge, and followed it as it pursued its own idiosyncratic diversions.
Theirs is still a netherworld where mood and shade hold sway over technical virtuosity – although there’s no denying that beneath The Gloaming’s surface is a cut-stone foundation of extraordinary, mesmerising musicianship. Martin Hayes’s fiddle and Thomas Bartlett’s piano engage in intimate exchanges, tracing the feathery edges of some tunes and embracing the solid shapes of others, with a vitality that breathes fresh life into both music and musicians.
These are less tune sets than they are suites, with ample space in between to accommodate Iarla Ó Lionáird’s cavernous vocals.
The familiar Catherine Kelly’s, Paddy Cronin’s and Tom Doherty’s Reels gave The Gloaming the opening they needed to set the pace. Bartlett’s piano was more restrained than on their live debut, and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s Hardanger fiddle revelled in ambling down parallel bothareens and byroads with Hayes.
Iarla Ó Lionáird’s voice sounds more at home in The Gloaming now, his transparent reading of Song 44 and Samhradh, Samhradh invited the listener to become privy to an intimate world of half memories and distant sunshine: alien landscapes on a damp December night. The addition of a harmonium, played by Ó Lionáird, added immensely to the depth of the band’s sound, and corralled the singer inside the musicians’ circle, giving him a role missing from The Gloaming’s first outing, where at times he had been under-employed.
Dennis Cahill’s guitar created different shapes in the company of Ó Raghallaigh. The pair delighted in the quirky unpredictability of Chasing the Squirrel and The Girl that Broke My Heart, while Hayes’s and Ó Raghallaigh’s fiddles ducked and dived among the undergrowth of the set like schoolboys on the mitch.
With seemingly infinite space at their disposal, The Gloaming roam on wider plains where the music can never be corralled. A welcome release for musician and listener alike.
Touring to Cork, Newbridge, Dún Laoghaire and Belfast
Siobhan Long ****