The Gloaming review: distinctly traditional but finding their own voice in a space that ref

The Gloaming
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Artist: The Gloaming
Genre: World Music
Label: Real World

Thomas Bartlett's opening chords of Song 44 – skeletal, bereft – are both scene stealers and scene setters for The Gloaming's debut recording. Borrowed from 18th-century poet Aogán Ó Rathaille's Dánta Grá, Song 44 is a pitch-perfect opener for Iarla Ó Lionáird's conspiratorial vocals, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh's spectral Hardanger fiddle and Martin Hayes' sinuous companionship.

From this expansive opening, The Gloaming revel in wide open vistas and endless space. It’s as if each member has hankered after the company of players, all coming from distinctly different places, their knapsacks brimful of salty ideas, colourful whims and a fearless appetite for mining seams previously unexplored.

With almost 60 minutes of free-flowing music to draw from, the listener is privy to a wide palette, defined more by shape and mood than tethered by genre.

Bartlett's piano is the anchor, and he brings a ravishing, unpredictable edge to The Gloaming's sound, delighting in the melodic and the percussive potential of the instrument. The Hardanger fiddle, in all its obtuse insistence on tracing a singular path, is at its best on Old Bush, where Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh fences with Dennis Cahill's guitar in a cat-and-mouse game that inevitably draws the listener into the fray.


Refreshing too, in a willingness to retain the imperfections of the moment. The Gloaming's inclusion of Opening Set, from their first live incarnation, yields to the mood of the piece rather than taking a scalpel to its every twist and turn. What we're left with is 16 minutes of mindful music, its frayed edges a celebration of a rich humanity: a rarity in recorded music these days.

Each member of The Gloaming has already forged their own singular path, yet this collaboration is something altogether in and of itself. It takes the road not travelled, drawing on a distinctly traditional foundation but finding its own voice in a space that refuses to be boxed in.

This is contemporary music making at its very best: unself-conscious, freewheeling and yet deeply thoughtful, revealing layer upon layer with each listening.
Download tracks: Necklace of Wrens, Samhradh Samhradh

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about traditional music and the wider arts