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Real World Records CDRW223  

The Gloaming started life around eight years ago as a collaborative project between American pianist Thomas Bartlett and Irish musicians Iarla Ó Lionáird, Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill and Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh. The resulting close-knit melding of tradition and innovation was groundbreaking, even in this age of anticipated experimentation and fusion, and has since spawned further creative studio adventures and live performances. This latest project, unlike its predecessors, was largely the product of intense, concentrated studio sessions responding to material assembled by Iarla and Thomas.

The Gloaming’s trademark has always been the special integration of its unique elements, achieving what Iarla describes as “a sort of heightened transparency and intensity”, where the listener and performers arrive together in the same place, a kind of dream state. But that doesn’t mean the music of The Gloaming is soporific – rather the reverse, with its delicately energetic gestures and lively sparkling yet measured and unhurried momentum. On one level, the central driving force is manifestly Thomas’s minimalist-styled piano playing, around which and back into which feed the other musicians’ expressive explorations in a perhaps curiously apt conflagration of ritual and spontaneous emotional response. For much of the time, though, it’s Iarla’s iconic, soaring voice that provides both the wellspring and the locus for musical and thematic development. Five of the CD’s ten tracks feature his distinctive sean-nós vocal intoning Irish poetry; the intervening instrumental tracks might seem more akin to a playground for Martin’s fiddle and Caoimhin’s hardanger d’amore.

Here space simply does not permit more than a summary, which risks underselling both concept and execution, and the extraordinary interweaving of the elements that characterise The Gloaming – which, over the album’s luxurious 70-minute span, ensure the listener can immerse, becoming thoroughly absorbed, in music that’s both time-transcendent and of the moment.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 128 of The Living Tradition magazine.