REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

The Gloaming manage to charm me into submission

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

... with the beguiling Irish folk of their debut! Perfectly named Irish folk 'supergroup' from all corners of the globe convene to write an album of heart-wrenching winter wonder.


The Gloaming – The Gloaming (20/01/14 via Real World Records)

The word 'supergroup' might (understandably) send a shiver of doubt up even the most convivial of spines but rest assured there are no unbearable 10 minute drum solos to be found here. The Gloaming deal not in harmonic guitar duals and histrionics, but in traditional Irish folk music, only traditional Irish folk music that is in many way inexorably, beautifully modern. The transatlantic group consists of New York based pianist Thomas Bartlett (who plays under the pseudonym 'Dove man'), Chicago guitarist Dennis Cahill, fiddle players Martin Hayes and Caomhim O Raghallaigh and Irish singer Larla O Lionaird (known for his work with the 'Afro Celt Sound System'). Now I couldn't pronounce half of their names but I
can tell you that by the evidence of their first album together they are skilled performers who seem incredibly comfortable in each others musical company. Irish folk music might appear on the surface as something of a 'niche' genre but there are tendrils here of everything from ambient post-rock to baroque pop. The fact that a good half of the record is instrumental might put off those who have a misguided bias against such things but they will be missing out on some of the records most engaging and deliriously beautiful compositions. The songs that contain vocals are sung in Lionaird's soft, gaelic tongue in a style known as 'Sean Nos' which was traditionally unaccompanied and is typified by great rhythmic variations and simple but incredibly stylised melodies. It's a style of singing I myself am quite familiar with due to my own Irish ancestry but for newcomers I can imagine a slight degree of reticence. All 10 songs here appear to be almost part of the same 'movement', flowing effortlessly into one another with refined grace. It's the 15 minute long 'Opening Set' that really impressed me most profoundly though. It's almost as if somebody pulled the plug on Sigur Ros. The song builds delicately over time with the heart-strings being torn left and right between yawning violins and spare, echoing piano chords. About half way through it builds into an almighty jig before the melancholy descends once again at its climax and we're taken through to the conclusion on compellingly grim piano and duelling fiddles. There's something undeniably soothing about The Gloaming. It's almost like an hour of music you feel like you've known your entire life and yet it's almost impossible to ascertain exactly why. If nothing else it makes a case for Irish folk music as a legitimately moving and relatable art form. There is more heart and soul in one note here than there is in the entirety of Mumford and Sons back catalogue and whilst it might be a little 'slow' for some ears, to mine it's like the aural equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold night. In a word, charming.