In stu­dio with the Goam­ing

The cel­e­brated trad en­sem­ble wrote their se­cond al­bum on the road. Jim Car­roll joins the band in Real World Stu­dios to lis­ten to the songs take shape

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY -

The Gloam­ing are con­tem­plat­ing a trip to the dark side. It’s a week be­fore Christ­mas and the band are in a for­mer mill in Wilt­shire that now houses Real World Stu­dios.

Tonight, all go­ing to plan, the band will make their lat­est com­mu­nal ex­cur­sion to a cinema to see the new Star Wars movie. Some might pre­fer other fare – Martin Hayes talks en­thu­si­as­ti­cally about see­ing Steven Spiel- berg’s Bridge of Spies – but the de­ci­sion has been made.

How­ever, there is work to fin­ish first. It’s the fourth day of record­ing for the band’s new al­bum, the fol­low-up to their ac­claimed 2014 de­but. At this stage, de­pend­ing on which band mem­ber you talk to, there’s 75 to 90 min­utes recorded. “We’re in dou­ble-al­bum ter­ri­tory here,” notes singer Iarla Ó Lionáird.

They’re in a good space to con­cen­trate on mak­ing mu­sic. Be­yond the vast stu­dio win­dow on this low-lit win­ter’s day, there’s not a soul to be seen, just a squir­rel roam­ing up a tree be­yond the lake. Caoimhín Ó Raghal­laigh re­turns from a morn­ing stroll to re­port an­other wildlife sight­ing, this time a heron on one of the paths.

The work for the new al­bum be­gan in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions world­wide dur­ing The Gloam­ing’s 2015 tour. “We carved out pieces and ideas dur­ing the last few years tour­ing by tak­ing about four hours to sound­check,” Ó Lionáird ex­plains on the phone a few weeks later. “Be­fore the first al­bum, we went away and did a pre-pro­duc­tion week; this time, we did that on the road.”

That new ma­te­rial then found its way into the live set and a plot be­gan to emerge about what would be on the new al­bum.

Ó Lionáird cred­its Thomas Bartlett with keep­ing track of what emerged on the road. “It is a group ef­fort, but Thomas has al­ways been very good at pro­vid­ing a frame­work for re­mem­ber­ing what we do on the road. If there was some­one who col­lected and tried new things out and dis­cussed things and imag­ined new struc­tures and ideas, it was Thomas who acted as chair­man.”

The flow of the ma­te­rial

In the stu­dio, Bartlett also acts as chair­man of the board, the one who gen­tly and sub­tly shapes the flow of the ma­te­rial and oils the gears. He’s there to pro­vide the most el­e­gant of bal­last for Ó Lionáird’s new read­ing of Casad­hant Súgáin, a song the singer per­formed for the Brook­lyn film sound­track.

Dur­ing the record­ing, Martin Hayes pulls out an iPad to have a look at Mícheál Ó Domh­naill’s ver­sion. “Mícheál was coin­ci­den­tally the first per­son to record me in a stu­dio on one of those Gael Linn records I made as a child,” notes Ó Lionáird later.

There’s no mess­ing around in the stu­dio. Tracks that re­quire the five-strong en­sem­ble are recorded quickly. There’s a take, a play­back, a con­sul­ta­tion at the desk with en­gi­neer Pa­trick Dil­lett and an­other take.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to hear the sub­tle changes in em­pha­sis be­tween takes on a track such as Fáin­leog, with Bar­rett’s pi­ano pro­vid­ing the guideropes for the switch in char­ac­ter mid­way through from Ó Lionáird’s voice to Hayes and Ó Raghal­laigh’s fid­dles.

“When you’re work­ing in an en­sem­ble, the big­gest thing you haveto do is en­sure ev­ery­one is al­lowed to be fully ac­tu­alised,” says Ó Lionáird. “You see peo­ple’s game lift even when they’re not fore­ground­ing. When teams are play­ing beau­ti­fully to­gether, it has a po­etry of its own. We’re all spokes on a wheel and at one point, your spoke is point­ing to 12 and it’s your mo­ment to be plugged in.

“There’s a lot of fine judg­ment

go­ing on from my col­leagues. The in­ter­play be­tween the two fid­dles is amaz­ing. When each of them steps for­ward, you see how great each of them is at do­ing their thing. Martin steps for­ward and it’s so clear what his in­ten­tion is. Caoimhín steps for­ward and you get th­ese magic clouds.

“They both play off each other beau­ti­fully on the record, and it’s a real trib­ute to them that they were able to con­coct this gor­geous lan­guage be­tween them. I can also th­ese lit­tle sounds from Den­nis [Cahill] pop­ping up in the mu­sic like a flare com­ing out of wa­ter.”

Ó Lionáird de­scribes the five days record­ing the new al­bum as “very rapid, very fre­netic in some ways”, a far cry from his usual stu­dio habits.

“I’m a crea­ture of the stu­dio my­self, though I am not ac­cus­tomed to work­ing so fast, ex­cept with this band. Al­though I’m from a tra­di­tional back­ground, my stu­dio ap­proach is rock’n’roll, where I might typ­i­cally spend a year-and-a-half mak­ing a record. Can you imag­ine? My own solo records come up ev­ery five years, so they’re like watch­ing paint dry by com­par­i­son, so to speak.

“But here, I’m with th­ese in­cred­i­ble mu­si­cians who can re- ally turn it on in real time right in front of you, and there’s no need for the paint-dry­ing painful process. It was fast but that’s how this band op­er­ates.

“We were ea­ger to get in to see if what we were feel­ing on the road man­i­fested it­self in the stu­dio. You’re never sure. The feel­ings you get on stage are so pow­er­ful that you can have a lot of con­vic­tion about what is go­ing on and revved-up about it, but the stu­dio is a much more thought­ful space.”

The next phase

With the al­bum ready, the band’s next phase had al­ready be­gun. But Ó Lionáird cau­tions against ex­pect­ing to see The Gloam­ing play­ing ev­ery she­been, tent and field in the com­ing months. “We’ve dates in the di­ary, and the vibes af­ter the record­ing are good, but we’ll never have as much time on the road as peo­ple ei­ther imag­ine or would want us to have.

“Maybe that’s a bless­ing, be­cause it means we have to use our time right and not waste our own or the au­di­ence’s time and hit the mark. We have to en­joy the idea that mu­sic makes things hap­pen and things hap­pen when you’re mak­ing mu­sic.

“Ido feel we have a stronger record, I do feel our feet are stronger now. I don’t think we’ve ex­hausted the ini­tial sand­box. We’re not too far re­moved from our ini­tial cre­ative area so there’s still plenty we can do. In terms of push­ing the boat out, we’ve pushed it out in the wa­ter, but there’s a whole lot of row­ing we can still do.”

The Gloam­ing 2 is out on Fe­bru­ary 26th. The band be­gin a run of sold-out dates at Dublin’s Na­tional Con­cert Hall on Fe­bru­ary 27th

When teams are play­ing beau­ti­fully to­gether, it has a po­etry of its own. We’re all spokes on a wheel and at one point, your spoke is point­ing to 12 and it’s your mo­ment to be plugged in

Take five

The Gloam­ing (from left) Den­nis Cahill, Martin Hayes, Thomas Bartlett, Iarla Ó Lionáird and Caoimhín Ó Raghal­laigh

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