Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett

Released 13 September 2019

  1. Kestrel
  2. Strange Vessels
  3. All Good Things
  4. Zona Rosa
  5. Wanderer
  6. Open Shelter
  7. We Thought We Knew
  8. My Darling Asleep
  9. Further Than Memory

Liner notes

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Thomas Bartlett —renowned for their work together as part of The Gloaming and individually with the likes of Laurie Andersen, Garth Knox, Sufjan Stevens and St. Vincent— are two of the most celebrated talents making contemporary music today.

On this self-titled album they unite to create an LP of exceptional beauty featuring Bartlett on piano and Ó Raghallaigh on Hardanger d’amore.

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett. Photo credit: Heidi Solander

Track by Track

1. Kestrel

Thomas: “Kestrel is fully improvised and was the first thing that we recorded here in New York. The engineer was happy with how everything was sounding, so we said, Let’s play for a second and make sure we like the sound.”

Caoimhín: “For me, there’s a soaring feeling in it, an upswell, and a joyous melancholy to it. The kestrel is one of my favorite birds; the way it hovers is, to me, magic. The way it will stay in the same place and just this faint fluttering of its wings and the twitching of its tail. And flight is something I find fascinating— when I was a kid, my favorite dreams were always ones where you fly, and my favorite writers were all pilots, like Roald Dahl and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.”

 

2. Strange Vessels

Thomas: “This is me and Caoimhín, in The Wood Room at Real World. It’s a very peaceful place to record, and he was just a few feet away from the piano.”

Caoimhín: “I hadn’t heard this until we were recording it, in the moment. I love the way it unfolds and disintegrates, and echoes of it come back— at times quite harsh, at times barely there. The title comes from WG Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. He takes you from one thing to another in the space of a few lines and you’ve no idea how you got there. There are a lot of nested layers of reality.”

 

3. All Good Things

Caoimhín: “I was at a wonderful festival in West Cork in Ireland in a town called Baltimore, called Fiddle Fair. It happens every May and they had asked me to be Musician-in-Residence. I think everyone will know this feeling from any time you’ve spent a concentrated amount of time with special group of people and it comes to an end— and you don’t want to go, you wish this thing could go on forever. I just thought that I’d like to write a tune for that.”

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett - Kestrel

4. Zona Rosa

Thomas: “When it finally was clear that we were making a record, it was clear that we wanted those two tracks [Zona Rosa and Wanderer] on the record. We had tried re-recording them at other times but they had never felt quite as good as this.”

Caoimhín: “I love how the two parts of it are overlayed. This was recorded in Mexico – Zona Rosa refers to the area that we were in. Also, the actual design of the album; we were looking for the right color to use on on on the artwork, and that that was a bit of a hint – the rosa, the pink.”

 

5. Wanderer

Caoimhín: “This is from when myself and my wife moved into our house here in early 2015, in January. It’s this tiny terraced cottage, but it is the most wonderful space – the light coming into it is really warm, and it feels great. We moved in, I took out the fiddle out and wrote that tune here. It was the very first thing we recorded in Mexico. Thomas looked at me, and I looked at him, and he said, ‘Okay, what are we going to play?’ So that was the very first thing. It was fresh in my mind from having just made it in January. So we gave it a go. For me, that’s all wrapped up in the joy of the initial discovery of this musical connection. Every time I hear that it just gives me such a good feeling.”

 

6. Open Shelter

Thomas: “This one was fully improvised, at Real World. I was wanting something that felt a little bit dark. So I had Caoimhín retune so that I could play in G minor. I was sort of in a Keith Jarrett sort of mood in that moment [laughs]. I just wanted some kind of thorniness, so it’s dancing towards jazz, but trying to keep it in this slightly modal feeling.”

Caoimhín: “Again, that title comes from The Rings of Saturn. But also, there’s an extraordinary artist in West Kerry, Maria Simonds-Gooding, and we have two of her pieces hanging here in our tiny little house, called Earth Shelters. So, that title it was in my mind when I found Open Shelter in Sebald. Her work is based usually on the shape of fields but abstracted and reduced to the absolute minimum. I’ve always found it very striking and informative in terms of of trying to create music— to find a way to create more space, and yet say something.”

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett - We Thought We Knew

7. We Thought We Knew

Thomas: “That’s based on a tune of Caoimhín’s, and we recorded it in New York. We improvised Kestrel and knew the sounds were good, and then Caoimhín taught me how that song went and we played it.”

Caoimhín: “It’s a jaunty one, isn’t it? It was really fun because I write tunes without necessarily knowing how to count them. It’s not when you can tap your foot to in a straightforward way, it’s trotting at a funny limp [laughs]. And Thomas was really resistant to me changing it. He said, ‘Don’t try and fit it into something more regular, just play it, I’ll figure it out!’”

 

8. My Darling Asleep

Thomas: “In the Gloaming very often we’ll play a tune and then let it dissolve and abstract it, break it down little by little. And I think that’s a lot of what we’re up to, in a way; we’re taking that moment, that in the Gloaming is, by necessity, just a moment or a little stretch— and we’re elongating it.”

Caoimhín: “This is the only traditional tune on the album, and I just love that it disintegrates. The tune was the diving board. We jumped off and now we’re in this beautiful water that we’re swimming through. No need to drag everyone back up to the diving board.”

 

9. Further Than Memory

Thomas: “A tune that I wrote just then, knowing that we were going to be recording. Again, the barest little hint of a tune. I don’t think I even taught it to Caoimhín, it was just like, ‘Here, let’s play something in this key’, and then he improvised around me.”

Caoimhín: “Again, this is a title from The Rings of Saturn. I like how it relates to the track— as a little inkling of a thought, the more you grasp for it, the harder it is to get it. I like that there are there are mistakes— that you can hear us finding, discovering, in the moment, and that we resist the urge to edit it. That, for me, is really a special thing, to leave those edges on display for everyone to see. This is capturing two people improvising in real time, with no ulterior plan to execute. It’s just us discovering this music as it unfolds.”

Reviews

  • Tracks such as Strange Vessels, Open Shelter, Wanderer, and Further Than Memory unfold slowly, but unlike their combined seamless work in The Gloaming, here the music provides (as Ó Raghallaigh observes) “edges on display for everyone to see.” The results are gorgeous. ★★★★ The Sunday Business Post (Ireland)
  • The music that Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) make has a reverie-like quality that is similarly elusive. It flows into the ether untethered by time or any notions of categorisation. ★★★★★ The Irish Times

Credits

Mixed by: Patrick Dillett
Engineered by: Gabriel Castanón, Patrick Phillips and James Yost
Recorded at: Estudio Vicente Fernandez (Mexico City), Real World Studios (Box, UK), Reservoir Studios (New York)
Mastered by: Ue Nastasi at Sterling Sound NYC
Design by: Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh
Published by: Real World Music Ltd & Domino Publishing Ltd
Management by: Barque LLC
Cover Image: Saul Leiter, ‘Snow’ (1960) © Saul Leiter Foundation, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery
Photograph: Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

All tracks written by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett, with the exception of My Darling Asleep, traditional arranged by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett

Further Listening

  • The Gloaming 3

    The Gloaming

    Released 22 February 2019

    World renowned Irish American supergroup The Gloaming return with their highly anticipated third album. Produced by Thomas Bartlett, the album was recorded in New York City at Reservoir Studios. Like its predecessors, it richly reimagines the vernacular of traditional Irish music through a modern prism via elements of post-rock, jazz, contemporary classical, chamber and minimalism.
  • Utopia

    Tom Kerstens’ G Plus Ensemble

    Released 10 May 2010

    The debut recording of Tom Kerstens with his G Plus Ensemble. The group was created specifically for the recording of newly commissioned repertoire for the guitar from composers who operate outside as well as within the classical world and with the express aim of bridging the gap between popular and classical guitar culture.

Further reading

Exploring the musical dialogue of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett’s debut album

Sophie Harris speaks to The Gloaming's Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Thomas Bartlett about their new album

The beauty of simple things: Saul Leiter

American photographer Saul Leiter's work features on the cover of an upcoming Real World release.

Novelist Michael Cunningham previews new Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett album

The Pulitzer Prize winning novelist shares his thoughts on the beautiful new album.