Boomkat Product Review:
Áine O’Dwyer returns to MIE with Gallarais, an immersive, ghostly channelling of harp, keening vocals and acousmatic sound from the Brunel Tunnel, 50ft below The Thames in the heart of London. Gallarais acts as the follow-up to Aine’s acclaimed Music For Church Cleaners Vol. 1 And II , also issued by MIE (and Fort Evil), and locates her first sighting since the amazing Locusts and Gegenschein dyad which totally grabbed our attention in 2016.
Sensitive as ever to her surroundings, these performances, recorded between 2013-2016, continue the themes of Áine’s Anything Bright and Startling  LP, returning her to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s tunnel to farther explore its unique sonic soul or sound architexture, employing its 3-4 second acoustic decay and the environmental sounds of water pumps, overhead planes, and subterranean trains as a subtly morphing, resonant space or ‘mystic cave’ for ritual sonic investigation.
Down there, Áine communes with the outside, modern world as well as the site’s deep topography, which was carved out - most probably by Irish hands and imbued with their spirit - over 150 years ago, while also making reference to ancient Greek notions of a passage to the underworld, or dimensions not usually known by the living. In this context, Áine’s harp and vocals become timeless tools of transcendence, elegantly carrying the weight of ages into the present with an expressively freeform, improvised spirit that that links thousands of years of music as a means of connection with the unseen.
Tradition filtered thru a timeless vessel, we hear Áine’s harp flurries beautifully mingle with distant planes and trains in the opening piece, Underlight, while Cordophone captures a hauntingly jibber-jawed vocal lament, seemingly shivering in dark cold of the tunnel, and the piercing recorders or penny whistles of Mouthtoum feel to echo buskers as much as ship’s whistles.
However, the LP’s most captivating pieces are its two longest and most central to her concept of exploring a “personalised abstract heritage relating to the bean chointe, or Irish keener”. This, quite literally in Beansidhe - translating from Celtic as Banshee - where she keens thru the air between near infrasonic basses and pealing hi-registers with solemn, glossolalic vocals and stark woodblock percussions, and then joined by six other performers for Hounds of Hades, where their massed moans are joined by the guttural rumble of engines and the dank drip of the tunnel’s unheimlich and emotively charged, psychoacoustic space.
Of course, that’s all just a guide or description of the record and its roots, and to fully connect with it, you need to occupy its acres of elusive negative space or dark matter to fully appreciate the effect of its contrasts and elegiac air.