Review Summary: Look a ghostGallarais
is a gallery of spectral illusions, and that’s to be said with the plainest of faces. At its best, the album embodies the curiosity of revisiting audio or video recordings, scanning for oddities which could possibly be the etchings of spirits crossing the veil between worlds. At its worst, Gallarais fools you into thinking its divination has lasting credibility. One of Music for Church Cleaners'
best assets was the impromptu acoustic setting, as O’Dwyer’s otherworldly prodding was juxtaposed with oblivious intruders coming and going, rattling and chatting, granting a sort of dramatic irony. Here, for whatever reason, it often lends more to inconsequential dabbling. Closer “Hounds of Hades” might stand testament, unfortunately. From a certain angle, you’d swear the vocalists (and there could be two or twenty of them) are encased by massive stone slabs, and are conjuring collective astral projection amidst their sorrow. From another angle, they’re as likely to invoke the occult as several friends chanting “light as a feather, stiff as a board
” at a sleepover. It depends.
Elsewhere, things can be more convincing. The clerical harp of “Underlight” rings with atonement. “Corpophone” envisions a dark rendition of an angel amidst the beggars - O’Dwyer sings wordless incantations, as though she sees something no passerby sees, and could be easily disregarded as a rambling vagrant. According to Aine, Gallarais
serves as a lament akin to Irish keening - an old practice of improvisational mourning with highly expressive, yet unsettling, vocals. Some of the imagery induced is poignant: “Song of the Yahee People” feels spacious and innocent, yet girdled with inevitable horror, like a little girl skipping through an old minefield now overgrown and unrecognizable. And, even if the conceptual strength can be called into question, glimpses of instrumentation redeem things a bit. The recorder and ambience on “Grottovox” occupy a monastic seaside grotto, beaten into submission by the tide. Notwithstanding, songs like “Hippos Kampos” and “Beansidhe” are easily ignored after a couple listens, but maybe this lends to the oeuvre.
Really, one could make a convincing case for Gallarais
being an astounding work. That’s how it is with these ambiguous pieces, where it’s unlikely anyone will dubiously take you to task on your analysis - the failsafe is to shrug and proclaim, “hey man, I know what I saw (heard).
” Indeed, there are moments where Aine O’Dwyer’s alchemical craft is convincing; the challenge is to forgive the instances when the gold paint rubs off in your hands.