Drombeg – Earthworks

Here in Ireland we are in love with words, with stories.

It is deeply ingrained in our DNA, plainly evident in a rich literary tradition that continues to this day, despite a myriad of modern distractions. It is a love only matched by our affection for music and those twin passions account for the huge popularity of the singer-songwriter in this country down through the years.

Musician/Composer Thom Brookes (aka Drombeg) follows a different star, telling his story in a very different way.  His rich and evocative debut album Earthworks relies on beautifully drawn ambient classical sketches to supply the narrative –there are no words, there are no prompts.

It is music that is rooted to a strong sense of place –as Brookes himself says it is “a soundtrack for the middle of nowhere”.  Earthworks is an album of shifting moods and gorgeous tones; Brookes draws from a palette of strings, piano, field recordings and electronic washes to create music that is both cinematic and quietly epic.

The link to nature, the elements and the landscape is strongly conveyed throughout; ‘Out of the Dark Sea’ is heralded by the distant rumble of thunder, rising out of the gloom while ‘Handful of Clay’ builds slowly, conjuring images of barren landscapes and turbulent skies. ’There has to be a Heaven’ is quiet and meditative; ivory notes, an air of melancholy.

‘Tumulus’ signals a slight shift towards a more experimental approach on the second half of the record; more ambient, with darker undercurrents. ‘Cesair’s Landing’ and ‘Lunula’ carry a deep sense of foreboding but there is always some light to be found here.

Earthworks is a truly beautiful album; in the context of the Irish music scene, Thom Brookes occupies a unique space. Very few musicians from this neck of the woods have dabbled to any great extent in the ambient/classical genre. Fans of Max Richter, Nils Frahm, Stars of the Lid and Olafur Arnalds will find much to admire in the strikingly atmospheric moods that Brookes creates.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)