Richard Reed Parry - Quiet River of Dust Vol. 1 - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Richard Reed Parry - Quiet River of Dust Vol. 1

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-09-21
Richard Reed Parry - Quiet River of Dust Vol. 1
Richard Reed Parry - Quiet River of Dust Vol. 1

The mothership Arcade Fire makes big art rock records. This solo album by Richard Reed Parry is a soft, often very beautiful, and densely layered art folk album.

In other words, rockers may want to sit this one out.

Now the great Roy Harper wrote a song, “The Spirit Lives.” Of course, Roy was often ranting against organized religion, or the white man, or Western civilization, or some guy who didn’t give him a lift on the highway. But the song includes the line, “The fountains break—the spirit lives—the future rests assured.”

And this album, in its very own way, sings those words.

The equally great John Martyn sang about the “Small Hours” on his brilliant album, One World. Well, this is a record for that quiet time.

Now, this one comes with the price tag, as Richard Reed explains, of “a dreamlike journey of immersion, gently psychedelic songs inspired by Japanese death poems and the folk music of the British Isles.”

And, to quote yet another of my favorites from past times, Bob Gibson (of Midwestern Farm Disaster fame), “People just don’t do that anymore.”

But, yet, this one certainly manages to do all of that. Of course, it demands much from the listener, but it also repays in kind.

The first song, “Gentle Pulsing Dust” opens with, of course, bird noises, and then beautifully echoes the dreamy sound of Peter Gabriel (that’s a good thing) around the So album’s “Red Rain.” It also recalls the before-mentioned Roy Harper, with multi-layered vocals, in his more endearing and melodic moments. (And that’s also a very good thing.)

“Sai No Kawara (River of Death)” fulfills the press notes that state Parry (in his own words) “wanted to create a tangible aural garden of rapturous colors that invite exploration, and immersive experience.” Sure, this one throbs with deep instrumental beauty.

Two folk songs appear out of the mist. “On the Ground” captures the promise of the British folk tradition. A soft echoey vocal is surrounded by a cloud of ethnic percussion and eerie electronics.  And, this music is enhanced by the concertina, Northumbrian pipes, and the fiddle from musicians who played with Richard’s father’s folk group. Now, (sorry to be an old softie) but that’s a really cool thing to do. And “Song of the Wood” continues the British folk ethos. Again, a soft melodic vocal is framed with all sorts of sounds from Canadian friends who date back to his Bell Orchestre days and expand to include people from The Sadies, The National, and Blonde Redhead. This tune has an absolutely lovely coda with pipes and celestial harmonies.

“Finally Home” is another dreamy folk tune, filled with the airy breath of Japanese ghosts who are, quite frankly, all too happy to embrace the Pace-Egging and Hunting of the Wren of English folk tradition. And there’s nary a Druid to be found in this music, or, for that matter, any trace of new age dross.

But “I Was in the World (Was the World in Me)” expands the universe to include an almost (again) Peter Gabriel “Biko” cinematic crescendo of voices that proclaims, as Bono sang, “all the colors will bleed into one.” This music melts, like a sad candle in a slow night. What a lovely melody! And, sure, this tune fulfills Richard Reed Parry’s promise that “Maybe even those ghosts in the Japanese forest will hear the result of the journey they inspired.”

That’s an awfully decent desire to, well, desire in this modern world.

You know, I sort of hate to use the promo lingo, but I think Richard Reed Parry is a pretty honest guy who somehow struck popular acclaim with Arcade Fire, and who now, as Roy Harper once sang, just wants to prove that, even in these commercial times, the spirit lives. And again, that’s just a decent thing to do.

The final song, “Farewell Ceremony,” once more, evokes some sort of ethnic ritualistic vibe. It’s short and deep, and it’s a chant, and it’s a prayer. It’s “music to be absorbed into a setting devoid of other distractions.” Once again, that’s Richard’s promo lingo, but it sincerely manages to describe a bit of musical truth that’s nice to hear, and equally nice to spin in those John Martyn “Small Hours” of quiet euphoria.  

So, thankfully, the spirit lives. And that spirit lives in Japanese death poems and English folk songs, and it lives everywhere else, everywhere else that is found in the “small, soft, and gentle” meditation as we all take the very necessary (and perhaps cautionary) step, with the vibrant memories of the past, within some mystical Japanese forest or a blissful British quietude, and into the grooves of a world spun like this beautiful record about life, named quite appropriately, Quiet River of Dust.

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