Red River Dialect are a London based band have Cornish roots, and this mix of city life, country living, and rolling cliffs all influence the seven tracks on their fourth album Broken Stay Open Sky. It’s a short but potent record. There’s a windswept energy to proceedings, atmospheric sounds, far reaching sweeping sonics and vibrant vitality.
On ‘Juniper/The View’ we’re taken on a journey through xx’s past, including ‘on the River Cam when I was young…where the rubber duck race took place every year.’ The ‘views’ are painted in glorious musical colour, each a simple snapshot of the images that make up our growth.
The desire to showcase urban living through campestral tones is clear, and at times strained. On ‘Kukkuripa’ he sings of how the ‘the dishwater sizzled’ as he repeatedly intones ‘I’m making a meal.’ But the gentle lull of the music overcomes any lyrical struggles that the listener might come across. But ‘the thoughts that I have when I become my thinking’ are a struggle we all come across, and the mundane activity of cooking are seamlessly used a metaphor for bigger things.
On ‘Open Sky (bell)’ there’s almost a nautical feel to the rolling melodies that kick things off, before it moves into a romantic tune. The sway of the music underpins almost mumbled lyrics as the band explore the vista and opportunities.
‘Aery Thin’ has an urban gritty beat about it, those London pavements clearly making their mark. It feels more deeply rooted than the other songs, despite its clearly light focus. ‘Cinders’ is sparse, broken, and yearningly sad, the pace having slackened and slowed and chiming keys take centre space.
‘Gull Rock’ is more sinister, a darker twinge to the bass line, made richer by echoing strings. It spirals off into a cacophonous ending as Morris sings his resolution to heartbreak and love lost. Final track ‘Capana’ is a gentle church like tune, ‘breaking the bread, ringing the bell’ used as a way of remembering friendships and relationships with ‘my old companion.’ Like a scavenger, Morris includes lyrical nods to nursery rhymes.
There’s definitely a feeling of collusion, as though the listener is privy to something going on in songwriter David Morris’s life. As Morris explains, ‘When writing the last Red River Dialect album (Tender Gold and Gentle Blue, 2015), my everyday was infused with a magnificent, radiant sadness. A sudden space of loss had opened up and swallowed all sorts of exhausting but addictive inclinations: to hunt for volatility, nurture delusions and hide in distractions. Eventually these waves of sad-joy began to subside and I found myself back on familiar ground with a new understanding of what I was seeking: freshness, movement and vibrancy. I was learning how to feel perky and how to ride on the wind…I looked for this energy in chords, rhythms and words.’
At times radiant, at others heartbreakingly sad, the tumultuous background to the album is clear. He clearly got good at ‘riding the wind’ – the one that is called lungta in Tibetan (and is also a horse). You can almost smell the old wood and damp stone of rural churches, as the bells chime out. Rough hewed walls and rolling hills are cast up into view. It feels genuine, and open. Investigating both the concrete reality of daily life and the cosmic expansion we search for. There’s a desire to make the personal universal, through solid details and abstract ideas, that more or less comes off. Nothing marks out Broken Stay Open Sky out as remarkable in the folk rock scene, but it’s a solid collection of tunes that hint at the band’s own experience of navigating life.
Broken Stay Open Sky is released on 2nd February through Paradise Of Bachelors.