Last Days – Seafaring
The oceans continue to be a chief source of inspiration for the Northumberland-born, Edinburgh-based composer Graham Richardson, who titled his 2006 debut Sea. Halfway through his latest record we hear the sound of waves rumbling in the distance, collapsing against the shore to the sound of quivering strings and organ drones with a weighty majesty. The small, seemingly random popping noises in the foreground could be the sound of cracking ice, or perhaps the gradual buckling of wood. They appear on Endurance, a track named after the vessel trapped and eventually crushed by huge chunks of Antarctic debris during its ill-fated expedition.
The kind of music Richardson makes – sentimental, evocative instrumentals performed by acoustic piano and strings – leaves plenty room for interpretation, so the little clues offered by track titles and the album artwork are useful in prompting the listener’s imagination. Even without these signposts though, his gentle, expansive arrangements paint vivid mental landscapes often tinged with a sense of melancholy and decay. Found sound is central in achieving this effect; the garbled shipping transmission included in Strait of Dover for instance, sounds like the ghostly echo of a forgotten world when paired with Richardson's ethereal string harmonies.
In general, Richardson opts for tone over melody and forgoes regimented structures in favour of a feeling of constant drift. For those with the patience to go with his flow, Seafaring is an immersive, moving listen.
Listen to: Endurance, Weddell Sea
Buy Last Days - Seafaring on LP/CD from Norman Records