|Richard James — Pictures in the Morning (2012)|
Richard James ¬ Pictures in the Morning
Location: Pembrokeshire, Wales, United Kingdom
Album release: April 23, 2012
Record Label: Gwymon Records
1. All Gone [4:39]
2. Baby Blue [3:15]
3. Sun Ease Pain [10:00]
4. Say It Ain’t No Lie [4:01]
5. Do You Know The Way to My Heart? [3:49]
6. Dow to My Heart [4:52]
7. Magical Day [3:50]
8. Rolling Down [2:52]
9. Yes My Love Died [4:48]
Catalogue #: GWYMONCD015
¬ The Seven Sleepers Den (2006)
¬ We Went Riding (2010)
¬ Pictures in the Morning (2012)
Keith Hargreaves; Thursday, 07 June 2012
Pastoral reflections from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci man.
¬ A quiet, gentle album this. Steeped in an early seventies Joe Boyd world of instruments in the right places and vocals hushed and understated. All acoustic guitar and Grantchester meadows.
¬ ‘All Gone’ and ‘Baby Blue’ set the tone from the outset with beautiful, metronomic finger picking backed by almost reverential singing. ‘Sun Ease Pain’ really would not be out of place on ‘Pink Moon’ as one of the slight instrumentals that eventually flower into song. However when this blooms it has a more urgent tenor than Mr Drake. Although the lyricism seems to be rooted in that vernacular of 1972 – “Hope ma baby’s alright” being repeated as the guitars head for more discordant notes and stranger tones. ¬ Eventually we beach on a calm spit and the guitar gently leads us to the coda before spiralling away again. So far so ‘Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus’. This track has, however, raised the game of this album, taking far beyond the simple getting my head together in the country acoustic fun. ¬ This is psychedelic but not in an arbitary way, it is considered and effective telling the narrative through the notes and cadences and changes of direction. Loved it. There is a rare beauty to this work that presents as simplistic but is anything but. It is layered and recorded with a warmth that seeps from the songs as the instruments fly. Genuine surprise. Highly recommended.
Reviewers Score: 9/10 (Fortaken: http://www.americana-uk.com)
Fails to engage as emotionally as you’d expect from a musician of this stature.
Rich Hanscomb 2012-06-18
¬ In an era of Internet-facilitated eclecticism it’s difficult to recall just how quietly revolutionary and endearingly out of step with prevailing musical trends Richard James’ first band, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, were.
¬ At odds with Britpop, they didn’t care about haircuts, and had journalists using words like “psychedelic” and “whimsical” to describe their music – about as uncool as you could get back then. Gorky’s took the more interesting elements of their baby-boomer parents’ heritage-rock record collection and created the kind of music that prefigured the Green Man generation. One could argue that Richard James has earned his dues.
¬ Three albums into a solo career, this offering is a conscious reaction to the DIY pocket symphonies of 2010’s We Went Riding. A low-key, intimate affair, Pictures in the Morning plays out like Bert Jansch’s Rosemary Lane, only not as affecting. Opening tracks All Gone and Baby Blue float by on a bed of deftly plucked acoustic guitars and hushed vocals, pleasant enough.
It’s Sun Ease Pain, the album’s audacious and all-too-early high watermark, which really showcases James’ talent. Taking in American Primitive-style guitar moves and the kind of vocals that Crosby, Stills and Nash would have traded fringed jackets for, it soon segues into an instrumental passage vividly evoking the pastoral splendour of James’ native West Wales.
¬ The quality continues with Say It Aint No Lie, frail guitars conspiring to create syncopated, saccharine melodies that belie the lyric’s preoccupation with an ambiguous relationship. The over-arching vibe is a kind of wistful melancholy abruptly broken, albeit temporarily, by the incongruous Velvet Underground stomp of Magical Day.
¬ Whether it’s the close-mike harmonies of Rolling Down or earnest thrum of Do You Know the Way to My Heart?, too little of what James has to offer here truly grabs the attention. While by no means a bad record, Pictures in the Morning inexplicably fails to engage as emotionally as you’d expect from a musician of this stature.
¬ Still, in places there are shafts of hopeful light filtering though the fug of tipi-tent-festival-folk, suggesting that James will be back stronger.
© Mary Wycherley
By Janne Oinonen, 19 April 2012
¬ It’s often temptingly easy to believe that those yelling the loudest have the most compelling things to say. Subtlety of expression, slow-burning contemplation and hushed beauty are routinely read as signs of dull introversion. Richard James’ third solo album is fit to batter this daft misunderstanding to extinction.
¬ Pictures in the Morning marks a return to the earthily psychedelic folk-rock of 2006’s excellent solo debut Seven Sleepers’ Den after the noisier, more richly textured terrain explored on 2010’s We Went Riding. Only this time, James has opted to abandon almost all traces of both psychedelia and rock. Consequently, the volume has dropped down to a soft murmur. Built largely on the intricate interplay of beautifully recorded acoustic guitars – listening to the album, it really feels as though you’re in the room with the player(s) – and James’ freshly woken, softly phrased vocals, this is folk music; pure, timeless and borderline allergic to unnecessary adornments.
Pictures in the Morning is also an addition to one of the most overpopulated brackets in the songwriting tradition: the break-up album. Add this to the album’s blanket ban on loud look-at-me antics and its propensity for melancholy introspection, and you’d be excused for assuming we’re faced with a bona fide misery-fest. However, although regret and heartache run rife through the nine tracks, these are nevertheless tunes tailor-made for the bright, warily hopeful morning after the boozy self-pity of the night before has faded. There’s hurt aplenty here, but you can practically feel the sunshine radiating from the gentle, warm melodies that propel most of these tracks.
¬ It’s risky to make music this free of distractions: in the absence of elaborate arrangements, every worn-out chord progression and clunky turn of phrase is immediately exposed and amplified. Thankfully, Pictures in the Morning doesn’t make any wrong moves. Generally speaking, the mood’s best described as the most tender moments of the third Velvet Underground album – due not least to how frequently the guitar patterns reference the classic licks of Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison – transported from the litter-strewn streets of New York to the wholesome beauty of a green valley lit by springtime sunshine.
¬ Downbeat simplicity and bucolic finger-picking dominate, but there are surprises and arresting detail here, too. ‘Sun Ease Pain’ is a free-flowing marathon-length raga-folk workout, whilst the sole “electric” cut ‘Magical Day’ – sparkling with irresistible positive energy – proves good attitude and rocking out can coexist harmoniously. At first, ‘Down to my Heart’ sounds sparse to the point of where it threatens to evaporate altogether, but a few carefully considered additions – a delicate guitar riff, a weepy splash of violin – turn it into a hypnotic highlight.
¬ You might accuse Pictures in the Morning of lacking ambition or fresh ideas. But with tunes the calibre of the opening empty-bed lament ‘All Gone’, you’ve a set of songs arresting enough to make groundbreaking innovation seem like the most hollow gimmick around.
Reviews for We Went Riding:
¬ Mojo: “Brilliantly constructed pop gems from Zygotic Mynci...he’s matured into an inventive songwriter and is long overdue for greater recognition. This second solo album is chock full of perfect pop songs couched in country, Welsh folk and punk flourishes and all with a strong sense of James’s charisma at their core. With songs like these, it can only be a matter of time before the world becomes aware of how talented Richard James is.” 4/5
¬ NME: “Ex-Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci man RJ’s June-bound album “We Went Riding” is set to prove that you can make amazing modern folk music.”
¬ NME: “Former Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci man James is the master of that sort of gently eerie psych-folk whimsy that is to Wales what khol-eyed chilly ‘60s pop pastiche is to Sweden...Definitely hot to trot.” 8/10
¬ The Times: "Richard James...makes the craft of songwriting seem so easy. Anyone wanting to know the secret of the perfect pop song should wrap their ears around the countrified gorgeousness of When You See Me in the Pouring Rain. Amid the gently strummed folk gems James lobs in the odd curveball, such as the scuzzy psych rocker Faces, while Cate Le Bon is Nico to his Lou Reed on the sublime album closer, From Morning Sunshine". 4/5
¬ Freq: "We Went Riding is a warm and irresistible trove of delights that I will continue to listen to over and over for sheer pleasure – and so should you."..
¬ BBC: “an artist who knows when best to stay in the shadows, as well as saunter to the stage, which says much about his musical past, as well as his beguiling present. Long may he continue to take us with him, in and out of the spotlight, wherever he goes. On the strength of this record, it is time for his talents to be recognised in their own right.”
¬ Mercury Music Prize website, album recommendations: "Channeling Welsh Folk music through Psychedelic Rock, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci were quite apart from the rest of the music that helped shape the sound of the Nineties, and as such will always be celebrated as cult heroes. With his new solo material, however, founding member Richard James has struck on something much more accessible, but still just as imaginative. He is joined on this new album by Cate Le Bon and fellow Gorky's bandmate Euros Childs."
¬ Uncut: “It’s been three years since the charming The Seven Sleepers Den, and while this has much the same air of romanticism, there’s a fuller ensemble sound, shaken up by a few more raucous songs, including the rackety “Blues (Hey Hey Hey)”. Overall, James’s forte is blissful melancholy, his sometimes cautious singing bolstered by former bandmate Euros Childs and kindred spirit Cate Le Bon, who sings delightful closer “From Morning Sunshine”.” 4/5
¬ Artrocker: "It sounds predictably fantastic. This lead off single is one of those weird instances where minor chords make you happy: a farewell in the rain kind of affair, tearful but ultimately well-wishing. Welcome back, Mr James." 4/5
¬ iTunes, What's Hot ("You Stop the Rain"): "The co-founder of much missed Welsh indie legends Gorky's Zygotic Mynci returns with a new, weirdly wonderful and typically idiosyncratic new album, entitled We Went Riding. The album features Cate Le Bon and former Gorky's cohort Euros Childs. "You Stop the Rain" is a very lovely ditty with a psychadelic dusting that raises it well above the ordinary"
¬ Miniature Music Press: “We Went Riding is laced with music that stains the imagination, with imagery embroidered in melancholy feeling like a sunset goodbye in Alberta. Frankly outstanding stuff.” 4.6/5
¬ Buzz Magazine: “Ex-Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci bassist Richard James follows the quiet folk loveliness of solo debut The Seven Sleepers Den with the equally lovely but often less quiet We Went Riding. The gentle acoustic tunes are here aplenty, but sit alongside some surprising shots of psychedelic alt-pop...Summer on a silver disc.” 4/5
¬ music OMH: “an explorative, cosy blend of surprising folky-pop hooks... From the off, it wraps you up in a blanket of warmth... Like Gorky's at their best, We Went Riding is upbeat with a sprinkling of melancholy and edges to the left of centre, firing the imagination.” 4/5
¬ Culture Deluxe: “Richard James’ latest offering We Went Riding is one of those effortless, breezy, unexpected pleasures that just happened to come wisping into my ears and into my life.”
¬ Wales Online: "At times raucous, psychedelic and plugged in, at others gentle, folky and countrified, We Went Riding is a fully realised mini-masterwork."
¬ (Also: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/showbiz-and-lifestyle/music-in-wales/2010/05/31/former-gorky-s-zygotic-mynci-man-richard-james-rides-the-storm-91466-26554093/)
© Mary Wycherley © Dicki Darko
PRESS REVIEWS (excerpts):
© Trade Justice Gig London 2005 / Author: Mary Wycherley
|Richard James — Pictures in the Morning (2012)|