It's been a busy year for Welsh composer and avant garde harpist Rhodri Davies. His recordings provide a pretty exhaustive panorama of the vast expressive potential of the harp combined with his own rigorous sense of pushing the boubdaries of musical form in general. After a series of stunning albums that showcase the electric harp, for this album it's back to basics, with Rhodri playing only an unamplified harp with deliberately limited string configurations- linking the instrument's historical resonances with Rhodri's outre musical vision.
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Much like his friend and fellow traditional music rabble rouser Richard Dawson, ex-pat Welshman Rhodri Davies wrestles with an old music to find something fresh and vibrant in forgotten forms. The harp is, as most of you realise, a thoroughly unwieldly and faintly comical instrument. I tried to find a good joke about the harp online but they were all very poor. Why people choose it to tackle from a young age is beyond me. These are the same types who go free climbing in Peru or do that extreme sport in the freezing cold, crawling through barbed wire tunnels on misty Scottish moors in January dressed in a vest whilst covered in leeches. Nutters.
To be fair to Rhodri, a thoroughly lovely bloke, he appears to be quite nonchalant about this herculean challenge. His improvised works have ranged from somnolent bow-derived drones (and what wonderful funereal cello-like wonder you can coax from this multi-stringed behemoth) to the frantic plucking style which he adopts here on this nicely packaged effort for Newcastle's fine Alt Vinyl imprint (which was once a physical shop that merrily employed the erstwhile Richard Dawson in fact!....and my cousin -Clint) It's a slight challenge to sit through the whole thing sans the visual embellishment of watching a balding Welshman sternly manhandling such a portentous monster but a rewarding one to say the least as you know he's really attempting to put an abstract spin on things whilst keeping in line with the potential musicality of the instrument. It's really interesting basically, not an adjective I'd normally throw into a review of a record containing nothing but harp, harp and more harp.
A much maligned thing in the frantic techno-world we now reside but with Aine O' Dwyer and the massively popular Joanna Newsom also sticking stubbornly to their cumbersome archaic monstrosities, I'm sure there'll be curious records like this released for many years to come.
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