David Ian Roberts : From the Harbour07.08.20 : Cambrian Records
Mid-Wales rooted Cambrian Records carved a niche in the world releasing radiant albums by Toby Hay and Jim Ghedi. David Ian Roberts' second LP on the label will further burnish its reputation.
Recorded under lockdown in Cardiff between March and May this year, From the Harbour has a narrower instrumental palette than its lauded predecessor, Travelling Bright.
If Roberts could only use what he had to hand at home - namely acoustic, electric and 12 string guitars, piano, cello, percussion and bass - there is no evidence that this limited his imagination; From the Harbour is intimate, enthralling and extraordinary.
Together, the nine new songs have a lambent, liminal quality - this is an album that works its wonder best at dusk, when the music and fading light find an alchemic relationship.
There are colours and textures in Roberts' compositions that will spark memories of Nick Drake and the acoustic moments of Pink Floyd and early King Crimson. Yet, his musical voice is bold and distinctive.
Slow Burn is a meditative, stately opener, enlivened with a soaring electric guitar break, followed by the quickening pace of Walker, a joyful celebration of the freedom landscape affords.
Both those tracks showcase Roberts' expansive, understated virtuosity. They also establish a sense of gentle hypnagogic rapture that continues throughout - expressing in sound the drifting unreality of the moments before sleep. Fitting the mood, the lyrics are often soft-focus with quiet poetic heft.
Things move further into slumber with the rippling guitar of Dream A Fallen Angel, before reaching for interstellar limits with an echoing instrumental, Distant Planets.
Almost back to earth, Levitate is both the most delicate and the strongest song of the set, its plaintive chorus immediately affecting. Hold the Line, in contrast, is one of the most instrumentally complex, dense with sonic delight.
Now or Never’s solemnity is marked out with a percussive beat, before two rhapsodic closing pieces.
Red Desert is a straightforward instrumental marvel, conjouring a mental image from title and music alone of sunlight resting on henna'd sand; Took My Time is a quiet, mesmeric acoustic reflection.
David Ian Roberts may have recorded this album in lockdown, but he found an emotional narrative of release; if you have any need for the enchantment of a long life-affirming moment, climb the nearest hill as evening darkens and take From the Harbour to soundtrack the sun as it slips into its own reveries. Lulling magic is guaranteed.
More : David Ian Roberts Website