Rich Brown wanted to draw a line under what was intended as a lockdown project, and having had enquiries about them, decided a CD—his first physical release—would do exactly that.
Revisiting old songs with a tweak here and there, plus adding three completely new, Down and out to sea contains ten tracks, all of which were recorded, mixed and mastered in Rich’s own home studio; a place that started as a duvet fort and has become something producing sound that one would be hard pressed to realise hadn’t been recorded in a real studio with all the engineering and mastering that goes with it.
Four of the songs from my last Rich Brown review—Three Chords in my Hand / Let Me In / Walking the Straw Dog / The Kraken—feature, and so of course the same image of a pub is conjured: polished mahogany, a group of friends sat in comfortable deep chairs, laughing and drinking golden brown liquids from crystal cut glasses that twist light from an out of view fire into a mesmerising kaleidoscope of kinship hearty and warm . . .
With the tweaks comes a thicker honey, juicier fig; a new layer to that conveyed before. The friends have met again, the same stories are told, the same hands raise glasses; the same voices laugh, only now harder and deeper, with more intent and vigour. The wiped at tear escaping from the corner of an eye heavier, not part of the mirth.
The question of why is a brief one, the new feel to those known songs bringing home the brilliance of the album, for it alone conveys the friends’ knowledge it’s the last time they’ll meet long before the I’m-not-crying-you-are track seven Long Way Home couldn’t be any metaphorically clearer and then track eight, St Ives, beautifully makes no bones.
This is the final telling of personal fables holding them in tight camaraderie for so many years. The closing breaths on speaking them in the presence of people part of them; the only ones who can confirm their roles and so the truth these stories hold.
In the last review I found much speaking allegorically against the grievous damage done the planet (Rich has good reason to champion this cause, and if the photographic evidence is anything to go by, it might not be entirely accurate to say he did all this alone). This time it seems I underestimated that group of friends and their relationship to the Sylvania and fires.
Gods looking down on Earth knowing that after all the seemingly endless aeons passed their time will be equally done as ours. Their great feats and tasks etched in lore useless now, for having bestowed the lessons thought necessary they relinquished their power so that we might have guardianship of Earth. Only for humanity to take the helm as ownership, blindly pointing the good ship Third Rock from the Sun at the nearest row of jagged rocks without a care beyond sitting back to enjoy the ride.
Down and out to sea is a lot more too, a showcase of Brown’s immense range with the drive and energy of a live show. St Ives in everyway feels a fitting finale to all that’s gone before, only for a glorious two song encore to follow; one of being track nine, Marching for Peru; an accurate account of Spain’s invasion led by Francisco Pizarro that could quite easily be the soundtrack to a chapter of Voltaire’s Candide such is its delicious upbeat irony.
I’m taken by the cover art too; see it as the inner self questioning a presented exterior. Despite essential differences, it reminds of Dead Leaves by Remedios Varo, both in meaning and the converse sense of unsettling tranquillity it gives me.
Along with the manufacture and packaging it’s—incredibly—the only thing Rich can’t take credit for. Coming across the image online, he found it impossible not to stop and appreciate, subsequently reaching out to artist Sarah Thompson for permission to use.
Sarah describes the piece as ‘my first attempt at unmasking, in expressing “who have I become, at the expense of who I am?” ’
Having looked at some of Thompson’s other pieces (three shown below), it’s surprising to read Sarah, who is from Western Sydney, Australia, describe herself as a ‘hobby artist’ when I was expecting to find a link to the likes of Eyes on Walls attached to her Insta bio.
In The Medusa Protocol, Medusa conveys Plato’s view of art—which might be summarised as it being a bad imitation of what is already that and therefore of no value—not simply to consider the idea, but also as metaphor for her trauma.
Much of Sarah’s work brilliantly encapsulates all aspects of this: vividly representing a sensation associated with trauma by purposefully not being superficially precise; and in the case of palpitations without ever stepping outside of precise images either.
I wonder what Plato might’ve made of them, try to give him a break on account of the art he was critiquing and when to make his point about truth; yet it was his pupil, Aristotle, who wrote: ‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.’
tumultuous captures a dazed look that alone with the coffee could be reaction to seeing the bank balance after a hard night out. The searing white, though, leaves no doubt of absolute chaos reigning within, a shock the system can’t make sense of stunning the body into a feeling of stark isolation. Outer calm and inner turmoil, the dual nature of trauma; the ever increasing heat escaping through the steaming mug into finger tips not even close to registering. A moment of time caught shifting: old reality meets new; the world will never be the same again and for far the worse too.
strobe lighting shows the variation to be found in Sarah’s work. It made me smile by instantly creating the image of a poster for a film made in the past, while set in the future, in which a dystopian Logan’s Run type society has fashioned everything on a dark version of those posters featuring animations of women with bright hair and make-up the once high-street chain Athena used to sell in the 80s. I would definitely go see that film!
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Part of the DIY ethic has meant Rich having to finance the CDs up front. There might be another run down the line, but for the moment consider these extremely limited edition, for either way first run will always be that. A digital version can be purchased from bandcamp here; but for the real deal contact Rich direct via one of the following:
More of Sarah’s art can be found on Instagram here.
My thanks to Rich Brown for the opportunity to review this incredible album; and likewise to Sarah Thompson for permission to share some of her amazing art and offer my opinion of.
Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan
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