Graham Richardson (Last Days) cuts a solitary figure. Whether trading in marine horizons or rolling countryside, this guy has the power to make you feel alone. Or at least make you feel his loneliness. Great scenery has always possessed the power to inspire and humble with equal measure. These Places are Now Ruins has the same effect. This album IS "great scenery".
Last Days came to our attention with his haunting debut album Sea,
and what an unforgettable experience that record turned out to be. Weeks and
months afterwards I still found myself drawn back to its sullen, siren call.
The new album fits nicely alongside Sea as a companion piece
-- more landlocked, yet still evocative of those same emotions that might accompany
a forlorn, introspective voyage. Almost all of the 13 titles allude to travel,
destinations, or stopping points in-between, These are the only literal clues
given (the record remains wordless) as the listener's imagination is left to
provide the storyline. Yet somehow, ….Ruins feels more reflective
than its predecessor. Apprehension takes a backseat to nostalgia this time
….Ruins is a perfect 21st Century testament to the belief that
the most moving and uplifting music is often steeped in melancholy. Richardson
himself describes his work as "cinematic lo-fi" and in this respect I think
he trumps the writers. Cinematic lo-fi fits perfectly. With warm acoustics
and rain blurred loops, Last Days has garnered all manner of (fair) comparisons
with the likes of Deaf Centre, Eluvium, and even Sigur
Ros (The more abstract
movements of their ( ) album are a clear reference). Yet to critically
dissect his music and pick over the composite pieces is arguably missing the
crucial point of Last Days. It hardly matters whether Richardson makes use
of acoustics or electronics, field recordings or pro-tools. Every click and
whirr he employs is there for good reason and not merely out of any urge to
push the technological limitations. Instead you sit back and enjoy each epic
vista the music paints. Like a great author, able to create a landscape in
the mind of his reader, Last Days really puts you THERE, into his world. The
end result is everything to the listener. Yet ironically this is in direct
contrast to the narrative content of …Ruins, in which the journey
is far more important than the destination.
So if These Places are Now Ruins is to the landscape what Sea was to the ocean - rugged, tempestuous and desolate, it makes for perfect listening accompaniment to a remote British winters day. At its most touching, this record serves as a reminder of the fragility of the human soul. At its bleakest, it somehow offers the unlikeliest of comfort and solace. So pull on a chunky, Argyle fisherman's sweater, light a roaring open fire and let your mind wander into Richardson's picture. These places may well now be ruins but somehow, someway everything is going to be okay.