Sunday, 28 January 2018

Album: Robert John Ardiff - Between the Bed and Room

Robert John Ardiff - Between the Bed and Room

Info: The album was recorded in the boxroom of my house, the Cultural Centre Irlandais in Paris and in Little Gem recording studio with Andy Walsh. They were mixed by Ken McCabe (Come On Live Long, Loah, Fehdeh, Zaska). 

I wanted to create something that sounded like it was made by a human sitting in a room playing songs. I limited the recording process to 12 tracks per song and used all analog gear like the synths, the acoustic instruments and the tascam 12 track onto which everything was recorded. The results are lo-fi but I feel I have achieved what I set out to do. 

The songs are ones that I have carried in my pocket for a long time. Some of them are about growing up in a small Irish village, while others explore themes of love, betrayal and understanding. 

So Meath solo act Robert John Ardiff describes the process and goals he had when setting out to record his debut album Between the Bed and Room which was released this week. I'd listened to the album a few times before I read his description above, and the first thing that struck me from the very beginning and throughout the album was how bare it was, and this was a relief to me. Avoiding clutter and temptations in production seem to be a bit rare these days, and sometimes your mind just wants to hear something unclad. Of course the risk with this approach is that over 10 tracks this may become tedious, thankfully that is not the case here.

Opening with a Deep South gospel number in 'The Sun Don't Shine', Ardiff immediately disarms you and allows your shoulders to drop, it's the first hint of his vivid and descriptive lyrics which paint colour onto the musical canvas. Second track 'The Fall' has a slight Villagers feel circa their 2010 debut Becoming a Jackal, and it's a gorgeous moment which is executed perfectly, simultaneously haunting and comforting.

'Crawl Out of Your Hole' shows how the artist's subtle layering can bring an invigorating glow to proceedings, mainly delivered via the percussion tracking and static fuzz of the guitar as the build-up grows. Another slice of true beauty and lo-fi sauntering harmonies arise on 'Your Ghost', only four tracks in and we have range already. There's poetry in them there lyrics too, 'Summer (Carry The Coffin)' being possibly the most overt nod to Ardiff's experiences in his hometown village. Lines such as; "So carry the coffin or the corpse will walk, a secret's never sacred when the birdies talk, and the windows blink and the curtains shout, there's beauty in the words that come crawling from your mouth", encapsulating how everyone knows everyone's business, and that favoured past-time of gossiping. 

'Magpies and Crows' has a very interesting jazz-blues sound on it's intro, and here I'm reminded of a mixture of Richard Hawley's Late Night Final and a small sliver of Bon Iver. A firm favoured which was featured here last year is previous single 'Paint Your Nails', Robert John Ardiff at his most haunting and pained. At the time I referenced Sufjan Stevens' Carrie & Lowell, and I suppose the reason I'm mentioning all of these artists I'm hearing in my head is because I love them all, and their albums, and as a result it makes perfect sense to me that I'm enjoying Ardiff's sound so much. These aren't blatant comparisons or overly noticeable by any means.

Between the Bed and Room concludes with a sunshine moment via the delightfully endearing 'Yoga Pants', we don't feel like we're being shown a vision of a rural Irish getaway, the music makes it feel far more exotic and balmy than that. Hats off to Ardiff for this debut album, there isn't a bad song in there, there is no 'making up the numbers' just for the sake of pushing out an album, every song stands on its own and is highly enjoyable, and it was a journey I really felt a part of from start to finish.

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