Robin Richards, principle composer in the band Dutch Uncles, announces Castel, his debut solo EP, out 6th December 2019 on PRAH Recordings. A stunning six pieces, Castel draws on everything from Gregorian chanting to Steve Reich-esque minimalism and rhythm-led musique concrète.
Robin Richards: "'Toompea' is set during the Estonian fight for independence, and is an exploration of the impact political that Soviet oppression in the Baltics had on native artists in the 70s and 80s. It's written in three movements, and named it after the ancient castle which houses the parliament of Estonia."
The first movement evokes the experiences of Estonian artists working in secret behind the backs of the oppressive Soviet regime. The second represents the hope felt during the peaceful political demonstration of 1989, the Baltic Way, where two million people held hands across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The piece culminates with a dramatic third movement, depicting the final turbulent years of Soviet control, the dissolution of the union and closes with a sense of introspection mirroring the country’s mood upon regaining its independence after over 60 years subjugation.
The "Toompea" video starts with the director, Nick Middleton, flying to the island of Orkney with a documentary crew. As the tension builds in the music, visions from the director's imagination flash by in ecstatic montage.
"I think stone circles show us how much we don’t know about where we’ve come from," says Middleton. "Experts talk about portals and extra-dimensional gates and, whilst I don’t necessarily agree with them, I like the idea that our imaginations can take us to those places. I definitely feel an atmosphere around those places, maybe it is just that link with the past, the “shadows of forgotten ancestors”.
Elsewhere on the EP, there is another track inspired by an Estonian composer. “Arvo” consists of precisely 1978 beats, a nod to the year 1978 when Arvo Pärt created his seminal piece Spiegel im Spiegel. Interestingly, the one-take piano part that flutters through suitably minimal string accompaniment works as a palindrome: it’s the same backwards as forwards and is mirrored in the middle.
Richards' artist in residency role at the Gefail Yr Ynys forge in Caernarfon, North Wales is another great influence on the release, spawning the eponymous "Gefail Yr Ynys" (a heavily percussive industrial piece made from samples of a blacksmith at work), and two entirely vocal-led Welsh language songs, “Cofi” and “Llongau Caenarfon”.
3. Gefail Yr Ynys
6. Llongau Caenarfon
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