Published on 19th December 2015
Rhys Marsh – The Black Sun Shining
Without wishing to cover old ground and to answer the question “who is Rhys Marsh”, I’d recommend reading my reviews of the beautifully realised Heartbreak In ((Stereo)) album by Mollmaskin, and also Rhys’s prior solo album, Sentiment. I really was massively taken with both of these albums. Once you’ve read the reviews then you might sense that I am somewhat intrigued by Rhys Marsh.
Rhys says this album of seven songs is meant to be listened to as one piece of music. SO that is what I have done, with the exception of Wondering Stars as this has been released by his label, Autumnsongs, as a video so I have listened to it as a standalone piece. Rhys mostly recorded the instruments in one take as soon as the parts were written and as a result there is a spontaneity to this album. He described the album as a “stream-of-consciousness frenzy that suddenly overtook me one week in July”.
Is this a reprise of sounds from his earlier work? Well, in some ways it is, but then, you might argue that it is part of the Rhys Marsh brand’s identity. Wondering Stars is very much the track I would say is most representative of Rhys’s music yet it is not my favourite from this album and I don’t think it is wholly indicative. Tracks almost segue into each other in places and we are treated to some great ambient noises and rich tones in Rhys’s choice of instrumentation, which is pretty extensive. Was that Fender Rhode, slide guitar and Bontempi?
What other bands does it sound like? I think it is much more useful to ask what the music reminds me of, even if this is more subjective. It also means you can’t argue with me because even if you are not reminded of Depeche Mode, Bauhaus and Dali’s Car you can’t say that it doesn’t remind me of those artists. Now I can go mad and let it remind me of anything and you can’t stop me – HAH! In places I am reminded of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy. Rhys uses his distinctive, stylised crooning vocals to express his musicality more akin to the Thin White Duke than to the angry vocal style of, say Chester Bennington. Rhys doesn’t scream his message in your face like the archetypal nihilistic rocker. He’s far more seductive.
So yes, this is more Art Rock than Rock ‘n’ Roll. This is not about catchy hooks although some of the musical passages will stay with you, you have to want to listen to appreciate it. This appeals to the cerebrum but there is a heaviness in places that is pure rock, like the drums in Soothe The Fear. This track has a little bit of everything thrown in and it could have been disastrous for that, but it is like a mini-symphony of the sinister, a high calibre aural version of a psychological thriller. In the Summer Light closes the album with a track that juxtapositions the somewhat sad musical phrasing against a curiously positive lyrical message.
Any of this music might be criticised as somewhat self-indulgent, Rhys all but says this himself. There’s a danger here as what happens when there’s no one to tell you to stop? Well, if that results in something that I would rather hear than some of the factory produced pap that appears in the charts then I say let’s have more self-indulgence!
The Black Sun Shining isn’t as polished as the aforementioned albums. There is a rougher edge to this one but I like that! It is probably a result of the rapid recording process but you can’t beat a bit of spontaneously created, visceral music that has the power to move you, if you’ll let it.
Some artists make music to express humour, or their beliefs. Some use it as a medium for storytelling, some to express their angst. Some artists make music to impress the opposite sex, some use it as a canvass and hint that it should be taken seriously, like a piece of art. Some capitalise on all the above just to make money (and you, discerning reader, can spot the hollowness of this approach). We consumers want to treat music like a pick and mix. But it is more like a Lucky Dip. You have to want to listen to some music and decide whether it is cough drops or jelly beans. I like this album. Yes, perhaps One Step Inwards, with its Faith–Pornography-Cure-like relentless drums, is a little on the long side (and there’s a certain irony in the title given Rhys’s back-story to the making of) – but there’s depth and texture here, seasoned with Rhys’s trademark melancholic crooning.
I would say that if you enjoyed the first solo album then this is definitely worth getting.
01. I Hear, I Know (6:31)
02. Down To The Waves (3:34)
03. Wondering Stars (4:39)
04. One Step Inwards (6:59)
05. Find Another Way (5:24)
06. Soothe The Fear (11:51)
07. In The Summer Light (3:25)
Total Time – 42:23
Written, performed, recorded mixed & mastered by Rhys Marsh, at Autumnsongs Recording Studio, Trondheim, Norway.
Instruments: Voice, Rhodes Electric Piano, Electric Guitar, Yamaha CS-10, Bass Guitar, Drums, Percussion, Zither, Flute, Saxophone, Drum Machine, Electric Harmonium & Pedal Steel Guitar