Richard Ginns’ latest work “Fall, Rise” is his first since his release for Cotton Goods back in January of this year. Like its predecessor, “Fall, Rise” finds Ginns quietly mining filed recordings to weave a tapestry of sounds both weightless and effervescent.
Listening to “Fall, Rise”, I had a realization as to what makes Richard Ginns’ music work. It was a similar epiphany as to one I once had a few years back pertaining to the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. For those unfamiliar with the film, the monolith is a large black, rectangular object that appears early in the film. As the film opens, we are following a group of early hominids before the dawn of man.
When the monolith appears, it appears out of nowhere, upsetting the group of hominids. But why the hominids are so upset by the monolith is not made explicit. Knowing Kubrick, I knew the monolith was symbolic but couldn’t quite figure out what it was a symbolic of. Then it occurred to me that the monolith was simply the antithesis of nature: pure of colour and pure of form, it was not natural. I say this realization reminds me of Ginns’ work because something about these compositions tends to celebrate the natural world in a way that gives them far more reverence than is frequently heard by most artists that embrace field recordings.
A lot of artist that dabble in field recordings or found sounds simply marry those natural sounds with structured instrumentation and the field recordings end up feeling like somewhat of a side note. Frequently, the intent of capturing those organic sounds of everyday life or nature is driven by an interest in capturing the sounds that surround us that we tend to ignore or take for granted. However, the process then involves structuring those sounds so that they nicely integrate into the ordered nature of a song. One of the things that makes Ginns’ work standout is that he seems to let the organic elements play as much of a guiding role as the actual instrumentation. There is little interest in repetition or even overt melodies – everything is a plucked guitar string here, a few toy piano keys pushed there. It’s almost as though Ginns’ blank canvas is filled by a mood first; from there, every brush stroke, every note must service the mood of the piece above all else.
As for the actual specific narrative that informed the creation of “Fall, Rise”, Ginns describes being stuck in whiteout conditions and the “fear” of not being able to make it home again. It’s appropriate then that Ginns lets nature drive the sounds that move the album along. What is surprising however, and what gives the album it’s charm, is that it’s such a bright, serene album. It’s almost paradoxical really; it implies a sense of surrender to nature. But, again, that seems fitting of Ginns’s whole project as a musician. And there is a brightness and quiet optimism that tends to always exist in his compositions.
To give a song-by-song breakdown of the album is to do it a disservice. Again, it comes back to the fact that Ginns lets the ebb and flow of the natural world guide his compositions. Ginns always chooses to leave the edges a little blurry both within songs and between songs. The music is never about building to a “moment”, it’s about collecting a series of moments. There’s an almost observational quality that seems to go into the actual creation of the music that refuses the kind of structured order
that one might find in rigidly composed music. As such, it’s almost possible to strip the individual compositions out of the context of the album as a whole.
But is it right to go through an entire album review without highlighting a single song title? Then how about focusing on second last piece “Drifting, Almost Covered” which features David Andree. It’s a strong composition. Maybe the album’s loudest and most grand in terms of gesture. It flirts with darkness more so than any other piece on the album. As for the collaboration; does it seem to upset the balance of the world Ginns has created so far? Only as much as it deserves. Yes, Andree’s presence is observable, but it never dominates the composition and it certainly does not take precedence over the sounds of the natural world that fill the musical space.
So with all this talk of how Ginns has a knack for standing back and playing observer in his own compositions, is it fair to say that “Fall, Rise” might be his best work to date? That may be pure subjectivity, but there’s a certain focus and refinement that balances the album’s impressionistic qualities with its melodic strokes that finds him really hitting his stride on this release.