Ryan Vail – Wounds
Ryan Vail never ceases to amaze. Last year Folk and Tumble fell overboard for his collaboration with Ciaran Lavery, ‘Sea Legs’.
This year, we’ve just had a taste of Vail’s forthcoming album, ‘For Every Silence’. Set for release by Quiet Arch on 26th March 2016, the lead single is ‘Wounds’.
If the first cut is the deepest, and if ‘Wounds’ is just an introduction to the over-arching composition, then we can be guaranteed synthetic complexity, integrity, a fusion of sounds and poetry, melody and spoken word, memory and futuristic possibility – where past, present and future juxtapose to revel in secrets and mystery.
Let me explain – Ryan Vail is a contemporary composer, musician, experimental alchemist. Like an eccentric scientist, mixing compounds and chemicals to see what transpires in sounds, the studio is a lab within which every experiment presents a wealth of possibility and discovery.
Imagination runs riot, nothing is ever straightforward, and nothing of artistic integrity was ever produced without a few wounds. Here, the wounded key character is an antique piano with a tale to tell. If that old piano could talk – what stories might it tell? Yet it stands silent, alone with just its thoughts and memories of a time gone by.
Vail gets right inside that old piano and brings it back to life; considers what it might reveal. A melodic synth intro sets the pace, then the piano confides:
Complicated people never spend too much time around me. Alone with my thoughts of being played, that I will never cease. Surrounded by the mystery of who I am and who are you. My keys are here to please, and my strings stuck to my bones.
Then with almost ghostly undercurrents, our friend draws us closer still to whisper:
Overgrown by effigies of everyone I used to know. I’m a shadow of myself growing cold, in my own home. Longer grow the days, and I wait for you. My wood grows old, just like my glue.
By now we’ve fallen under its spell, transported back in time to a previous life – the shadows of historic events that pummelled the past, that changed and challenged ‘the State’ and ‘the Establishment’. Which is precisely what I alluded to above when I said that with Ryan Vail’s eloquent output, nothing is ever what it seems or to be taken at face value.
The thought processes involved are complicated, he is capable of toying and taunting – but what transpires is full of grace. That pop-synth underscore, is over wrought with a most peculiar rhetorical extract. I had to do some searching to find its origin, but seems it’s the voice of the Archbishop of Westminster at the time of the General Strike in 1926 – quite possibly the year this old piano was born – so we are spirited back to a time when Church and State dominate, when the ‘ordinary man in the street’ (not to mention woman) existed to serve and to know his place – which makes it all the more poetic. Here’s an extract of Cardinal Bourne’s outspoken utterances. With perfect received pronunciation, he preaches that:
The time through which we are now passing is of exceptional character and the present strike is of a nature quite unlike any that have preceded it. There is no moral justification for a general strike of this character. It is a direct challenge to a lawfully constituted authority and inflicted without any good reason immense discomfort and injury on millions of our fellow countrymen.
All the while the beat goes on. I’d bet old Cardinal Bourne could never have imagined that his words would end up streamed in this manner, ninety years hence!
You couldn’t make it up – but somehow Vail does just that. The piano has, over time, developed an understanding that only aged wood and glue and strings can reach and its’s this:
Over time it’s clear to me, all I need is love to heal my wounds.
And just like history, it’s set to repeat.
That’s just a taste of what’s to come with Ryan Vail’s album ‘For Every Silence’.