‘Fragile State’ & ‘Dulcima’ Review: Dutch Progressive Rock Page (English)
4th February 2010
An Introduction to Rhys Marsh And The Autumn Ghost
There is little information about Rhys Marsh available on the internet. Marsh was born in Britain but he is now living in Norway. He is a singer songwriter, multi instrumentalist and producer. On the two albums he released so far, he is accompanied by The Autumn Ghost. Alongside his long-standing rhythm section of Jo Fougner Skaansar (double bass) and Takashi Mori (drums) the Autumn Ghost consists of a very interesting cast of musicians from Anekdoten (Niclas Barker), Anglagard (Mattias Olsson), White Willow (Trude Eidtang), Wobbler (Lars Fredrik Froislie also from White Willow) and Jagga Jazzists (Ketil Vestrum Einarsen; also from White Willow and Wobbler). Rhys Marsh is also a member of Unit together with drummer Takashi Mori.
On his MySpace page he states that his biggest (with a lot of other) influences are Nick Drake and David Sylvian. After listening to The Fragile State Of Inbetween these influences are there, but Rhys Marsh uses these influences to create a style of his own. As the grey colours of the sleeve indicate, on the Fragile State Of Inbetween, Rhys Marsh operates in the melancholic musical spectrum. And Marsh’s voice is a beautiful cross between the above mentioned Drake and Sylvian. But also Tim Bowness springs to mind.
Musically the songs on the album are largely acoustic and are arranged beautifully using guests on violin, cello, flute, pedal steel guitar, mellotron and are based on Marsh’s acoustic guitar and his excellent voice. But the above mentioned instruments, the double bass and drums are used to colour the different pieces. Sometimes Marsh keeps the arrangements sparse like on one of the many highlights of the album I Watched, As You Disappeared. It is a beautiful miniature of a song where Nicklas Barker delivers a shock surprise in the middle. Also on Undone it’s just Rhys Marsh and Nicklas Barker. Other songs have fuller arrangements like album opener Can’t Stop The Dreaming where violin, cello, flute and Mattias Olsson’s analoque electronics are used to great effect. On this song and the three pieces that follow it’s clear that Marsh’s material finds their origins in the pop/singer-songwriters tradition. Especially When All’s Done (with its flute and trumpet arrangement) and Liquorice Kiss are perfect pop songs. There are two longer tracks on the album; Lit By Night and Spoken. Lit By Night has a very nice flute solo by Ketil Vestrum Einarsen and Asa Börrefros as a “Choir of drunken angels”. Spoken is also a beautiful song where Steve Honest adds some haunting pedal steel, although I must say that I have a bit difficulty with Jess Bryant’s vocals on an otherwise strong closer for the album.
The songs on his debut album are very much written from a pop/rock background. But there touches of prog to be heard throughout. Not only in the two longer tracks but also during the short break in the – in my opinion- best track of the album I Watched As You Dissappear. All in all I think there is plenty to enjoy for the progressive rock fan. Especially if you like No Man, Gazpacho and No Sound.
For his second album Dulcima, Rhys Marsh wanted to make an quiet album and failed. As he states on the sleeve notes the songs took on a life of their own. He refers to Dulcima as the cityscaped counterpart to the rural stillness of the debut album The State Of Inbetween. And there is a lot of truth in that. It’s a heavier and darker album than his debut, which is enhanced by the darker sleeve design and it’s also a far more progressive offering. This is immediately apparant from the start as In The Afterglow has a grittier sound. Trude Eidtang delivers some beautiful vocals on this track as well as on the haunting The Frightened Souls. Nine Times Beautiful is another Marsh-Eidtang duet. This track, which has a Arabian feel, again shows that Marsh has moved away from the pop/rock background – it’s a great progressive rock track and definitely more the kind of prog White Willow produces. And this really applies to this entire album, but perhaps not so strange when you consider that Trude Eidtang, Mattias Olsson, Lars Fredrik Froislie and Ketil Vestrum Einarsen all have a White Willow connection.
The longest album on the album The Safety Of All You Know again is an impressive song with some intriguing mellotron use and a heavenly chorus. The song has a jazzy middle part with acoustic guitar and double bass solos – a very impressive track. In Dark, In Light is the nine minute album closer and again features Trude Eidtang. The track opens quietly with Marsh and Eidtang singing but then quickly picks up pace before reaching the beautiful chorus. Marsh delivers a short guitar solo while Lars Fredrik Froislie plays a Hammond and Moog solo (and while he’s at it also adds some celeste and autoharp to the song). The mellotron dominates the second instrumental part of the song before returning to the chorus.
Divide In Silence is one of the albums quieter songs, achingly beautiful with Marsh’s voice only accompanied by ‘tron’ strings and Jo Fougner Skaansar’s double bass. Surrendered is the other albums ballad, piano, Marsh’s voice and a beautiful harp (by Timbre Cierpke) start the song, whilst later on mellotron and real strings (Anna Giddey on violin and Natalie Rozario on cello) form a beautiful pact in the middle and the coda. It leaves the listener breathless. You Never Fall was the albums first single and could easily have been on his debut album. Anekdoten (their most recent albums) springs to mind when I hear this track and again this song is beautifully arranged.
On Dulcima Rhys Marsh’s songwriting is every bit as good as on his debut album, however it is darker, a bit heavier and much much more progressively arranged. The album is varied and has some seriously impressive moments. Although The Fragile State Of Inbetween is a great album Dulcima has more to offer from the progressive rock point of view. And that’s what DPRP is all about.
The Fragile State Of Inbetween : 7 out of 10
Dulcima : 8.5 out of 10