Stories From Elsewhere
Rhian Sheehan’s new album continues his search for higher musical ground, away from the electronica tag that hung over his early work as the first artist to release a full-length album for the Loop label. In fact what is consistent about Sheehan’s music is that each album improves on the overall sonic, each album builds on the ideas first hinted at on the record it follows. But it’s clear that Standing In Silence was a rebirth; a beat-less chill-out music that didn’t actually deserve the marketing-line of being “chill-out music”, a mix of moody Eno soundscapes and the emotional high points of Sigur Ros, with traces of the film composer version of modern classical music – Cliff Martinez and Clint Mansell likely heroes.
In between Standing In Silence and Stories From Elsewhere there was the EP, Seven Tales Of The North Wind. That carried over parts of Silence’s feel but was an altogether different listening experience. Now Elsewhere hints back to Seven Tales while being different again.
Here it’s more pronounced that Sheehan is approaching his music as composer/arranger/conceptualist first, musician second. Calling in again Jeff Boyle (Jakob) for the crucial tonic, using the strings from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for some Richter-esque rising swells. And there are vocals here to assist the emotional climax. Once again the music builds, starting out with almost naive tinkering in and around a worldview that’s best seen via the telescope; you can imagine that Sheehan imagines his elsewhere as being so many worlds away and this is the ethereal soundtrack he’s created, these are the field recordings he’s shaped with Raashi Malik (Rhombus), Andy Hummel (Rosy Tin Teacaddy), Ryan Prebble (The Nudge) and Steve Bremner (The Adults) helping also to twist the sounds.
The influence of Sigur Ros and Helios is obvious; touchstones for Sheehan since Standing In Silence and its live reworkings.
But where Silence was stoic and sombre, Elsewhere is more playful, there are rock-out moments and on Nocturne 1985 it’s as if Jan Hammer is on hand to break the mood. There are more moments that take the breath away on the new album. It constantly wows. It moves through more moods. Its journey is bigger.
Ultimately Stories From Elsewhere might seem less cohesive than Standing In Silence but I hear it as more expressive, the screen is wider, the lens captures more. Standing In Silence was reflections on the same shot; the same scene. This is a series of vignettes, they take their power from working together as separate vestiges, different feels, different focuses.
As such I think it’s the finest thing Rhian Sheehan has done (so far). I like that he improves with each album – and redefines his sound with each album. Stories From Elsewhere contains so much heart and soul. It has the power to blow you away.
To hear a sample click here.