Peasant by Richard Dawson
Released on Weird World / Domino on 2 June
Review by Ben Myers
There’s a moment in the pastorally-toned ‘Ogre’, the lead track of Richard Dawson’s new album Peasant, when his discordant strumming and cracked vocals shift into a falsetto that sings a nautical poetry in counterpoint to an elegiac chorus of female voices declaring “When the sun is climbing…” Beneath it is a foundation of all manner of other instruments plucked and rattled, and in this moment he summons the scent of salt, the sound of shale shifting in the undertow, the sun playing across the shimmering North Sea like a rising shoal of herring drawn to its warming spring rays. Overhead, a lone seagull hovering between sky and shoreline. The centuries unravel and time slips away.
Yet just beneath the surface of the song is an underlying darkness that is only hinted at, a gnawing anxiety revealed in fleeting glimpses until the choir of ragged voices become hypnotic and siren-like as they lure the listener in with their strange incantation, and it becomes apparent they may actually be singing “When the sun is dying…” while Dawson tells of ebbing tides and summons MR James-esque landscape horror images such “in the face of the cliff, a ghastly doorway”. It’s a song that shipwrecks the mind, body and soul.
It’s this duality between not only light and dark but worlds ancient and modern that makes Dawson such an arresting and unconventional songwriter, and where his possible genius lies…