David Ian Roberts : Travelling Bright15.03.19 : Cambrian Records
Allegedly recorded at Fieldgate Studio in Penarth in 2017, Travelling Bright must in fact be a long-forgotten classic unearthed from an early seventies time capsule. More specifically the music, with its edge of subtle psychedelia, sounds like it emanates from a pre-punk bohemian bedsit, complete with flock wallpaper, heavy velvet drapes and a half-neglected aspidistra. But the album is not just the outpourings of a lost, languid soul; whilst Cardiff-based Roberts acknowledges the influence of Nick Drake and Bert Jansch, he also often has a quietly upbeat take on life to share.
It would have had to have been a decent sized bedsit, with the multi-instrumental prowess on display; as well as vocals and acoustic guitar Roberts plays electric, bass, slide and 12 string guitars, dulcimer, glockenspiel, kalimba, autoharp, hammond organ, drums, percussion, and piano on the recordings, and is abetted by Kirstie Miller on cello, Daan Temmink on piano, and Aidan Thorne on double bass.
There is intelligence, grace and a certain poetry here; Travelling Bright is an hour long, cinematic double LP, that allows you the time to fully immerse in the music's often pastoral flow. It takes a few complete listens of the album to find its mood in yourself, and for the arrangements and songs to become distinct, then like a ship waiting for the right tide to leave harbour, you are suddenly alone in the moment with it, out on the open sea.
The mood is set by A Million Wind's initial flickering guitar, scant piano chords and soft vocal;
All are free to fall
in the pictures inside.
travelled this far
to be a part of the electricity
of the world."
Sending Out Fires then skips and shuffles with deceptive energy as Roberts sings its opening line, "Days are so thickly sown with thorns, but the rain pours an endless round of applause."
From that point, with elements of jazz and folk deftly brought together, there is a depth, reach and complexity to the music that can't help but bring Tim Buckley to mind; highlights would have to include the epic drift of the title track and the infectious instrumental lilt of Carillon - but each song's effect is cumulative rather than isolated, and that is how the album should be considered.
On that indivisible basis, if there is any certainty in the fragmented world we now inhabit, it is that anyone who ever felt the undertow tug of Pink Floyd's Granchester Meadow, or who knows Pete Drummond's introduction to Dream Letter : Live in London 1968 by heart, will listen to Travelling Bright and be transported for an hour to the hush of David Ian Robert's hypnotic musical imagination.