Canadian multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer Richard Reed Parry is probably best known as an original founder of Arcade Fire. Additional Parry also possesses an impressive body of singular work through his numerous and varied musical collaborations. In late 2018 he released the first of a two-part solo creation “Quiet River of Dust Vol. 1” and on June 21st he releases the complementary second recording, “Quiet River of Dust Vol. 2, That Side of the River”. Both releases offer an insightful view of Reed’s inspirations and aspirations.
Both albums were inspired by Buddhist myths, death poems, British Folk songs and a trip to Japan. This second volume offers up a song-oriented concept album loaded with meditations on the human experience. That experience is a connection with the serene beauty of nature and nature’s indifference to its own destructive power. Throughout the 10 songs on the release Reed’s exuberance, sincerity and breathtaking musical climaxes display his influence on Arcade Fire’s storied output.
Volume 2 was recorded at the same time as Volume 1 utilizing frequent collaborators; guitarist Bryce Dessner, (The National) and Laurel Sprengelmeyer, (Little Scream’s frontwoman) along with his own extensive music instrument command to produce this gem of a recording. Both volumes display Reed’s mastery in conveying his underlying emotional themes. Throughout the release, there is a tension that holds the listener’s interest as the album unspools revealing inscrutability but also open armed revelation. Much of what drives the recording is Reed’s desire to recall, “Being a young musician in an existing musical world, losing his father (a gifted folk artist) at an early age and dealing with the end of periods in his life and beginning again.” This idea is the concept that illuminates the entire proceeding as it flows effortlessly from beginning to end. The release is a lifetime away from the isolated ache of ironic disco that infused Arcade Fire’s last release “Everything Now”.
Volume 2 is a headphones album and that is the best way to truly appreciate the textured beauty offered. “The Fiddlers Way” begins the journey with atmospheric keyboard alchemy loaded with Celtic flourishes. There is an ebullience that immediately reminded me of Bryce Dessner and Sufjan Stevens’ 2017 work on their “Planetarium” project. The end result on the track is a feeling of eternal majesty. “Lost in the Waves” provides the pleasure of encountering Reed’s vocals, which are often overwhelmed on Arcade Fire recordings. The track points out the singularity of personal experience in a sun-dappled daydream accompaniment making it both touching and uplifting. Guitars are introduced to the proceedings with “In a Moment” which explores themes of mindfulness and builds to ecstasy that once again connects to the themes of the album.
The panoramic grandeur of “Where Did I Go” is impressive as the percussion provides the drama on this enveloping offering. The evocative “It’s is All Around You” proposes the idea that loved ones never leave you and that we each are a component of the continuous ribbon of life. The minimalist approach and utilization of flute and piano make this a standout contribution. “Throw a Cup of Water” resonates with gorgeous, arresting harmonies while the lyrics examine eternal questions about loss and yearning. Again and again, Reed infuses his signature approach with Folk and Classical sonics and just a hint of an artsy alternative to make each song irresistible. The final track “Long Way Back” delivers the final euphoric crescendo to the album, the ultimate payoff for the journey completed. This track harkens to the anthematic enthusiasm of Arcade Fire’s now legendary sound as the song signs off with the repeated mantra that it is “a long way back, it’s a long way home.”
For anyone, following Richard Reed Parry’s career, it becomes quickly obvious he is a gifted musician with an embarrassment of riches on his extensive musical discography. He is a brilliant Alternative force who seems almost omnipresent when noteworthy things happen in the Alternative musical world. With the release of “Quiet River of Dust, Volumes 1 and 2” the listener gets a unique opportunity to experience the full power of Parry’s abilities without the screen Arcade Fire has provided in the past for him to hide behind.
Now the wizard is exposed and he is no musical charlatan. The album is by no means an Arcade Fire appendage but at times allows the listener to identify Parry’s fingerprints on Arcade Fire’s songs which alone makes the listening experience worthwhile. Will Volume 2 top the fickle musical charts, probably not, but it is an aural experience that makes the listener all the richer emotional for encountering its powerful beauty.