Richard James - Pictures in the morning
With songs as gentle as the rolling hills, metronomic fingerpicking and lyrics that mix storybook simplicity with heartbreaking sadness, Pictures In The Morning is the latest album from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci co-founder Richard James.
Richard’s first solo album, The Seven Sleeper’s Den, was a slow burning collection of love songs and instrumentals sung in English and occasionally Welsh. Somebody said it sounded like the Velvet Underground with the ratio of New Yorkers to Welsh people reversed, and they weren’t far wrong. The follow-up, We Went Riding, presented a more multi-layered, poptastic facet of Richard’s songwriting: “Brilliantly constructed pop gems,” in the words of MOJO magazine. The latest album is a return to quieter, more intimate music. “We Went Riding was fairly densely produced,” says Richard. “This time I recorded most of it live then put a few overdubs on. I wanted to keep space in the songs and through the album.”
Written over two months in the summer of 2009, the album was recorded in two houses in Cardiff with producer/engineer Iwan Morgan. “I record everything now in houses, using every area of the building,” says Richard. “It makes it hard to do drum tracks live but you can do acoustic ones. The album is meant to be quite low key and intimate as its quite personal.”
Born and bred in Carmarthen, West Wales, Richard James formed Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci with schoolmates Euros Childs and John Lawrence while in their mid-teens. They recorded and released eight albums, numerous EPs and more singles, they toured the world and split up when it stopped being fun. They are today regarded as one of the main influential bands in the renaissance of folk, pop and psychedelic music.
Richard now lives and makes music in Cardiff, where he is also involved in curating the musical side of the Laugharne Weekend festival, a literary and sonic extravaganza that takes place each Easter in Wales’ strangest township. His latest venture is a called In Chapters, which staged four events last year including one at Green Man festival. The website, inchapters.com, has event info, writings by acclaimed authors and an EP to download from Pen Pastwn, a new project featuring Richard, Laura J Martin and Gareth Bonello. There’s a 45-track Pen Pastwn album being recorded, and plans to take the group to play in Sudan with the British Council.
Before then, there’s Pictures In The Morning, an album which will be a welcome riposte to those who remember Richard James as the quiet member of Gorky’s, the architect of the band’s softer side. A strong thread of melancholy runs through its nine tracks. “It’s a sad, reflective album mainly on loss and the melancholia of making and repeating mistakes in life,” says Richard, “But I think there’s hope there lurking in the songs too.”