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Ernest Hood - Neighborhoods Music Album Reviews

A newly reissued private-press curio from 1974 captures the bygone sounds of daily life in Portland, Oregon, in dreamy, proto-ambient form.
In 1975, the Portland, Oregon, musician Ernest Hood pressed his lone solo album, Neighborhoods, in an edition of a few hundred. He passed out copies primarily to friends, and the album, a curious blend of found sounds and proto-ambient, disappeared into the Pacific Northwest mist. Newly reissued by Freedom to Spend (in a much improved pressing, spread across two discs), it’s not the first such rarity to be pulled from the ether in the 21st century, as YouTube’s algorithm accumulates millions of plays for once obscure jazz and new-age records. But it might be the most uncanny, an album that kindles a sensation not unlike watching home videos of your own childhood.

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Red River Dialect - Abundance Welcoming Ghosts Music Album Reviews

Animated with a new intensity, the Cornwall band’s fifth album may be its most ingenious and immersive mix of folk and rock yet.

Midway through “Salvation,” Red River Dialect’s headlong foray into psychedelic folk-rock, David Morris yelps out the words, “Iced coffee brain freeze!” It’s an odd moment, marrying a mundane idea with swirling fiddle and a relentless wah-wah guitar, and for that reason alone it could be easily parodied. It’s also a captivating moment, one that anchors the song’s loftier subjects to the everyday world and reveals something essential about Morris as a songwriter and bandleader. Red River Dialect are fascinated by tactile sensations, whether it’s the sharpness of hot metal against your hand or the soft tension of a piano key under your finger. When Morris shouts about brain freeze, you hear the band work together to evoke the chilly stab of adrenaline.


Such physical sensations are important, as they ground the earnest spiritual inquiries animating the Cornwall band’s inventive folk-rock songs. Morris is the son of an Anglican priest; as a teenager he found Buddhism through the Beat poets and went on to work as an interfaith adviser at the University of Westminster in London. Immediately following the sessions for Abundance Welcoming Ghosts, Red River Dialect’s fifth album, he decamped to Nova Scotia for a nine-month stay at Gampo Abbey. The music and the monastery visit may serve the same purpose, as Morris has regularly seeded Red River Dialect songs with spiritual insights and observations. “May I welcome joy when it comes near,” he sings on the jazzy, Pentangular “My Friend.” “May I also laugh about but never doubt it.” There’s a quiver in his voice, slightly more suppressed here than on previous records, that makes the lines sound less like lessons and more like reminders to himself.

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Perhaps because the band knew Morris was going to disappear for close to a year, or perhaps because they spent so much time touring behind 2018’s Broken Stay Open Sky, these songs possess a new urgency and intensity. There’s an electric tension to “Blue Sparks,” with piano notes that sound like the hooves of a galloping horse. Even a slower, quieter tune like “Two White Carp” sounds barely contained, as though the players might burst out of the Welsh landscape as Morris paints it. In the tradition of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, who mixed traditional English folk songs with contemporary rock sounds, Red River Dialect understand the importance of a solid rhythm section: Drummer Kiran Bhatt and bassist Coral Kindred-Boothby play with a jazzy sense of invention that makes “Snowdon” sound like it’s powered by an invisible engine.

Abundance Welcoming Ghosts may be the band’s most ingenious and immersive mix of folk and rock yet, but it’s also Morris’ most compelling set of songs. He invests small sensations with outsize power, finding joy in sensory pleasures as well as in the mystical inquests that music allows. “Oh, a piano,” he sings on “Piano.” “Open the lid, play a single note, and look out through a new window.” Even as the record is steeped in the long history of British folk music, that balance of the tactile and the spiritual anchors these songs in the present moment.


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