Bear’s Den – Red Earth & Pouring Rain
Recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales – the site of Queen’s recording of Bohemian Rhapsody – the new album of Bear’s Den, Red Earth & Pouring Rain, was purportedly inspired by film director Robert Altman, artist Edward Hopper and author Raymond Carver. Such muses are not easy to live up to; however, it is an impressive compilation, combining folk, techno, and various shades of rock, with an ambiance maximised by producer Ian Grimble.
This time minus guitarist Joey Haynes, the album shows an evolution from the band’s folk roots to a combination of retro folk rock and eccentric electronic style that contrasts to their previous acoustic record, Islands. According to multi-instrumentalist band member Kevin Jones, “A good metaphor for the mood is the idea of driving forward while looking in the rearview mirror.”
Lost love, grief, regret, and escape are themes throughout, and lead vocalist Andrew Davie’s lyrics are intimate and personal. Reminding at times of Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits, Don Henley and the Eagles, there is a clear 80s retro feel to this album, fine-tuned and updated with ethereal, rhythmically incandescent techno components.
The title song, Red Earth & Pouring Rain, with its lovely, uplifting, romantic intro and ethereal synth harmonies and choral vocals, ignites hope for an inspiring album. Delivering in terms of outstanding melodies and lyrics, it falls slightly short in variation.
Emeralds contains polished, stylish instrumentals and combines folk rock, faintly far-eastern chords and a Springsteen sound. With passionate, emotive writing, classic-rock spirit, and strong guitar riffs and percussion that blend together perfectly, the upbeat Dew on the Vine is heartfelt, as is the soft-rock Roses on a Breeze, but the latter is darker, more melancholic – Davie’s focus on detail and his ability to create emotional empathy is ingenious.
Fortress reveals character, uniqueness and atmosphere with ghostly riffs, an adventurous melody and 70’s folk rock style. A stunning, tender piece about losing one’s sense of identity, the lovely Gabriel was written by Davie on the banjo during a three-week stay in Holland, before he infused it with the electronic synth. Napoleon’s unusual instrumentals and vocals are well put together, but aurally jarring, and comprise a strange finale to an otherwise harmonious collection.
While Red Earth & Pouring Rain has its uneven points, it is, on the whole, a beautiful, moving work.
Red Earth & Pouring Rain is released on 22nd July 2016, for further information or to pre-order the album visit here.
Watch the video for Gabriel here: