Label scribe VH Monks gives a breakdown on the latest label release Chris Riley's expanded re-issue of his debut EP.
Cloudwalking in the Concrete World (again) (NICE005(again))
This EP was already described as perhaps the first NMR re-release when it
appeared under catalogue number NICE005 in 2019, being Riley’s first EP originally
recorded and released in 2004.
And here we are (again), as the repackaged is repackaged to welcome NICE005
(again), with Chris’ recent prolific endeavours under various guises this past couple
of years, stuck under the microscope of introspection to find from whence things not
only came, but also developed, with the addition to this compilation of demos, and
other songs that came about from one band or another in his everchanging musical
(excluding earlier metal up your ass thrashing period, granted)
The original EP covers the first half, 7 tracks starting with the almost epic Something Wonderful. An
acoustic rhythmic rollercoaster, which at a minute and a half kicks in
with these bright shiny kit beats that fall away to a hypnotising bass line drive, thanks
to the brothers Sinclair. Chris’ voice is plaintive and soulful. And then the flute from
Sarah Williams, this two-tone lifting and lighting. Melancholia in the sunshine.
Cabbage White is finger pickin’ good. Genuinely lovely, taking the bones of a
relationship and holding it up to the light. There’s no accompaniment, but it is scene
setting and dives deep. Despite the wintry lyrical surrounds, there is warmth from the
memory and rarity to the moments recalled.
The Fox is an effective number that runs with its hero, the chase amongst the chords
and jazzy bass funk pounding steadily, with groovy electric breakouts and explicit
vocal percussion, and gentle sighing da-da-do-dums bridging to the denouement.
After the chase, the rest. (breather) is a thing of absolute beauty, Nick Drake resting
on a cloud, nature’s behest. A tender interlude, an instrumental haven that slows
your heart and sharpens your mind. The flute brings flashes of brighter rays through
autumn trees in the second half, washing in tandem with Chris’ magical guitar flurry
of falling leaves.
The essence of pagan mystery stirs in The Moon Tune, lines lifted from the Book of
Ruth. Another number with the full rhythm section behind him, and it’s pretty vibrant
with a lot working through its short running time – musical countdown trend as guitar
and bass ring; lilting, longing vocals; shuffling kit percussion; elegiac solo bursting
sprightly; medieval close…
This was originally conceived for his earlier band Mock Fish, a version included as an
extra on this reissue, recorded about a year before. Production maybe sounds
warmer, but the EP version seems more fully realised (as well as carrying an extra
Chris has penned a few modern lullabies, Monday's Song perhaps the first, unfurling
like the day itself. This gentle plucked refrain opens as frets sigh, a reluctant
contentment, his voice joining in a reflective vein, perfectly fitting the solitude, of this
paradoxical coupling. The mouth organ slides from this soulful rebirth, spotlighting
empirically the songman, alone on stage, rested in the comfort of his music as mate
Summer Sun has buoyancy in the strings and a cracking turn of lyrical phrase (“an
overcoat and it’s made out of laughter”). This EP closer shuffles with the blues from
the shadows, sings of hope and learning, comes with bongo percussion that sits
entirely right, proving the instrumental breakaways well composed and thoroughly
These final couple of tracks have their demos included on this expanded edition,
which prove beyond any further shadows that even without the polish and pace of a
studio, the songs meld beautifully in voice and melodies and music; feelings and
chords chime sublime to a sweet perfection.
The other demo featuring here is Precious Touch, equally more playful and sombre
than the Cloudwalking material. It eventually appeared on Riley’s 2009 EP Moments
Stolen Back, a bluesy torch paper wake up song, certainly nudging you to check out
Of the 3 other ‘new’ songs creating the backbone to These Riley Musical Adventures:
The Mandalas were a 2005 outfit featuring Chris, Peter Dinsdale (bass, now with The
False Poets), Iain Davidson (guitar) and Marty Wilkinson (drums). Ode to Bill is a
Neil Youngesque kicker, remembering Hicks. It’s both a heartfelt lament and
ferocious lambast, which very much could have been written today.
Waiting on a Smile is a smoother, more charmed piece, sent on the Captain’s
Moonbeams, exploring the versatility and ideas and range of Riley. It’s sweet,
gentle, elegiac, with a Pearl Jam solo salute.
When Iain left the three became Justroy, and included here is a shaken up Show Me The Way, recorded
later in 2005. A short, punchy sing-a-long, the sparky
rejuvenating lead revolts against this lethargic senseless quagmire we endure. One
of the earliest written in 1997, just after those metal days.
First and foremost, it’s a record about relationships really – with people, with nature,
with yourself – and communicating with each other and inbetween. Which isn’t a bad
place to start.
VH Monks – October 2021