Goodparley – Meditations Vol. 1

PRESS RELEASE

Meditations Vol. 1 is the new album from Goodparley, the alias of Cardiff-based sound artist Oli Richards. Bathed in a calm but powerful quietude, Meditations Vol. 1 collects together five single-take improvised guitar pieces, each one recorded in the very first waking moments of Richards’ day. These are pieces of great lightness and subtlety, each one unfolding with a gentle, euphoric awareness.

The origins of the Meditations project can be traced back to 2020 with the release of Green Into Blue (Recordiau Prin). The album consisted of three long guitar improvisations selected from around seventy recordings that Richards made in the wake of a relationship breakdown, but which he never intended to release. They were personal moments in Richards’ life, designed more as a practice or discipline than a recording session. Using loop pedals and effects, the recordings that eventually appeared on Green Into Blue were live, unedited and freighted with deep contemplation.

Last year saw four releases from Goodparley – Canvas (Submarine Broadcasting) and Mist, Rain, Dust: Dissected Frequencies (TQN-aut), followed by two collaborations, Enjoying Nature with Poppy Jennings (Strategic Tape Reserve) and Surroundings with Ioan Morris (Subexotic). The upshot of that release schedule, as well as beginning the recording of a second album with his band Silent Forum, was that he barely touched his guitar for most of 2021, something that started to trouble Richards as the year progressed.

“Playing guitar is one of the most meditative things that I have in my life,” he says. “It’s literally a practice of meditation. I do meditate as well, and I also started doing yoga in the pandemic, which came about from struggling with my mental health. However, I enter a flow state the most when I’m messing around with pedals and playing the guitar.” The need to release new albums wasn’t something Richards felt he needed to do, so after a period of reflection late last year, he decided to find time in his day to start experimenting with his guitar again. 

Like many people, the pandemic forced Richards to manage his day job from home. “I’ve never been a morning person,” he admits, “but when working remotely, I soon found out that I needed some time before switching the laptop on and starting work.” To deal with that, Richards constructed a morning routine of meditation, yoga and journaling before starting work. Even then, he realised that he was dozing for ten or twenty minutes after his alarm went off, and contemplated using that time – when most people are still fast asleep – to play. 

“I set up my guitar and amp in front of the window that I tend to look out of when I’m meditating, and I just left it there,” he explains. “It means I’m good to play within 30 seconds of getting out of bed, even though I’m still half-asleep. I switch on the amp, plug in the pedals, plug in the guitar and play. Instead of either dozing or looking at The Guardian website and depressing myself, I’m already in a better mind state. It’s become my favourite part of the morning routine.” The results are imbued with a sort of inquisitive serenity, developing with a natural, unhurried tone; minor imperfections become important components of the way that the pieces unfold; melodies emerge, evolve then dissipate beneath new clusters of notes.

Richards began uploading these private recordings of his early morning practice to Bandcamp in November 2021, five of which are collected on the Meditations Vol. 1 CD. When it came to deciding on an image to upload with each piece, he turned to a batch of secondhand postcards picked up from outside a house in Cardiff. Richards had originally intended to use these as part of an elaborate project involving manipulating recordings of old pipe organs through a Moog Grandmother synthesiser. Instead, the postcards – faded, decades-old images of churches and bucolic landscapes – seemed the perfect accompaniment for Richards’ delicate, overlapping guitar loops. “Doing the improvisation and then taking the picture of the postcard just became an important part of the process,” he says. “I’ve been looking at these postcards for two years since I found them. I intuitively know what they feel like; I know what they look like. In a way, I think they’ve subtly influenced the way I approach the pieces.”

Postcards act as a useful analogue for what Richards is doing with the ongoing Meditations series. A postcard is a private method of communication between two people, yet anyone can turn a postcard over and read whatever has been written there. Similarly, the Meditations pieces began as private moments in Oli Richards’ life which are now available to anyone. Nevertheless, the pieces collected on this CD and those Richards continues to release remain uniquely personal documents of his own meditation, which is why the series is simply titled Meditations rather than a more directive Music For Meditation.

“I would be terrified of setting myself that grand intention of making these tracks so that other people can find solace in them,” he says. “A lot of ego can get into there and that’s not what I was going for. For want of a better phrase, I’m just jamming with myself on these pieces. If someone else wants to use them in some sort of meditative practice, that’s really great.”

Pre-order Meditations Vol. 1 at Bandcamp.

Meditations Vol. 1 by Goodparley is released March 25 2022 by Wormhole World

Press release text: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Mat Smith for Goodparley / Wormhole World

Goodparley & Poppy Jennings – Enjoying Nature

Enjoying Nature is the third album in Strategic Tape Reserve’s Learning By Listening series, “an educational, instructive cassette series designed to bring the information of the world into your home, and your brain.” Previous volumes have focussed on obscure, un-Googleable, audaciously false topics: Orca, Attack! delivered an album about Course Management System Optimization and Simon Proffitt’s Instituto Bangara-Rossa Internacional offered up a sonic handbook for a purportedly widely-played card game.

If Learning By Listening has generally operated with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek, the pairing of Goodparley (Cardiff’s Oli Richards) and Poppy Jennings seems to avoid this, at least musically anyway. The album’s narrative describes it playfully as a “mystical guide to the art of experiencing nature… for both those comfortable with outdoor environments as well as beginners,” and Richards readily admits it was started in jest before eventually becoming more sincere.

Taking the form of a series of delicate and quietly uplifting pieces, Enjoying Nature operates authentically in resonance with the spiritual music oeuvre. Both Richards and Jennings offer ruminative spoken word passages that float on top of the music like guided meditation texts or naturalistic poetic reflections, while Richards’ choice of textures carry a questing, transcendent fluidity. On ‘Walking Each Other Home’, cascading zither melodies wrap themselves around the listener with tenderness, evoking spiritual music landmarks like Laraaji’s Day Of Radiance. The opening track acts as a tribute to the work of Ernest Hood, whose obscure 1975 album Neighborhoods evoked a pastoral quietude that has now been all but drowned-out by the clamour of the modern world.

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Learning By Listening albums are puzzling affairs. They are meant to be enjoyed primarily through a suspension of belief; once you acknowledge the joke, they can be approached as intelligent, artistic collections. Enjoying Nature is, I think, different.

Heard with an open mind, its pieces can be soothing, helpful and restorative. I’ll readily admit that my mind has all too often been closed to spiritual music, and if you’d handed me this tape two years ago I would have found it a difficult listen. Things changed as the pandemic settled in. With the benefit of hindsight, I now see that I experienced a breakdown that I never would have expected. In the hollow void that it left, I found myself urgently in need of something to help me get myself back on track.

The books that I’d tried to read but couldn’t find a way into (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind being the most obvious) and the meditation practice I’d always been too closed-minded and uptight to surrender to – these things suddenly became essential, necessary aspects of my recovery. I found myself in a message exchange with Richards where he recommended Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which I quickly bought and digested far quicker than any other book that I’ve bought in the last ten years. I found myself working with my good friends Gareth Jones and Christopher Bono, first on their Nous Alpha album A Walk In The Woods and then with Christopher on his monumental Circle Of Celebration album with Arji OceAnanda and Laraaji. I found myself open-minded for the first time in my life; more accepting; more understanding of my mind’s wants and needs; more prepared to find ways to heal myself outside of the coping strategies I’d used before.

I see Enjoying Nature as part of my toolkit of recovery. A greater personal compliment to what Richards and Jennings have created with this release I’m not sure I could find.

Enjoying Nature by Goodparley and Poppy Jennings was released by Strategic Tape Reserve on September 24 2021.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2021 Further.

Goodparley – Delay Cycle: Becoming / Sedative Songs

Two new albums from Cardiff’s Oli Richards released over the past couple of months, each intently focussed on the dreamy qualities of drone and reverb. 

Delay Cycle: Becoming is described by Richards as using the power of delay to “mimic the feeling of the repeated and ongoing shedding of emotional skin in the cyclical process of becoming a person”. With that sentiment at its centre, the album is a transcendent, and occasionally turbulent, experience. Across five pieces for guitar and electronics, Richards rarely leaves any sound untreated – small loops of unidentifiable provenance rise up, hang around and collapse in on themselves as delay, and its long decaying half-lives warp their original sonic fabric. 

‘Just A Reflection’ is a case in point, a quiet – yet highly dramatic – rumination that feels like watching the unstoppable aging of a person through the lens of a timelapse camera, its clustered tones feeling like an accelerated heartbeat, even as they descend into a murky fog of shadowy, impenetrable noise. In contrast, the album’s opener, ‘If The Surface Is Fogged Up’, has a reflectiveness that bespeaks of fragile hope and optimism, its splintered guitar tones acting as beatific, shimmering, crystalline splinters. The album’s highlight might well be ‘As A Form Of Grace’, a many-layered exploration of guitar melody that has a lightness of touch, even as it is bathed in psychedelic fuzziness. 

Richards’ album for Wormhole World finds itself in similarly contemplative territory, containing a triptych of pieces intended to soothe restless minds, yet which are frequently punctured by unanticipated moments of feisty noise. These moments act like distractions, like the clustered, insistent to-do lists that can enter the otherwise still mind of even the most experienced meditation practitioner. 

Using a palette of electronics, processed guitar and submerged conversations, Sedative Songs is appropriately named. These pieces are like a warm, enveloping, and much-needed salve, which Richards insists should be best experienced in the dark. If anything, they are more complex than Delay: Reflection, nearing a many-layered almost modern classical state of depth. On pieces like the sixteen-minute opener, ‘Sedative In Spring’, you find yourself following sounds until they dissipate into nothingness, grabbing at the next elusive gesture until it too evaporates into quietude, moments of backward guitar and quiet organ-like drones adding a feeling of inertia and stasis. 

Not for Richards the idea of long tones that stretch a melody out over a glacial timeframe: his approach is more dynamic, using ebbing and flowing layers of sonic interplay as a way of achieving the same, and ultimately calming, effect. Listened to as whole, in lightness or in dark, Sedative Songs is a truly beautiful, thought-provoking and necessary record. 

Delay: Reflection by Goodparley was released September 18 2020 by Recordiau Prin. Sedative Songs by Goodparley was released November 13 2020 by Wormhole World. 

Words: Mat Smith