Solo piano recordings made in the Westjfords region of Iceland.
If there are motifs within Sey's mystifying body of work, one would be an uncanny emotional resonance. Another is a defined sense of place. He's previously been inspired by the Docklands Light Railway as well as the wrenching impact of the Grenfell tragedy, but when he recorded River, he was 4,000 kilometers from London, in the Westjfords region in northwestern Iceland.
Two of the tracks are named for the location where they were written and recorded—"Þingeyri, Vestfirðir" and "Ísafjörður, Vestfirðir." As Sey says in the press release, these solo piano pieces were recorded in February 2020 as COVID-19 grew from a vague threat into a wave that would crash across Europe. Musically, the project feels sympatico with Grouper's Ruins, a solo piano record made while Liz Harris was away from home at an artist's residency. Sey doesn't sing on this record. Instead, he finds solace and expression in the timeless combination of Rhodes and tremolo over five brief tone poems. (They play interrupted as an 11-minute piece on the final track, "River ⟳.") On "Tamesis," a dreamy melody floats over ominous minor-key chords. "Nile" is pretty without feeling ephemeral. River is the sound of an artist working in a breathtaking environment, striving for beauty even as the shadows close in.