Beach Comber: Parting Cuts review – A gift to the world
Singer / Songwriter
As far as wedding presents go, having an album written and recorded in your honour sure beats a toaster or an ornamental letter opener. When the gift giver is songwriter and musician Rory Friers, that makes it all the more special.
Friers is best known as the co-founder and phenomenal guitarist of Belfast alt-rock heroes And So I Watch You from Afar, but this solo project is a million sonic miles from the blazing inferno of epic rock noodling that band is known for.
Of course, it’s not the thirtysomething’s first musical about-turn; in recent years he co-composed the soundtrack for Irish horror film The Cured, and has also dabbled in electronica with another solo project, Thrash Hat. Now he has adopted the moniker Beach Comber, with Parting Cuts that aforementioned wedding gift for his sister Ciara and her husband, Dara.
Parting Cuts was recorded and produced several years ago in a remote farmhouse on the Antrim coast, with only his guitar, his laptop and a “box of stuff to shake and bang” for company. The intimate setting lends itself to the personal nature of these songs; they wouldn’t have sounded quite as compelling or charming with a slick studio-honed glossiness.
Instead, Friers adopts a lo-fi approach for this short collection that is more in line with the likes of Sufjan Stevens or Mount Eerie. He takes us on a journey of Ciara and Dara’s year-long trip around the world; the stately marching beat of the title track glistens with promise as their adventure begins; and Two Set Sail’s cantering pace sees him filter his voice into a near-falsetto as they launch into their voyage with a giddy canter.
Friers sets the scenes of these vignettes brilliantly, often without the addition of lyrics. The rich, rollicking guitar on the instrumental South Pacific evokes the shimmer of sun hitting the ocean without a single world; his work on soundtracks is audible on songs such as this and the gloopy tinkle of xylophone on the mellow Kickin’ Back in Saquarema.
On album highlight Two Do Battle with the Mountain (So on You Go), his delicate harmonising gathers pace amid mentions of avocados and hummingbirds, building to a wonderful folky cacophony. The tautly strummed Driving on My Own is abundant with handclaps and a frenetic energy, while A Strange Christmas (Tell Us that You’re Fine) has a yearning sense of melancholy, framed by the highs and lows of their year away from home.
It may have been written for a specific occasion, but like all the best pieces of art, this lo-fi, artfully disordered album has a universal charm.