Avant-folk magician Richard Dawson has spent his entire career pushing boundaries. 2019’s Peasant or 2021’s Henki (in collaboration with Circle) brought his neo-medieval visions to a wider audience.
2022’s The Ruby Cord makes sure that new listeners leave thinking Dawson is either playing some kind of joke or he is one of the few genuinely unique artists making music today --- which he is. The atmosphere of this album is extremely unique, lyrically fusing visions of the far gone past with a technologically advanced yet-to-come future.
Album opener “The Hermit” is 40 minutes long, roughly half the length of the entire album. It’s a monumental piece that asks a lot of the listener, but rewards patience with its stately beauty. That being said, it’s definitely very long, and the extended intro and outro require a lot of patience. If you do listen to it, having the lyrics in front of you is recommended, as is recommended for the rest of the album. Those not already converted to Dawson might find this listening strategy more accessible.
The high mark of the album is the three-run track that begins with “The Fool," a shorter track with some of the most varied and dissonant instrumentation. Next is “Museum," a lyrically sparse track that builds to an instrumental crescendo. This run concludes with probably the album’s best song, the mysterious “The Tip of an Arrow," a song which successfully melds ancient-sounding music with synthesizers.
Overall, The Ruby Cord is one of the finest works yet by a singular artist. Recommended to any fans of folk music or lyrically interesting music.