Rivertones 2: The Sea-Road

16 October 2012 // Books //Caught By... //Chris Watson Watch //Miscellany

Robert Macfarlane & Chris Watson: The Sea Road (17.32) Recorded live at Port Eliot festival, July 2012
b/w Granite (7.05) (Watson) /Stormbeach (7.25)(Watson)
Rivertones 2. A 12” single, released November 2012

Undoubtedly the highlight’s of Caught by the River’s summer was an utterly unique collaboration between two of Britain’s most forward-thinking adventurers, author Robert Macfarlane and sound recordist Chris Watson. They had been plotting something special for a few months, a performance piece based on Robert’s book The Old Ways that would blend archive audio, field recordings and spoken word. We put it on stage at our fifth birthday party at the QEH in May and then again at Port Eliot Festival. Robert read while Chris created a bespoke soundbed for the words. The result was eerie, trippy, uplifting, effortless and fantastic. Cut to a couple of months after Port Eliot. Chris Watson sends a jaw-dropping recording of the Port Eliot performance at the exact point we’re scratching our heads about what to put on the next Rivertones release…

Below, Robert Macfarlane explains the story behind The Sea-Road, his collaboration with Chris Watson:

“This is the sound-story of an overnight sea-voyage that I and four others made one August, in an old open boat called Jubilee, to the Scottish Island of Sula Sgeir. Sula Sgeir – also known as the rock – lies far out in the North Atlantic. It is forty miles due north of the Outer Hebrides. It is the jaggy black summit of a submarine mountain, made of three-billion-year-old Lewisian gneiss. It is a shockingly severe place, home only to gannets, seals, skuas and puffin. And it is also the site each summer of a gannet hunt carried out by the men of Ness.

“What Chris and I have wished to capture in this collaboration are those aspects of the journey that were experienced in the event as mood, tone ot rexture, and whose residues are with me still. I have wanted to evoke the abiding wonder of sailing that old boat up that ancient sea-road into that vast and lonely ocean, with Jupiter bright in the sky and a glowing wake of phosphorescence unfurling behind us.

“What follows, therefore might best be imagined as a dream-voyage or wonder-journey: what in Gaelic is called an Immram. In this sense precedents for it might be found in early Celtic sea-stories- the lyric accounts of Mall Duin or St Brendan, say, sailing their hide-hulled boats westwards and northwards, passing out of the verifiable and into the miraculous.”

And over on the other side:
1/ Chris Watson – Granite: A sound-work by Chris Watson, recorded on location in the Cairngorms in response to the Granite chapter in Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways.
2/ Chris Watson – Stormbeach: A sound-work by Chris Watson, recorded on location on Orford Ness in response to the Stormbeach chapter in Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places.

The Sea Road will be available as an extremely limited 12″ on Rivertones. The cover has been beautifully crafted by Nick Hayes (The Rime of the Modern Mariner).

Released on 19th November and now available for pre-order from the Caught by the River shop. Note: all pre-orders come with 320 kbps MP3 files of the three vinyl tracks.

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