Caught by the River

The Sea-Road: Revisited

19th October 2018

After recommending Robert Macfarlane’s latest radio show yesterday, we thought today might be a good day to revisit The Sea-Road: Robert’s EP collaboration with Chris Watson, which we pressed up as our second Rivertones release way back in 2012 (with a beautiful cover by Nick Hayes).

This joint project of two CBTR greats is a recording of a performance piece based on Robert’s book The Old Ways, blending archive audio, field recordings and spoken word. It was recorded live at Port Eliot Festival.

Robert explained the story behind the EP thus:

“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.”

Side 2 of the record features a further two tracks:

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.

You can listen to EP via Soundcloud below:

Having recently found a couple of stashed-away boxes of The Sea-Road, we are currently selling vinyl copies of the EP for the bargain price of £8.00 in our online shop, while stocks last. Buy your copy here.