Across The Water, released today as a Bandcamp exclusive, is the first solo album proper by Carwyn Ellis. Aside from one or two exceptions, it’s a stripped back, mostly piano & vocal album, far removed from his psych pop records with Colorama or his recent Latin American excursions with Rio 18. Recorded with Edwyn Collins and Jake Hutton at Collins’s studio in Helmsdale, the album has a strong message — as Carwyn puts it:
“This album is dedicated to the brave people who’ve crossed the oceans across the millennia in search of a better life – people to be admired and respected, not vilified and scorned. And it is dedicated to the memory of the many who tried but did not make it, but hopefully found peace instead.”
The music itself is concerned with the imagined voyage of a migrant traveling in search of a better life — their hopes, fears, the dangers, sadness for those who did not make it, and the fate that awaits them when they do reach their intended destination. The record is predominantly focused on the route between northern Africa and southern Europe but could be applied to any of the perilous routes traveled by migrants now and in the past: the English Channel, the Rio Grande and the Caribbean for instance — and the uncertainty, struggles and often outright hostility that awaits them.
Four of the album’s ten tracks are piano instrumentals, with the poignant ‘The Boy On The Beach’ being dedicated to the memory of Alan Kurdi, the three year old Syrian boy who lost his life in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, along with his mother and brother. The vocal tracks are primarily pleas for more empathy and compassion for refugees or migrants, whoever or wherever they may be: ‘Seventy Four’ relates to the needless (and sadly not isolated) tragedy in early 2017 when 74 bodies of migrants, mostly from Sub-Saharan African countries, washed up on a beach in northern Libya. The album’s sole cover version, ‘Bound for Lampedusa’ is Ellis’s take on The Gentle Good’s beautiful original which concerns itself with the epic, perilous journeys to Europe of migrants from those countries south of the Sahara. Ultimately ‘Freedom of Movement’ is a cry for just that — not just within Europe, but for all people, everywhere.
The beautiful cover art is by the Palestinian artist, Tayseer Barakat who was himself born in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, and now runs the Ziryab café and art space in Ramallah.
50% of proceeds from the album’s sale goes to the Oasis Centre for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Cardiff, Wales.