Harriet Riley & Alex Garden - Sonder III

2023 studio album

Sonder III - Harriet Riley & Alex Garden

the bright young folk review

In recent years, the dynamic duo of Bristol based artists Harriet Riley and Alex Garden have developed a unique sound, combining two very different instruments, the fiddle, one of the most distinctive voices of the folk scene of the British Isles, and the vibraphone, generally associated with the jazz repertoire. The third chapter of their collaboration proceeds along the same path they have traced with the previous two, but with some interesting new features.

As everyone who has come across their music would expect, the titles of the tracks are all unusual words, mainly from the English language. The very catchy and groovy Selenofilia, a title meaning ’love of the moon’, opens the album, it is followed by Fernweh, a German word indicating a strong nostalgia for a place.

The album sinuously flows through different musical landscapes, from the upbeat Defenestration to the redolent Myk, a Norwegian word meaning ’soft’, from the ethereal Ambrosial, meaning ’fragrant’, to the inspirational Nyctophilia, a word indicating the love of darkness. Concinnity is perhaps the most striking track and the most appropriately named after a term denoting the harmonious arrangement of different parts.

With the lightness of touch that is the trademark feature of their musicianship, Riley and Garden create intricate and yet instinctive embroideries of melodic lines; they syncopate and exchange their roles, always providing a juxtaposed counterpoint and complementing each other. Elements of folk, classical, minimalistic and cinematic music smoothly amalgamate, even in tracks with a more lilting tempo like the stunning opener, possibly the real new feature of this third chapter.

Avant-garde and at the same time genuine, Sonder III shows, once again, that these two young artists are at the forefront of the folk scene; the whole trilogy is an exceptional exploration of new soundscapes, a multi-faceted display of musical sensitivity, virtuoso playing and composition skills to be savoured many times.

Michele Mele

Released CD and digitally on 13 October 2023. Mixed by Alex Garden.

1. Selenophilia
2. Fernweh
3. Nyctophilia
4. Solipsism
5. Myk
6. Concinnity
7. Eunoia
8. Interarboration
9. Defenestration
10. Ambrosial
11. Kjaereste
12. Bergmàl

Harriet Riley & Alex Garden discography