It was with the premiere of her recent single, The Middle Room, that Oklahoma’s Sun Riah first leapt to our attention. The complex, but subtle instrumentation, the stunning twinkling lead lines of the harp, the voice, my god the voice; it seemed to hide a million tiny heart-breaks in its every crack and perfectly judged inflection. It was a track that seemed to stop everything, made us drop whatever we were doing and just listen.
The Middle Room was the first taste of the upcoming album from Sun Riah, the pseudonym of experimental harpist, vocalist, and songwriter, M. Bailey Stephenson. That record will see the light of day this Friday, and ahead of its release we’re thrilled to premiere the video for new single, Grandma’s Room and Trains in the Distance.
Sun Riah is a songwriter who seems to know the value of spacing; the moments of silence between the vocal lines and flutters of harp, adding as much to the emotive quality of the music as the notes themselves. We’re put in mind of the great Lisa Simpson quote, “you have to listen to the notes she’s not playing”. Sun Riah’s great ability is to hold something back, and never waste a single note.
With a voice the middle ground of Julianna Barwick and Coco Rosie, Sun Riah’s sound seems to sit perfectly between the worlds of folk, experimental pop and classical music. Like much of the album it is lifted from, Grandma’s Room and Trains in the Distance seeks to make sense of loss. As Sun Riah sings, “I am listening deeply for you, in the cracks and crevices of this room, your daily tasks and quiet breaths I took those songs for granted”, it is the sound of someone attempting to re-align their life, to find a new way for the world to make sense without the person who previously gave it direction.
The song reaches its final scene as Sun Riah sings, “with time will I learn to see, all of you that lives in me”, before rapidly fading to black. An emotionally raw and challenging piece of music, Grandma’s Room and Trains in the Distance is none the less a thoroughly rewarding listen from an artist who’s surely made one of 2017’s most important records.
Sitting with Sounds and Listening for Ghosts is out July 21st via Keeled Scales. Click HERE for more information on Sun Riah.