Those already aware of Robin Richards’ band Dutch Uncles will know the eccentric, often off-kilter approach the Manchester multi-instrumentalist takes to his songcraft. However, it’s on Castel, a debut EP release under his own name on PRAH Recordings, that Richards lays his methods bare. A stunning six pieces, Castel draws on everything from Gregorian chanting to Steve Reich-esque minimalism and rhythm-led musique concrète. A compilation of sorts, given tracks were selected from previous residencies and commissions, the EP is bonded together by themes of community, togetherness and folklore.
It’s Richards’ artist in residence role at the Gefail Yr Ynys forge in Caernarfon, North Wales that perhaps bears most influence on Castel. Collaborating with sculptor and mixed-media artist Mike Murray, three of the pieces he produced during his time there are featured – including a track named after its location: “Gefail Yr Ynys” takes the industrial setting of the residency’s metalworking centre to its logical conclusion, re-configuring recordings of the work being done by a local blacksmith during Richards’ stay, into a heavily rhythmic percussive piece that pops with an urgent energy quite apart from the rest of the EP.