For the hundreds, thousands, millions, and billions of sequential moments humans live out their individual lives on this planet, there are countless places, settings, and other people from the past that manage to greet and intrigue people in the present. This was the case for Cloud Caverns’ Brandon Peterson during an everyday encounter and the result of the songwriter’s piqued curiosity and imagination, is new single, “B. Ritter.”
The majority of the year now gone by since the surprise release of love-centric single, “Odd Thing,” from back in February, it has been anyone’s guess what the always unorthodox, experimental progressive folk duo was going to focus on next. That being said, it’s not uncommon for specific aspects of Peterson’s own life to take a place at the forefront of a song’s narrative, as have quite a few of Cloud Caverns’ previous tracks, like “I Do,” “Home,” and, of course, the ode to Peterson’s daughter, “Odd Thing.” As it is, “B. Ritter” is actually a slice of new music that Peterson completed on his own, while intended as a Cloud Caverns piece. Still, given the unpredictable well of inspiration that serves to provide the foundation for so much else of the band’s songs, it’s also not entirely surprising to realize that this late 2019 track is one conceived entirely from Peterson’s imagination, while being initially set in motion thanks to a real life, average, everyday experience the Tennessean transplant had during a drive out to work one morning.
“I passed an abandoned cemetery on the way to work one day and came up with a little story about how a headstone comes to be forgotten over time.”
Knowing that B. Ritter – or at least the version of them that Peterson describes and narrates throughout the song – is entirely fictional, is interesting for multiple reasons. Crafting an entire scenario and evolving a story from nothing is never an easy feat and it is this method of lyrical propulsion that also pushes Cloud Caverns forward quite often. Furthermore, there is a quiet but noteworthy reminder about the versatility of songwriting process in the source of “B. Ritter’s” inspiration: That fascinating situations, questions, and aspirations can rise from the most average or taken-for-granted of objects. Granted, the latter of these takeaways isn’t always a good thing, as some songs derived from banal items, actions, or thoughts remain in their original state of emotional impact. FIDLAR is a group that tends to orbit the same drinking-fueled tribulations and there comes a point where the sole inspirational element of “Alcohol” only goes so deep into the emotional consciousness of people – even devoted fans – if it’s recurrent over many records, many years, and several supposedly maturing life stages, like parenthood.
Thankfully, the seemingly unassuming books, lesser known films, folk tales, and singular inner reveries that have sparked new songs from Peterson are hardly reflections of a stunted psyche, topical fixation, or that kind of immature demeanor. Rather, the musings on “B. Ritter’s” forgotten existence and the timelessness of tombstones, speaks to an observant and open mind. Paired with Cloud Caverns’ established sonic style of innocent acoustic guitar; thick and distorted but harmonizing electric guitar; gently plodding, soft-edged bass; and crystalline piano, the variety of sonic character reflects an assortment of aesthetics equal to the range of emotions that can permeate this song. The instrumentation and alternating sense of primary melody, shifts from sounds of clarity and reliability in things like the clear acoustic guitar and modest bass, to sounds of gradually more ambiguous and obscure origins. Things like digital strings, theremin (an especially nice touch as a standout sound for a song dealing in the spookiness of cemeteries), bowed metallic harmonic tones, and even Peterson’s own syllabically based vocal harmonies that help fill out the final interlude. And not only does this arsenal of sounds brings listeners well away from the idea that this is a thinly assembled, simplistic folk song simply because there’s a guy with an acoustic guitar plucking waltz rhythm at the beginning, but it reminds those familiar and shows those new, how adept Cloud Caverns has always been, at creating a sense of who or what is being sung about, without just relying on the lyrics to do that.
“B. Ritter” is brought to life (no pun intended) with Peterson’s carefully built musical backdrop, which is meant to transport listeners that much further into Peterson’s imagined story. It is one of the most treasured aspects of this band’s aesthetics with these kinds of narrative songs, as they extend far outside the boundaries of songs just to get stuck in one’s head. Pieces of work like these are virtually little audio plays, which, much like “B. Ritter,” were beloved in times of the past and it’s nice to think of them and long for them again.
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