The passage of time renders everything temporary, perpetually molding old moments into new moments and old places into new places. From the grand scale of civilizations to the microcosm of a family, when one steps back from the immediate now, one can sense the fleeting nature of life.
This is heady stuff, but harpist Sun Riah’s latest musical endeavor seems to encourage such thoughts. Her upcoming album, titled Sitting With Sounds and Listening for Ghosts, is due out July 21st, and it promises to be a deep, heartfelt reflection on the nature of change studied through the intimate scope of family and home.
Her lead single for the project, “Grandma’s Room and Trains in the Distance”, releases today and can be streamed below in a Cellar Door Music Group exclusive first listen.
Oklahoma singer-songwriter and harp experimentalist Sun Riah (stylized “sun riah”) is known for her dark, mesmerizing harp arrangements, but on “Grandma’s Room”, she lets some light in. The song threads in a soft major key, something she uses sparingly in her work. Spacious, golden reverb fills out the slow-paced, minimal harp arrangement, and it perfectly captures the song’s premise.
With a beautifully sad melody, she reflects lovingly from inside her deceased grandmother’s room, combing through leftover items and warm memories. She finds inspiration in these things, but she is also troubled by lost moments and strives to reconnect with a spirit of the past.
Intimacy is a defining trait of Sun Riah’s music, from its meditative creation to its vocal performances, the latter of which draw so close and bare that the listener can make out every breath, click, and pop between words. It makes sense that the woman behind the project, M. Bailey Stephenson, would choose to tackle the big ideas she revealed last year through such a sincere and private lens.
If “Grandma’s Room and Trains in the Distance” is any indication, the new album will continue the quietly powerful sonic palette of Sun Riah’s prior album, Firefly Night Light, while reflecting more outwardly than before.
Sitting With Sounds and Listening for Ghosts is currently available to preorder from Keeled Scales, an Austin-based independent label that plays host to other artists like Real Live Tigers and Adam Torres. Both of those artists have played Oklahoma City shows lately in no small part because of Sun Riah, who has essentially become OKC’s experimental music ambassador in recent years. Sitting With Sounds is slated to drop both CD and cassette editions through the label.
Coinciding with the July 21st album release date will be a show at Opolis in Norman headlined by Sun Riah and supported by locals Penny P and Magnificent Bird. Doors will open at 8 pm, and admission is $5.
In the meantime, check out this official album preview that uses some of the new single, “Grandma’s Room and Trains in the Distance”:
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.
aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.