Dave Huntriss: Bewilderness
(Afraid of the Radio Recordings)
“This year’s been so unkind to us,” sings Bristol-based multi-instrumentalist, Dave Huntriss in his second recent single release, Bewilderness.
You can’t argue with the premise. It’s been odd at best since early 2020. For Huntriss, the lack of any structure or certainty in his musician’s life pulled the rug out from under him so profoundly that at the start of lockdown #2, he basically had to seek a new rug to stand on. That rug was not in the previously-thriving creative hub of Bristol, but at his parents’ home in Dorset. Therein lies the premise of this single: going from a state of Bewilderness, isolation in the city, to seeking some sense of solace amongst nature and with family.
It starts with the mournful, “Autumn leaves whisper to me,” the year decaying and life seeming, at best, muted. But you can also tell straight away that this ‘beginning of the end’ scenario is in fact a tentative, optimistic beginning. Those opening words come with full, rich, expansive guitar chords. There may be a slightly weary, fuzzy sound to the guitars and a hint of breathlessness in Huntriss’ vocal. His inner and his external world may seem initially jaded, but the track certainly has a steady, stoical rhythm and a brightness that suggests the gradual recovery that ensues.
So a potential plot of ‘Grown man voluntarily marooned in parents’ attic in the middle of nowhere’, becomes a tale of retreat and recovery. It’s a mini-love story to Bristol. He bids it an understated farewell, “Time to leave./ City’s asleep./ Tiptoe and leave a note for you:/ Be back soon;/ No need to fuss,” with a sense that parting, although painful, is only temporary.
The simple healing powers of the ocean and home feel inspiring. Even the negatives, “There’s nothing left here for me but bewilderness,” feel powerfully honest and productive – a fixed point from which he can move forwards.
As the song progresses from then (autumn) towards now (spring), what seems a little frayed and frazzled at the start becomes hardier, with layers of instrumentation and some triumphantly warming brass (such as you can hear Huntriss play with the fabulous Nicholson Heal). There are two brief periods of intensive quiet in the song. One precedes the brass blast and contains the idea of staring at “Bristol rain” and “living in fear of giving up” – a fear that is overcome.
The ending is the other moment of peaceful repose. Not only does the song take a deep breath, but it feels like the incessant ‘big noise’ of the world and the resultant emotions that can overwhelm are no longer dominant. We are left with the “Birds of spring” in the lyrics and in the soothing ambient noises of the outro.
Last year definitely felt unkind. This year hasn’t necessarily made its mind up yet. One of the best aspects of 2021 has been the feeling that creativity is once again starting to flourish. Bewilderness captures that feeling in four uplifting minutes.