Of the Sea and Shore is summed up nicely by the dreary, dilapidated boat that sits stranded and neglected on the album cover. Directly influenced by the to-and-fro of the tides at various points on the UK coast, this third album from Nottingham-based Gareth Hardwick is a solid display of an artist evidently immersed and compelled by his inspiration.
“Part 1” arrives (rather appropriately) in gently lurching waves, with distinctly organic reverberations threaded together in endless chords that rise and fall like the infinite cycle of the tide, or the fading snatches of near-forgotten memory. Distortion chatter of lost transmissions occasionally fades into view, but it remains as a sparse and lonesome work for the most part. The piece shifts unexpectedly through a couple of different phases in its latter stages – melting into a droning two chord exchange and then into the asymmetrical clang of chimes on the water – but Hardwick manages this abrupt transition without forcefully heaving the listener elsewhere.
“Part 2” hangs as glistening drapes at first, with mysterious groans a mere muffled phantom in the distance. Unfortunately, the music becomes less interesting as it gathers itself into a distinct melodic progression, which mars the illusive mystique with unmistakable human intervention – it feels like an accidental and self-creating work up until this point, and makes an unwelcome shift from “soundscape” into “composition”. Admittedly, it’s a pretty enough melody, but it’s one that seems inappropriate alongside the soft, natural progression of the music before it.
But it’s not enough to rinse the listener of the quiet beauty that sinks under the skin throughout most of this release. That said, Of the Sea and Shore certainly works best in its first part, where each of the instrument elements – guitar, harmonium, cymbals, chimes, dictaphone and radio – fuse into a suitably mysterious landscape of deeply forlorn reminiscence.