Portland-based composer Ben Darwish has been known to dabble in free-form jazz, mesmerizing R&B, and eccentric indie pop under various monikers in the past few years. But for his latest exploration of music under his Morning Ritual alias, he has recruited guitarist Bill Marsh, drummer Russ Kleiner, and bassist Sam Howard — along with the Shook Twins (Katelyn and Laurie) — to delve deeper into the introspective folk aesthetic made fashionable and renewed creatively by artists like Iron & Wine and Bon Iver. But Darwish isn’t simply riding the coattails of fellow musicians. Morning Ritual feels far less insular and far more communal than either of the aforementioned artists’ work.
On their latest release, The Clear Blue Pearl, Darwish and his band weave a Dust Bowl-era narrative which “tells the story of a man and wife who, after a drought plagues their land, set out in search for the “Clear Blue Pearl,” an aquifer which is rumored to be close underground. After a harrowing search, they finally discover the underground oasis they’ve been looking for, but once they decide to make it their new home, they realize they may have settled on unstable land.” Not the stuff of romantic dreams but a harrowing tale of survival and exploration that gets to the heart of our existence and some of the possible reasons behind our often conflicted actions.
For the video to The Clear Blue Pearl-cut “The Drought” — which was directed by Sean Rawls and Chapin Hemmingway — Darwish and the Shook Twins evoke the dust swept plains of the west, while touching on dogmatic southern imagery involving river baptism. Carried along by a shuffling beat, ethereal vocals, and delicate piano, the track invites you in for a closer inspection while still allowing you to draw your own conclusions about the meaning of what you’re seeing. Nothing is clear cut here — from the imagery of an empty baby carriage to the dilapidated house and previously mentioned baptism, the band leaves much of the interconnective tissue for us to figure out on our own. But the song has the feeling of a mystery on the verge of being explained — if only for the five minute we’re allowed to exist within its dust-caked world.
Beats Per Minute is pleased to premiere the video for “The Drought,” taken from Morning Ritual’s upcoming release, The Clear Blue Pearl.