‘These are not things that can be solved with a pop record, but I guess it’s a start’ Rivonia is a record about South Africa, an in-depth look into the country and its history. But why leave your country to then write an album about it? “It must seem pretty odd to people that I made
‘These are not things that can be solved with a pop record, but I guess it’s a start’
Rivonia is a record about South Africa, an in-depth look into the country and its history. But why leave your country to then write an album about it? “It must seem pretty odd to people that I made this record about South Africa in my apartment in Berlin. But I guess it took me moving away from home to see South Africa with fresh eyes. People I met here in Germany were asking me questions about my homeland that I couldn’t adequately answer, and this awareness of my own ignorance inspired me to read up about South African history. And then the things I read inspired me to write”, explains Dear Reader vocalist Cheri MacNeil.
She continues, “Of course, it was something I undertook with a certain amount of anxiety, nervous that I would inevitably get it wrong, that I would offend people. Ultimately though, this work is intensely personal. It’s something I did for myself – a grappling with my sense of rootlessness and the guilt-feelings I carry around. These are not things that can be solved with a pop record, but I guess it’s a start.”
Now based in Berlin, Germany, MacNeil time took matters into her own hands, conceiving her third album’s themes and techniques in advance – writing and meticulously arranging each song independently before she even reached the studio. It was the first occasion on which she’d worked without a producer. But the results leap forward for her, a vindicating culmination of all that she’s learned since she started the first incarnation of Dear Reader – then known as Harris Tweed – back in 2006.
After the dense textures of 2010’s Brent Knopf helmed Idealistic Animals, MacNeil chose to focus on a few key elements – voice, piano and percussion – and recorded much of the album in her own apartment, bringing in friends to perform the parts she’d constructed alone with little more than her voice. At times she’d set up elsewhere: Calexico’s trumpet player Martin Wenk was recorded in his rehearsal studio, The Tindersticks’ drummer Earl Harvin laid down his tracks in a small studio on a busy street near where she lives, and the woodwinds were performed by her friend Friedrich Brückner and his parents at their home in Leipzig.
Dear Reader – Rivonia Tracklisting
01. Down Under, Mining**
02. Took Them Away
03. Good Hope
05. From Now On
06. Man Of The Book
07. Back From The Dead
08. Teller Of Truths
09. Already Are
10. Cruelty On Beauty On