Rodney Matthews Studios 2019
Audio adventures of a tiny knight whose imagination got the better of him – with music providing vivid imagery to go with words.
Have you ever heard of Marauding Scrawnies? They’re nasty, ghastly even – yet you’ll likely to like the critters because they’re a part of an unlikely hero’s trip into the Great – at least for him, as he’s only a little boy – Unknown. Who’s he? The name’s Yendor; the position’s the small one in the middle. He’s the protagonist of Rodney Matthews’ old book – aimed at kids but, given the illustrator’s prog-rock credentials, also interesting to adults that should cherish this slim tome as if it was a classic record’s sleeve. Revised recently to include more details – verbal and pictorial – the story became a record, too, released on paper as well as on CD, where the narration by the artist’s wife Sarah is spliced with a soundtrack from Oliver Wakeman, with an option to consume spoken word and music both together and separately, to a great effect.
It’s worth the effort because, while the fable and the music create a well-rounded experience on a single track, quasi-orchestral passages stressing certain moments of the story to complement it, on their own the two media are possessed with nuances which can be lost in such a blend. Still, if Matthews’ words come simply better enunciated, though much drier, as a standalone cut, Wakeman’s variety of tunes – rolled into one 17-minute piece – form a non-oral, albeit not entirely independent, fairy tale. As a result, episodes like the lad’s encounter with the Grabsting, wrapped in solemn stereo and often sporting a memorable riff, scope a special space when synthesizers stage a spectacular little epic. A riveting listen and a prompt to get the book per se, “Yendor” – named after Rodney’s son – is genuinely endearing.
Matthews briefly checks in at the disc’s end to expand on the background of it all, which is a nice gesture, akin to an artist’s signature: consider it a sincere bonus and call your children to sit and savor the reverie.