In his work with Red River Dialect and on his solo records, David John Morris, British singer-songwriter and ordained Buddhist chaplain, has written about journeys that are both sacred and secular. In songs that straddle the line between meditative folk and complex post-rock, Morris writes about an ongoing search for community with romantic partners, bandmates and co-religionists, like the monks who inspired his solo debut in 2021, Monastic love songs. It was a collection of open and simple songs, laden with atmosphere, sung with the confidence of a man rediscovering his calling after spending a year in a Nova Scotia monastery. But when Morris returned to London in his wake, he had little money, few possessions and nowhere to stay. So he took a room in what’s called a conservatorship: a condemned building (in this case, a North London nursing home) rented cheaply, to deter squatters and fill the space up to the building to be demolished. Morris only intended to stay until he could raise the rent for his own flat, and in January 2020 he began recording demos for a follow-up, with the intention of fleshing them out in a studio.
Like most stories at this time, Morris’ plans were massively disrupted, and during the subsequent lockdowns he hid in guardianship and continued to write. The temporary home became a new community and the demos became Morris’ second solo album, crazy love songs. Written with only an acoustic guitar and drum machine, the resulting album is both understated and playful, with each song built around Morris’ high tenor and delicate fingerpicking. For the first time, it also embraces unexpected electronic textures: squelchy synths drive lead single ‘Pebble’s sickening sway, while ‘Karaoke’ achieves a kind of lo-fi pop jangle, its buzzing arpeggios and drum machine insistent pulsing around the story of a late-night karaoke party. The muted electronic backbeat on “TT’s Surf School”, meanwhile, carries the song a booming folk with a kind of digital intimacy, understated and beautiful like a vintage Magnetic Fields tune. If previous records sought to evoke the interaction of a live band, the effect here is more contrived and intimate. They are folk songs that find warmth and solace in decay and decay, like a faded brick wall covered in a handmade quilt.
savage is full of little stories of life in and around the guardianship: games of ping-pong, film screenings, and the little rituals that occur at the start of a courtship. For Morris, these details take on a joyful banality, developing into thoughts of the impermanence and interconnectedness of all life. “Black Kite” creates a strange analogy between his own overwhelming emotions and the fate of the first monkeys to cross the ocean between Africa and South America: “The winds and the currents carry me away”, marvels- he, “to an unimaginable land”.