There is a parallel universe where James Blake and Lana Del Ray get thrown back a couple of decades to either Hartlepool or Bristol, meet cute, are refused the chance to join Sneaker Pimps or Portishead (too dark for the former; too lighthearted for the latter – and they never smoked enough dope to even try for Massive Attack) and eventually conceive a child they call Rhiannon.
Rhiannon shortens her name to Rhi (everyone who grew up post-1975 wanted a daughter called Rhiannon so you would get sick of it too) with the bonus that it’s easy to fit on an album cover and enigmatic (especially if you can’t quite pull off Rihanna but don’t mind some gilt by association), and she makes the album her parents always wanted to but never managed.
Reverie is pretty much what it says on the box. These are songs in the key of semi-slumber and thoughts half-finished, of downbeat tempos but attitudes carrying a whiff of optimism because until your eyes open nothing is set in stone. There are therefore possibilities available, but experiences already lived that mitigate against complete surrender to faith. But you can still (half) dream and (half) dread.
Rhi (London-based Canadian, Rhiannon Bouvier) delivers her songs in a voice that has never quite woken so that it always feels like she might be slightly slurring/slightly fuzzy even though her production actually leaves the space around the voice clear. It explains why sometimes her phrases can come in blocks rather than a flow, their origins and their destinations not always lining up immediately.
Likewise, there’s a smoky atmosphere to most tracks, a haze enveloping it like low-lying clouds cutting off the top of London’s housing units. However, closer inspection finds individual elements – the ripples of keyboards, the leaning rather than leading basslines, the woosh-and-snap of the drums – easily discernible, like light from upper storey apartment windows.
Where Rhi is unclear is in showing us why these songs – these atmospheres more accurately – will resonate long after Reverie is done. The darkness never seeps into the bones, the optimism never lifts off the screen, as it were. The pleasures are there, certainly, but the imprinting on us is somewhat indistinct.
In that sense she has opted for the Sneaker Pimp rather than Portishead end of her inheritance. More time is needed to determine if Rhi(anon) will ring like a bell through the night.