2012 SXSW Flashback: Cardinal

Dave DiMartino

If there are certain albums that had a cultural impact far beyond their overall sales figures, the debut album by Cardinal--released in 1994 by the duo of Eric Matthews and Richard Davies--counts highly among them.

Coming at a time when grunge, for better or worse, had come to dominate the rock 'n' roll scene, the textured and melodic work of Matthews and Davies provided almost precisely its conceptual opposite: melodies, harmonies, exotic instrumentation, sophisticated arrangements, songs that evoked the undersung classic sound of the early Bee Gees, the Left Banke and other pop greats, all oozing with sincerity, very little irony, and an obvious love for the pure form of pop music. Those who heard it loved it--very much so--and, for better or worse, a new genre called "orchestral pop" was coined to describe their work.

But Cardinal was a short-lived affair. Matthews and Davies soon went their separate ways, each releasing highly regarded solo albums, and the former band soon took on mythical status among the select few who heard and loved what they'd done.

And 18 years later, they're back. Last year the pair recorded Hymns--a fine work that surprised many by its very existence--and this year Davies turned up at the South By Southwest music conference in Austin, playing music from both Cardinal albums, some of his own work, and impressing many who never thought they'd hear this music performed in a live setting.

Fortunately for Y! Music--and you--our makeshift "studio" in Austin welcomed an early morning appearance by Davies, at which he performed works from both Cardinal albums and granted us a charming and informative interview. We were thrilled to catch him live, and we hope you enjoy what you see--and hear.