Rivers Home: All N4tural: The Rhine
Rivers Home: The Boats: River Calder
Rivers Home: Seth Chrisman: Rio Grande
Rivers Home: Savaran: River Dovey
Rivers Home: Dan Whiting: Georges River
The second set of five three-inch EPs in the Rivers Home series brings the project to a close with contributions from The Boats, Seth Chrisman, Savaran, All N4tural, and Dan Whiting. As before, each release has been made available in a limited-edition run of 100 copies and includes an insert whose text provides the creator's personal commentary on the EP material. The rivers theme is one that offers significant potential on artistic grounds, but there's also an ecological dimension in play, too, given the vulnerability of rivers and ecosystems.
The Boats' River Calder offers a single-track, thirteen-minute setting that has powerful associations for Andrew Hargreaves, given that its the locale where he could have drowned during a childhood exploration had a stranger not rescued him from its waters. Hargreaves and partner Craig Tattersall begin the piece by evoking the setting with a rich blend of outdoors textures and then gradually add musical elements, glimmering keyboards first and gently swaying beats second, whilst staying true to a mood of understated melancholy throughout. Predictably, The Boats' installment is a standout, but the others have much to recommend them, too.
Also thirteen minutes in length, Seth Chrisman's Rio Grande is based on hydrophone and field recordings captured in the locale's upper floodplain, but strikes a nice balance between natural and musical sounds, with plaintive synth tones offering a placid counterpoint to the assorted granular rustlings of the setting. Just as the river itself originates as a spring and snow-fed mountain stream that eventually travels 2000 miles before feeding the Gulf of Mexico, so too does Chrisman's piece grow from small beginnings into something grander as it slowly swells in volume before limiting the focus exclusively to earthy field recorded elements near disc's end.
In place of a single, long-form setting, Savaran's River Dovey (Afon Dyfi in Welsh) features two pieces, “Dyffryn Dyfi - Meanders” and “Ynyslas - Estuarine,” with the Shewsbury, UK-based artist evoking the Cambrian Mountains and Dover Valley locales in two richly detailed ambient-drone settings. The opening piece unspools gently for six minutes, its swirls lending the peaceful material a somewhat psychedelic character, while the second finds (what sounds like) bowed strings shimmering celestially amidst flowing masses of natural river sounds.
Like Savaran's EP, Dan Whiting's Georges River includes two tracks, in this case “Slow Boats and Dragonflies” and “Dawns Resilience,” that present a portrait of a river that flows through some of Sydney's most densely populated urban areas. The material is as texture-sensitive as one would expect from a 12k artist, with the ten-minute meditation “Dawns Resilience” using an ethereal shudder and softly resonating tones as lulling tools of entrancement.
All N4tural's The Rhine is, sonically, the oddity of the bunch and a wild card on programmatic grounds, too, given that its five songs are rooted in a traveler's story that involves a dragon, ferryman, sirens, speaking in tongues, and crossing the Rhine at Loreley. Comparatively speaking, the style is less field recordings-oriented and tends more towards experimental electronica; certainly the noise convulsions and scrambled voice treatments in the respective “That dragon came from far Siam” and “I tried to tell the ferryman” are unlike anything else in the Rivers Home series.
What stands out most of all is that, whatever the stylistic differences between them, all of the creators eschew an overly literal approach to the material; instead of relying too heavily on field recordings, they use the chosen locales as inspirational springboards for their conceptual evocations. On a final note, all five could have been presented on a single CD, though doing so would have lessened the project's presentational charm.