A lulling affair of quiet majesty, at once glacial and warm, with a hymnal swell-relent dynamic, One River relaxes without being anodyne, retaining attention through certain incidences — a strange twist in pitch or key, a barely perceptible tinting or tainting of timbre here and there.
[Release page] One River is a reissue on Australia’s Hidden Shoal of what would otherwise have remained a lost gem. A small but perfectly formed mini-album that first snuck into low-light view in 2005 on tiny now-defunct Tell-All Records from producer/engineer Scott Solter, whose claims barely qualify for fame — one half of an experimental pop duo, Boxharp, part of occasional collective, The Balustrade Ensemble, and producer/collaborator with the likes of Spoon, Superchunk, Mountain Goats, and Okkervil River (it says here).
The musical sensibility behind One River, however, is quite different from the one above, with little commonality other than a fine ear for the nature of sound architecture. It plays through as a single eponymous soundflow — predominantly serene with occasional undercurrents in dark water — minute moodswings keeping listening interesting. Long languorous tone-rays drawn out in mellifluous movements along the same songlines refract through slightly different processing prisms into seven variations. Solter finds felicitous floatpoint in alchemical transformations from base metals (guitar and bowed cymbals) whose provenance processing all but effaces. The post-ambient keynote is set with the opener, “Tarn,” an earth(l)y liquid of currents and meanders, possessed of a tired-sounding Lid-like lilt. Similarly Laudanum-laced, “Desert Trains” brings a strange cargo of longing and longueur, intoning the drone of nature, with maybe a more aerial vaporous inclination, motioning toward mile-high wide-open vistas, albeit not so much a blue-skied and clear aspect as one of nacreous clouds. The slow dissolve into “The Great Cold” finds melody sublimated, cleaving to a figureless field and ground, and, with “Antique Brothers” a further tilt toward Badalamentian brooding, suggestive of something unresolved playing at the periphery of an otherwise blithe centre. Elsewhere “Wave and Sepia Wire” is not without such passing moments inbetween, though throughout surfaces are translucent enough to coast over despite the odd eddies and counter-currents, and there is a returning to a lighter tenor in the prevailing soft enveloping habit and pastoral cadence of the closing pair, “Cypress Road” and “The Palace Wedding.”
A lulling affair of quiet majesty, at once glacial and warm, with a hymnal swell-relent dynamic, One River relaxes without being anodyne, retaining attention through certain incidences — a strange twist in pitch or key, a barely perceptible tinting or tainting of timbre here and there. Hidden Shoal has One River “exploring the space between Brian Eno’s seminal Music For Airports and William Basinski’s contemporary classic The Disintegration Loops.” Tough acts to follow, and, even as influence and/or reference point, it’s a tribute to the artist that it does not seem incongruent for this work to be mentioned in the same breath.
For those who feel inclined, visual support comes in the form of an accompanying film, Twins and Wives, from Mark and Laura Solter.