Review: Various Artists – Rivers Home

Unsurprisingly, the sound that appears most frequently throughout the Rivers Home series is that of running water. But just like the rivers themselves that have gifted their influence to each of the series’ participants, this water takes on a distinctly different form in each instance: free-flowing as a constant gush in Broken Chip’s “Cox’s River”, becoming stifled as rasping bubbles inside a gloomy cavern for Kate Carr’s “Brisbane River”, trickling back out into the open air for Marcus Fischer’s “Williamette River”. The water is both a musical and geographical interconnector. It collates these artists via a singular theme, it weaves their music together via the recurring sound of its current, and as part of our physical world, it connects and flows between the various landmasses (from Germany, to Australia, to the US) that each of these musicians calls home.

Enough common ground exists between the artists to make Rivers Home run cohesively, without too much stylistic saturation arising from the overlap. Broken Chip and Kate Carr have both plucked distinct, guitar-based melodies from the influence of the river flow: the former plucked patiently across the stuttering hum of E-bow, the latter jangling between two chords in awkward, ever-changing rhythms. Both carry a certain quiet introspection, as though using the river as a brink from which to survey the land; an edge from which the scope of the horizon, and life itself, can be comprehensively taken in.

From here, the series moves toward a more abstract depiction of its source material. Field Rotation conveys the movement and mercuriality without explicitly resorting to the actual sound of water – instead, droplets of electronics plop into a flat bed of organ drone, while an eerie, bitcrushed scraping noise (which could perhaps be the processed slosh of fluid) constantly swoops out of the quiet. Meanwhile, Marcus Fischer’s gentle electronic chimes gradually approach a steady and constant tempo, fronted by the subtlest of clicks and pops. Billy Gomberg’s four-part composition is probably the most unusual interpretation though, moving from nuclear generator hums into agitated harmonies of distortion and feedback, before a lo-fi blend of drum machine and synthesiser announce a reprise of tempo and clearly definable melodic patterns.

Personally I find myself most drawn to the contributions of Field Rotation and Fischer, whose evocation of landscape feel slightly more comprehensive than the others on display (appearing to greater encompass the environment in which the river is based, as well as the river itself). But of course, different listeners will find themselves drawn to different interpretations. By sourcing a strong variety of artists and a range of rivers from which to derive influence, Rivers Home feels unified by its subject but eclectic in its approach.