Review ‘The Ones That We Left Behind’: Gig Soup

Gig Soup (UK) – Sept 2015

For many, this latest 4-track EP from Calming River may sound like a clone of Mumford and Sons’ softer side: delicate, well-balanced fingerpicking over a background of orchestral instruments here and there; a voice resonating softly above it all like syrup draped over pancakes, and cryptic, meaningful lyrics. On that alone, they would be right, but they’re wrong, there’s more here than meets the ear.

The first track, ‘Actress pt. II’, immediately sets the tone of this alternative-acoustic-folk album. Its haunting introduction, melancholic violin draws and poignant lyrics combine to show us an intriguing and sombre aesthetic; it brings to mind a cold, rippling lake with a man adrift, telling us his story. Later tracks follow suit in distinctive ways, different chapters of the same book, as the third track ‘Solemn Witness’ reveals just how talented his fingers are in a heartfelt admonition of love. The album is intricate, emotional and dripping with a sad sense of things that ‘could have been’, telling a tale of mistakes and regret.

Once past these initial impressions we can start to see the smaller details: the slow, tense build-up of each song; the minimalist and quietly beautiful album art; timid and yet rousing vocals, all of which combine to produce a stripped back feel. This is a man (yes, just one man) who has something to say, but feels no need for flair or caricature. His work is flawed, raw and honest, no doubt exactly as planned. His breakout 2014 album ‘Afflict and Redeem’, stirred up a storm amongst music fans after its release and tour, and can be found on Spotify, WiMP and iTunes.


Review ‘The Ones That We Left Behind’: Music Won’t Save You

The following is an English translation of an Italian text. Thanks to Linda Citterio for the her time in translating the text.

Original author: Raffaelo Russo
Website: Music Won’t Save You


The name “Calming River” says already a lot about the music content of the project created by Danish living Joshua Brain: a peaceful uninterrupted flow, with subtle melancholic contours, characterises his tracks, which yet are not neglected or monochords, but they rather focus on intricate acoustic filigrees and on his soft but vibrant vocal timbre, on the edge of a slight tension.

However, as in “Afflict and Redeem”, the album from the past year, the Calming River palette is not limited to the songwriter guitar and voice only, because the expanded times of Brain´s ‘light-shadow’ songs provide suspended interstices where strings arrangements and rhythmic shades sketch in. Hence, a fluid and dynamic essentiality characterises the four tracks of the EP “The Ones That We Left Behind”, soaked with human frailty but with great expressive power, in a sad-core groove of suffused chamber traits.

The violin of DJ Alvaro Suarez gives such depth to the fluid picking and to Brain´s soft harmonies. His sorrowful voice is on the verge of breaking in the wonderful opening “The Actress Pt. II”.
Muffled environments underlie also the other three tracks of the EP. These tracks have slightly firmer structures, even nervous in the sudden final rise of “Art Of Wire”. These structures let foresee enchanted bucolic accents (the final flute of “Solemn Witness”) and a mysterious circularity, that almost reminds the painful beginnings of Mark Kozelek, blazing up in a controlled rise of lyricism (“Inertia Fire”).

Brain´s songs are framed by intro and/or instrumental endings, that not only highlight the warm acoustic textures of the Danish artist, but also brush cameos of chamber music — an ideal complement of introspective songwriting, being precise, peaceful and smooth.

Review ‘Afflict and Redeem’: Mytacism Music

UK music blog Mytacism Music recently reviewed debut ‘Afflict and Redeem’. Here is what they had to say…

Calming River is an artist who creates very real music, music which comes to life and moves before you like an apparition. Each track also feels very pure, most songs are simply just him and his guitar, giving each track an intimate sound. The debut LP ‘Afflict and Redeem’ also features drums and a violin, instruments which add more depth and ambiance to the tracks.

‘The Ember’ starts the album with an atmosphere tinged with a sadness. The steady pluck of guitar strings and melancholy violin easily alerts you to the fact the album is going to be full of intricate beauty. Following in suit, ‘Overcome’ creates a dark and raw sound which rolls into a chilling climatic ending. ‘March’ continues a somber mood but ‘Brother I’ acts as the parting in the clouds. There’s hope flowing deep within this song, a hope created by the lighter notes and small grin of melodies.

‘Parrot Song’ is one of my favourite tracks. There is a build up of instruments that sounds so full and simple at the same time. The melodies begin to sound like breathing and drum beat feels like a heartbeat making Calming River’s music really come to life and it sounds almost Holy. ‘Stayed At Home’ is full of spiralling notes and wistful vocals that ultimately suck you in like vacuum. The album ends with ‘The Dirt’, a track which begins unexpectedly with sweeping background tones. As Calming River begins to vocalise his thoughts it is easy to get caught up and lost within the song, so much so that your skin begins to tingle.

Review ‘Afflict and Redeem’:

The Danish folk fanzine have recently taken the time to review ‘Afflict and Redeem’. Read the review here.

(Read the original review, in Danish, by clicking here.)
You can buy “Afflict and Redeem” in the leading web shops . A limited number of CDs are also in the deal. That’s what it says, the delivery note on the young Aarhus-based folk singer Joshua Brains new EP, which only comes in 250 copies.
And it sounds undeniably like another inauguration of the new, inevitable, musical cyberspace with its goodbye to small optical CD metal discs, which we have thrown into the CD-player the past 25 years.

At any rate the musicians behind the seven tracks of “Afflict and Redeem” deserve the attention that their music is often streamed and downloaded from the atmosphere. Joshua Brain is a young, talented guitarist and an accomplished singer, who plays under the artist name “Calming River” together with Alvaro Suarez on violin and Luke Gibbs and Fernando Teijeiro on Drums .

It is an wistful, melancholy and thoughtful album with traces of the 1960s psychedelic folk with groups like The Incredible String Band—and newer models like Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

A pleasant acquaintance, which is good for a meditative relaxation and it makes you want to dig into the lyrics. Unfortunately this is made difficult—Joshua Brain, who has written all the songs, is a native Briton. And my English is simply not good enough to understand everything that is being sung. A book of lyrics would have done wonders. And the suspicion can arise: Are the words worth to consider?

But if you forget about the lyrics for awhile and swim into the dreamy euphony, you are left in a curious wondering and associations. Do they really sing about a parrot in “Parrot Song”? Who’s the dead Flossie Lannie whom the album is dedicated to? And what is the novel “Dirt” by David Vann about? That is the one he sings about in the last song “Dirt”.

Sometimes plenty of “trick-recording-overloaded”. But certainly an album that makes you want to listen to Calming River, the next time they are to find in cyberspace or at a venue nearby. The website is new, but it should be good when it gets more substance—and some more lyrics to read!

[Note by artist: Lyrics are available on the site]