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.