Scene and Heard – CCCLXXXIX – You’re the Ocean Waves, You’re the Sea – Arthur Rivers (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

39878917_883048478532490_1362499175459061760_o.jpgEven before you get to the music, I’m already in Arthur Rivers corner. Why? Because people don’t write titles like that any more. Unnecessarily long, deeply poetic, wonderfully elemental. In an era of the short and concise, the bland and the direct, the cheap and the disposable, even the title jumps out at me. Anything that sounds as if it may have been found buried deep in a Waterboys back catalogue is fine by me.

So you put the record on…or the virtual equivalent of the sacred and much anticipated needle drop… and you find that the poise and poeticism also beats at the heart of the music within. A lilting folk ballad, a spacious roots statement, one that is dressed up beyond its simple guitar lines and gentle but resonant voice with the merest of sonic detail. Some extra guitar texture, some hazy slide or steel washing around in the middle distance and just a dash of dreamlike cosmic harmonies and Rivers has built a song that is brilliant in its transience.

Transient because rather than filling the available space with sound he merely uses it to frame the silence that was there already, rather like how a water colour artist uses the white of the canvas as part of the finished effect. For every note there is the anticipation of the next making it somehow more powerful, for ever word there is the pause between that adds an unhurried air of mystery.

The beauty of such a song is compared with most of the music being thrown at the discerning listener today, it’s a song where almost nothing happens, which might seem like a detriment but if you chose just the right slices of nothing to balance the critical emptiness, then you can, rather than fill spaces, merely encapsulate them and use them as fundamental building blocks in your sound. In doing so Rivers builds atmosphere, anticipation, restraint and a strange primal beauty. His brand of near emptiness is not merely a lack of sonics, rather it is the gentle use of sound to shape the underlying beauty of the natural world. It is something sensed rather than heard and something more often that not buried under a band’s music in their rush to prove that they can offer something better than the unrivalled grace of a universe as old as time itself. Not this time.

Music that breathes in time with the world around it…how cool is that?

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