Dry The River

Shallow Bed

Written by: TL on 04/04/2012 14:08:25

One band you should probably prepare to hear a lot about soon if you haven't been hearing a lot about them already, is British folk-rock five-piece Dry The River, who have been all the rage on their own shores for about a year now, and whose debut album "Shallow Bed" was released internationally to almost universal critical acclaim little over a month ago.

It's easy to hear where the praise is coming from, because "Shallow Bed" is a record that instantly communicates an ambition to take modern folk music and push its boundaries and potential for greatness to places not often heard. With guitar, bass, drums, violin, viola, glockenspiel, mandolin and a variety of horns, the band lays down engaging foundations reminiscent of other current folk acts like Mumford & Sons, Ben Howard and Bon Iver, yet over the course of "Shallow Bed", the songs will gradually reveal a wealth of texture and a height of grandeur that gives each of these contemporaries a run for their money.

It serves to say that it is a record for grown ups though, as there is little here in terms of simple sentiments and easy hooks to string the attention of the impatient listener along, and lazy ears could easily be lured to form the judgment that the intricate instrumental arrangements and delicate classical vocals of lead singer Peter Liddle are more sedative than exhilarating. Yet while a track such as the tranquil "Demons" does indeed have a soothing atmosphere to it, it is as strong a display as any of the album's tracks, that "Shallow Bed" will reward every ounce of interest you put into it with unwavering class and consistency. Dry The River, simply put, seem more interested in perfecting details, rather than catering to the attention of the more fickle pop-fans, and considering the rather amazing elegance of their material, that's definitely a good thing.

That said, if you need a place to start other than just putting the record on and pressing play, I suggest being particularly attentive during songs like "History Book" and "New Ceremony", which I'd say are the catchier of the more down-to-earth and traditional numbers that occupy the most of the album's first half. These will seem as mere appetisers when you come around to the formidable album highlight "No Rest" however, which heralds a latter half of the record on which the band spreads its wings for real, ascending to - and balancing on - sky-high pinnacles of sentimentality in songs like "Weights And Measures" and "Lions Den". It's in hymns like these three that Dry The River conjure up climaxes of such borderline religious intensity, that they threaten to leave the band's folksy foundations behind and soar off into a post-rock firmament.

When - come judgment time - I still have a few reservations about "Shallow Bed", it is for the rather mundane reason that I do inevitably find myself able to separate the good from the great tracks, on an album of ambitious 52 minutes of length. I can distinguish between moments that stimulate me intellectually, and moments that stimulate me both intellectually and emotionally. So while Dry The River have debuted with an album of astonishing class, character and elegance, it is still ever so slightly challenged by the requirements for almost constant excellence and intensity, that we have for dishing out grades from the upper echelons of our rankings. Either that or my dozen trips through it just hasn't been enough to fully weave the album's enchantment on me, and I'll regret my reservations when I have to make my end of year list. Be that as it may though, what's really important is that this album is pretty certain to go on that list no matter what, and that should be more than enough incentive for you to give it a listen.

Download: No Rest, History Book, New Ceremony, Demons, Bible Belt, Weights And Measures
For The Fans Of: Mumford & Sons, Ben Howard, mewithoutYou, The Decemberists, Bon Iver
Listen: facebook.com/drytheriver

Release Date 05.03.2012
Sony/RCA

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