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I See Rivers
Deep & Rolling Green Zara Hedderman , December 8th, 2020 08:50

I See Rivers sound as cosy as an autumn sweater – and just as wooly, finds Zara Hedderman

There are some records that, when you stick them on, immediately evoke a particular season based upon the tonal palette permeating the arrangements. To many, The Beach Boys conjure sunny summer days filled with surfing and whimsy, whilst intimately produced compositions like Nick Drake’s Pink Moon can transport you to a dimly lit room – one where, if you’re lucky, there’s a fire crackling in the corner. Deep & Rolling Green, the debut from Norweigan trio, I See Rivers, falls into the latter category. Here, synths crunch like leaves beneath your shoes as their gorgeous layered harmonies swirl like a chilling breeze. Generally, such a listen can bring comfort and warmth to its audience. On the other hand, however, it can leave you feeling cold.

Despite the three members of the group hailing from Norway, they met whilst studying in Liverpool almost a decade ago. Across the sixteen tracks, a handful operating as brief bridges guiding the listener through the album, their experiences of living in England coupled with their Scandinavian upbringing anchor their artistry. The sparse treatment and layering of the melodies, delivered in striking vocal harmonies, often herald both the cadence and refinement of The Staves and Laura Marling. Meanwhile, the tempered electronic effects, adding depth to their instrumentation, recall the subtle thumping percussion from Lykke Li’s early career. Elsewhere, the ever-present influence of Enya on contemporary artists is felt via the swirling harmonies on ‘Lost It All’. Thus, I See Rivers’ approach to fusing indie with folk and electronica is, at it’s best, a pleasant affair with nothing too invasive filling our ears. However, the songs do little to fully excite or engage the listener, such is the sedate nature of the overall sound.

Perhaps another issue with a portion of the arrangements is that these songs have been cooking since the bands formation seven years ago. As a result, a particular strand of indie-folk from that era is notable in the production of this record. It was around this time, in the mid-2000s, when Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg channelled EmmyLou Harris in their contemporary folk vehicle, First Aid Kit. Once again, their musical style has certainly impacted I See Rivers’ songwriting. Of course, influences are inevitable and imperative. To draw inspiration from how an artist incorporates certain sonic textures or styles into your own work is to be expected. However, when the reference points on the drawing board bring the brightest colour to the finished product then the integrity of the artist is somewhat compromised. Unfortunately, Deep & Rolling Green, despite its overall pleasantness, lacks a clear insight to the trio and their potential.

This is a shame because when the trio of songwriters and multi-instrumentalists step away from the aforementioned drawing board, they do produce fleeting moments where the arrangements are completely captivating and immersive. One such example is the clapping drum samples on opener ‘Apollo’, which provide a sumptuous rippling undertone to the trio’s gorgeous harmonies. After repeated listens, more of its subtle textures reveal themselves. Similar can be stated for the expansive ‘We Don’t Get More Time’ and the meditative instrumental, ‘Elioelioelio’. On their debut LP, I See Rivers have worn their influences on their sleeve. However, there’s enough here to suggest that they are wearing a coat of many colours – and sounds – beyond the Deep & Rolling Green.