Dry The River – Shallow Bed
“I know it’s got to stop love, but I don’t know how.” So cries Peter Liddle, two minutes into “New Ceremony”.It’s a single moment that encapsulates the magic of Shallow Bed. Lyrics that strike a true note. Their poignancy enhanced by Liddle’s crumpled vocals, straight from the choir. All nestled amongst a fantastically rich soundbed. After the warm up of “Animal Skins” it is “New Ceremony”, that first hits upon the refreshing brilliance that goes on to dominate this confident debut.
Peter Liddle, Matthew Taylor, Will Harvey, Scott Miller and Jon Warren have a background in hardcore and post-punk. It is this background that fuels the unique sound of Dry The River. What at first sounds like gentle, pastoral folk is transformed into impassioned rock, by the bands refusal to shy away from the intensity and emotion that they see as inherent in musical performance . The see-sawing “New Ceremony” is followed by the heavily symbolic “Shield Your Eyes”. Biblical imagery is prominent throughout the album. The language is, at times, deliberately archaic. Creating a dense mythical backdrop, against which tales of complex relationships are a challenge to untangle. That they are only adds gravitas to the woeful tales, testifying to the fallacy of emotions, that dominate the album. This is spine-tingling stuff. In this case it’s not, “The chambers and the valves that pump the sentiment around“, but instead breathtaking musical craftmanship. From authentic lo-fi recordings to ten person choruses no stone has been left unturned.
There are mellower moments throughout. Exemplified by “Demons”. Liddles’ dulcet tones wash over you in disarming manner “Death is a force not a man on a horse.” The unnerving imagery at deliberate odds with the settled instrumental; strings, brass and echoing cymbal. “Bible Belt” is beautiful in its tragedy. A tale of alcoholic parents, “Each morning you’d march your sisters like soldiers to school, because lo and behold your father had drunk all the fuel”, driven by the clever subtlety of the storytelling. As if the story were not enough, we are also treated to an irresistible change in pace towards the end of the piece. That ability to manipulate pace and intensity, and so transfix yet move the listener is best displayed in the epic “No Rest”. Liddle’s piercing falsetto surges above swelling group harmonies, as he despairs “I loved you in the best way possible, I loved you in the best way possible, I loved you in the best.” The painful bittersweetness of the past tense magnified by rumbling guitar and rising drumbeat. The power and emotion enough to cut a heart of stone. Rawness and vulnerability is soothed by the gentle delicacy of “Shaker Hymns”. Before we are challenged, once again, by the anthemic build of “Weights and Measures”. The 12 minute journey of “Lions Den” goes someway to satisfying the desire that the album would never end.
It is difficult to do Shallow Bed justice with just words. The depth, emotion and ambition of this album is only really appreciated when you hear it. You know what to do. HERE is a helping hand, and below, a final persuader.