Riverside - Love, Fear and the Time Machine
Released 04/09/2015

Riverside - Love, Fear and the Time Machine

Polish band Riverside are a relatively new musical discovery for me. I had heard the name floating about but only recently started listening to their music and Love, Fear And The Time Machine is their first new release since I became a fan. With the emotion of Marillion, the breadth of Pink Floyd, the whimsey of Big Big Train, the bombast of Amplifier and the melancholy of Steven Wilson, Riverside manage to create their own unique sound and are a thoroughly modern progressive rock band.

Opening gently with a hammond organ, Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened Of A Hat) builds gradually with vocals, guitar, bass and finally drums joining the party. The synths and guitar match the gorgeous, soaring vocal melodies as the song really takes off. The guitar heads off on a lovely solo before the synth takes over to finish the song. Under The Pillow's jangly melody leads to a stop-start section with the guitar and keyboards taking turns at being top dog musically before Piotr Grudziński lets rip with another superb solo.

The bass-driven #Addicted weaves a tale of disillusionment with modern life ("hashtag me and go"), bemoaning the fact we live vicariously through our computer screens and mobile phones as real life passes us by, which becomes a common thread running through the album. The song drops away with a sudden acoustic section, which cedes to the funky bass which leads us into The Caterpillar And The Barbed Wire where keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars blend together as the song twists and turns through a myriad of different sections, each one growing and metamorphosing like the titular larvae.

The offbeat Saturate Me showcases the bands musical ability and flexibility, building imperceptibly slowly to an explosive climax. Off kilter rhythms clash and battle for supremacy before Matiusz's dreamy vocals bring some order to the chaos. Some truly outstanding guitar marks this as a stand out track as Grudiński alternates between fluid solos and chunky riffing.

Riverside drop the pace somewhat on the second half of the album. It drifts serenely downstream with the likes of the acoustic Afloat and the jazzy Discard Your Fear. The second half of the album delves deeper into the other theme running through the album - pining for a lost youth, lost friendships; the protagonist's yearning for a simpler way of life that is long gone. Many of these songs have the feel of a disillusioned adult looking back through rose tinted glasses at the pages of child's a diary.

It has to be said that on the first few listens the songs that make up the second half of the album sound very similar to each other and they kind of pass you by. However give the album the time it deserves and really listen to the songs, and you will find the treasures within gradually unfurl their fragile beauty. Towards The Blue Horizon will hook you with its gentle beginning before reeling you in with an insistent second half driven on by a welter of cascading riffs and Michal Lapaj's glorious keyboards. Time Travellers sounds like it could be sung sat around a camp fire; just a couple of acoustic guitars and vocals before the other instruments join in on this melancholy tune, awash with regrets and missed opportunities... "lets go back to the world that was 30 years ago and lets believe this is our time".

The bucolic Found (The Unexpected Flaw Of Searching) closes the album on a slightly more hopeful note. A muted song, Piotr pulls out another short but spectacularly emotional solo after which the song drifts away leaving you feeling that, somewhere along this musical journey, some kind of inner peace and acceptance has been found.

This is a superbly crafted album. The songwriting and musicianship are sublime throughout. Production, by the band with Magda and Robert Srzedniccy, is warm and crystal clear. The mix benefits from the fact that Riverside are a four piece band; the songs are allowed to breathe, with Michal's keyboards often carrying the melody. There isn't the need to cram music into every nook and cranny. Sometimes the gaps between the instruments are just as important as what is being played. As well as singing Mariusz plays bass, acoustic guitar and ukulele and the beat is kept admirably by drummer Piotr Kozieradzki. Rounding the package off is the very evocative cover and booklet artwork by Travis Smith.

All in all Love, Fear And The Time Machine is a majestically beautiful album which I know is only going to get better as the songs become more familiar.

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