The last of Eilean’s summer releases, Rvvr captures that late season, dry gulch moment, when all is mud and dust. As with all of Eilean’s releases, it’s assigned a color ~ in this case, blue. But this blue, visible only in the clothing of the cover model, is more an Aztec blue, a reminder of the water that once was. The person seems afraid to fall into an empty riverbed, perhaps wary of a flash flood.
Static charges grow, morse beeps call out a random code, birds speak to one another from barren trees. “The Last Before Settlement”, by far the album’s longest track, stretches these avian cries across a dry bed of strings, suggesting life in the presence of death: at the very least, a phantasm. Even the rvvr is too tired to purchase the necessary vowels to keep going, to flow around even one more bend. The album sets such weariness against beautiful barrenness, as if to suggest a different viewpoint, a reanalysis of the situation.
The titles suggest the riverbed as a metaphor for an infertile relationship. “My Mood in December” is a bit out of season, but when all seems lost, it’s possible to have a December mood in August. What has dried up here? Can water bring it back to life, or love, or a new mindset? When the storm arrives, will it bring only wind?
Notes wobble like desert travelers, hoping for just a drop of water on parched lips. Bells ring, but not brightly. “Belief Propagation” leans like a song that can’t stand upright. And yet, it keeps going, keeps plowing forward, keeps aiming for life, sustenance, shelter. The crackle and pop of “Indisintegration” flicker like a locked groove at the beginning of a record, instead of the end, waiting to get started; the synth squeals like snatched notes, stolen from songs that were never written down. In the fourth minute of “About Liz”, it all falls apart: every pretense, every melodic mirage. “In Closing Season” searches for a radio station, but never quite finds it. Only in the end, when the harmonium enters, does a sense of normalcy reestablish itself. The river will not always run dry. (Richard Allen)