River Cult – Halcyon Daze
Label – Blackseed Records
Release Date – 9th February 2018
At first glance, seeing that Halcyon Daze consists of five tracks, the shortest of which clocks in at just over seven minutes, and that it was recorded mostly live, I was unsure of what to expect. However Brooklyn based 3 piece River Cult’s latest release is a real powerhouse of psych, stoner influenced sludgey rock that takes in a whole range of reference points without sounding overwrought. The mix on the album is well done too, meaning that the instruments aren’t muddied, whilst the intentional distortion of feedback and reverb heavy guitar parts don’t jar with the often intricate drumming.
Likelihood of Confusion is the first track and gets thing off to a fine start with some classic rock influenced guitar that draws on Black Sabbath. The vocals come through and the song kicks things up a notch, ‘it’s happening I feel at ease, sobriety in the breeze.’ The accompanying music begins to mirror the lyrical suggestion of increasing inebriety. Then around four and a half minutes there is a swampy sounding breakdown, with the drums slowed right down and fuzzy guitar bordering on doom metal.
Second up is the sprawling 12 minute number The Sophist. The vocals are slightly hoarser and more aggressive on this track, mirroring the heavier more downbeat feel. This track is quite segmented, as the initial fuzz gives way to more of a drone rock aesthetic replete with cymbal heavy drums about 3 minutes in. Then things begin to speed up a little towards the last 3 minutes, leading to a real wig out which gradually tones down to the echoed squall of feedback and accented notes.
Seething is an instrumental piece that once again demonstrates River Cult’s taste for mixing the tone of their songs. At points the drumbeat draws on Can in it’s tight circularity, holding sway among the sea of noise from the guitars. The outro is perhaps slightly too long but that is more than made up for in the rest of the song.
Halcyon Daze sees the band utilising a slightly more conventional structure initially. The vocals recall an air of grunge and there is even a tinge of that to the song before things veer off into a spacier arrangement. At times things sound a little like an early Clutch song. The last 2 minutes has a dreamy meandering feel as slight guitar parts lilt over the heavier backdrop.
Bringing things to a close is Point of Failure which starts off slowly before leading into a southern rock style riff, generating a Black Mountain feel, before the heavy fuzzy guitar provides a nice counterpoint. That said, there is still time for an elongated spaced out breakdown and descent into wall of sound, before the killer riff is picked up again for the last minute to end the record.
This is a really interesting album that demonstrably showcases the ear that River Cult have for putting together an expansive, innovative sound. At times there is the slight feel of a jam to the tracks, but one undertaken by proficient musicians who clearly enjoy playing together. The focus on instrumental parts and long songs with varying sections may not to be to everybody’s taste but I found this to be a very enjoyable record; one that bears repeated listening. These guys have clearly hit upon a chemistry that works for them and will be ones to watch for the future.
Recommended Track: The Sophist