Sunday, February 21, 2021

When Rivers Meet - The EP Collection

Okay, so let’s recap.  When Rivers Meet are a British blues-type duo, comprising Grace and Aaron Bond.  They released their debut album We Fly Free in November 2020.  Many of you will know this.  But before that they’d released two EPs – The Uprising in September 2019 and Innocence Of Youth in May 2020.  Some of you will know this, and will have snaffled copies of those EPs some time back.  Good for you.  Now go get a coffee while the rest of us catch up.
You can’t get those two EPs any more, in their original form.  But you can now get this single CD double-helping of them.
So for the unenlightened, here’s the lowdown.
Grace and Aaron Bond - they get a bit dark
Pic by Terry Crouch
  Opening track ‘Free Man’ typifies a key strand of the WRM modus operandi.  The intro is heavy on twangeroonie from Grace Bond's 
resonator mandolin, till she cuts loose vocally over grinding slide guitar from husband Aaron, and boom-crash drums courtesy of co-producer Adam Bowers.  The Bonds don’t go in for much soloing, but here there’s a brief mandolin break that manages to sound peculiarly like tinkling high notes from a piano.  Later on, ‘Innocence Of Youth’ is in a similar vein.  There’s some Page-like slithering slide on the intro, but the backing is minimal until it’s interrupted by jagged crunches of guitar and drums as the song takes off.  At which point Grace Bond lets fly like an air raid siren - that’s the kind of vocal impact she makes when she hits top gear.
But that’s not the only way When Rivers Meet roll.  The Bond girl gets delicate like a Homeric Siren on the gorgeous melody of ‘Tomorrow’, backed by faintly chiming guitar chords and spot on harmonies from Aaron.  Harmonies are also at the heart of ‘Like What You See’, a song that’s steamier than a Turkish baths in a heatwave.  It pulses along, restrained and tense, with ringing guitar chords and thudding bass and kick drum.  Then it builds in intensity, with violin thrown into the mix, until La Bond raises her voice in – how shall we put this? – a wordless moan of rapture.
‘Kill For Your Love’ is daring too, all throbbing guitar and snapping, rattling percussion, while Ms Bond croons her way through a darkly violent, obsessive sounding lyric.  At moments like these there’s a Gothic edge to the WRM vibe. ‘My Babe Says That He Loves Me’, similarly, is nobody’s straight-up ballad.  It combines big, rough-edged guitar chords, wistfully descending vocal harmonies, and lines about whispering ravens and “the hidden truth of falling tears”.  Add in a handbrake turn for the chorus, a neat mandolin break, and some pounding drums, and there’s plenty to keep you listening.
They don’t always hit the bullseye.  There’s plenty of dynamics on ‘A Dead Man Doesn’t Lie’, with its ticking riff like a dialled-down grandchild of Zeppelin, but it feels a bit thin to be extended to over five minutes, for all that Grace Bond elevates it with an eerie violin solo.  And the same is maybe true of ‘Want Your Love’, despite its fuzzy, propulsive rhythm guitar, another scraping, ear-catching fiddle break, and a big crescendo at the end.
But here’s the thing.  Nobody else out there sounds like When Rivers Meet.  They’re also a photogenic pair, which can’t hurt.  And I reckon they’re pretty social media savvy too. Little wonder they’ve managed to create a buzz like a beehive in just a couple of years.  When live music returns, one fine day, you’d better snap up your tickets to see ‘em sharpish, because they’re gonna be in demand.
You can order The EP Collection from the When Rivers Meet website, here.

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