Ashtabula

River of Many Dead Fish

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Whatever the truth of this band's semi-cryptic identity (though guitarist/vocalist Bob Malloy is very definitely a member of Strapping Fieldhands), it certainly doesn't affect the quality of music on River of Many Dead Fish. Just over a half-hour long, it's a fun collection of semi-garagey indie pop, with a tendency to clean, clear vocals and rough bass, plus plenty of other goodies along the way. It's not as intentionally lo-fi sounding as Guided By Voices or as fully pissed off as Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, but it is a more than fine way to spend 30 minutes' time. Production is definitely strong throughout, almost as if the participants said, "To heck with what the trends are, let's record something that really sounds good." Which it does -- not in a perfect studio-slick way, but in a full, warm sense, feeling the drums, grooving on the riffs, and more. Malloy really has fun on guitar as well, peeling off some damn groovy psych-inspired solos that fill out the arrangement instead of simply dominating it. Standouts include the fantastic "Way Too Fast," which feels ever more tightly wound as it goes and sneaks in a "Sweet Jane"-style break toward the end, and the steady rhythm of "Archipelago," which has a wonderful instrumental midsection where everybody really gets into it. If there's an interesting wild card on that track and other ones, it's organist Sullen Entropy. He's no Brian Eno when it comes to sheer chaos, but in terms of adding a nicely off creepy funhouse vibe, his work is a nice touch. There are further treats like the glammy stomp of "Revolt of the Urchins," with some deliciously whined vocals, and the amiably goofball "Unbearable Lightness" to make River of Many Dead Fish an enjoyable listen.

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