Holy River Family Band

Welcome to Riverhouse

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On their second effort, the authentically psychedelic (heck, even Tom Rapp of Pearls Before Swine wrote them a blurb) Holy River Family Band change their mind-blowing formula bit while continuing to extend their music into newer, unprecedented regions of the time-space continuum while using at least semi-conventional means. First off, Welcome to the Riverhouse is a double offering. Both CDs differ not only from the amazing Haida Deities, but from one another as well. The material here is far more song-oriented, with verses and choruses woven into the fabric of the musical exploration. The tapestry of musical instruments utilized by the band has only increased -- besides guitars, sax, flutes, exotic percussion, and oud, the mix now includes sitars, bouzouki, cumbuz, ney, Moroccan clay drums, and more. Nowhere does the band stray far from the guitar/bass/keyboard/drums equation to hang everything on, making all of it exotic, tasteful, and mind-bendingly multi-dimensional. There are echoes of previous incarnations such as on "As Long As Sun Shines," with its mystic prayer at the center reminding listeners of the more adventurous moments of the Incredible String Band, while the instrumental "Star Tree & the Death f Flowers" brings listeners the glorious, elongated drone power of acts such as Kawabata Makoto's (of Acid Mothers' Temple) solo projects and the Obscured by Clouds-era Pink Floyd and early Popol Vuh. But it's also different -- this is far more spiritual music that it is drug music; its meditative and expansive qualities come from focused rather than improvised meditations on space and texture. As one moves through the lyrics, it's easy to hear that the brothers Jens and Arne Johanson with Mathias Barder are evoking something other than rock & roll in their musical tomes. By the time the listener reaches "Remain" on disc two, with its textured sitar and guitar intertwining along with lilting keyboard phrases and organic, rudimentary percussion, the transformation is complete. HRFB have succeeded in taking listeners through the vortex to the place where all extraneous divisions of sound fall away, leaving only the essence of tone and vibration. This is an ambition of so many acts, from Spiritualized to Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips -- all with far more elaborate production techniques that achieve far less musically, imagistically, and most importantly, emotionally.

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