The second half of the Arcade Fire singer/songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist's ambitious Quiet River of Dust project, That Side of the River takes a step back from the mercurial, worldbeat-tinged psych-pop of its predecessor in favor of a more measured and linear ambient-folk approach. Released to coincide with the summer solstice -- the previous volume arrived via the autumn equinox -- the ten-track set is both meditative and quietly dramatic. Anchored by Parry's cosmic musings, monastic melodies, and even-keeled voice, songs like "Lost in the Waves," "Cups in the Ocean," and "Throw a Cup of Water" -- this is a wet record -- are as ASMR friendly as they are heady. Parry keeps the progressive rock vibe that he established on Volume One going strong throughout the LP's just-under-45-minute runtime, though things tend to hew closer to the bucolic (early King Crimson and Yes) end of the spectrum. His predilection towards pairing indie pop-kissed Albion folk with traditional Japanese music is less apparent this time around, with soft piano and shimmering electronics providing the bulk of the sonic architecture. In opting for a ruminative approach, Parry has crafted more of a guided meditation than a cosmopolitan fun house, resulting in a collection of songs that often feel less tangible than those that populated its antecedent. Still, it's an ambitious work that is undeniably widescreen, but far removed from the grandiose chamber rock of his meal-ticket band. It celebrates family, self, friendship, and the existential pain and wonder of life. It seeks rather than spells things out, and in doing so manages to feel equally rooted in the past, present, and future.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger