Choir of Young Believers

Rhine Gold

(CD - Ghostly International #GI 153CD)

Review by

"The Third Time" starts Choir of Young Believers' Rhine Gold with the promising combination of slow keyboard washes and drones and a sudden, sweeping (and not entirely falsetto) vocal, an appropriately momentous start to what feels like a very chilled listening experience -- like what Sigur Rós would sound like if they aimed for a bit of focused clarity. When a melody kicks in, it almost sounds like something from a historical epic from India, continuing to shift into a sweet, string-plucked descending bridge. The fact that "Patricia's Thirst" shifts into a post-punk squelch-bass-power pop number of sorts demonstrates how the production is key here, where the elements sound old but the mix and recombination feel agreeably new. While the album starts on a seemingly forbidding or at least dramatic note, what's interesting is how it balances out the reserved with the enveloping; a song like "Sedated" may have elements related to the title, but there's a constant buzz of activity, with the lead bass, steady piano in and out, sudden string bursts, and lead vocals carrying everything easily to a sweet chorus. "Have I Ever Truly Been Here" ends up taking a calm, epic rock touch based around acoustic elements, thanks to the backing washes introducing space -- Coldplay done right, in essence -- while "The Wind Is Blowing Needles" takes a quiet funk turn and the title track ends on a very slow, contemplative note, like the flipside of the opening in that it draws everything to a close, with strings swooping then holding a steady tenseness. Meanwhile, the combination of pure Motorik and snaky bass (not to mention the synth bursts and the singing) on "Paralyse" give a further sense of how elegantly they recombine -- especially when they suddenly but perfectly shift into a couple of drumless acoustic guitar/vocal breaks; at first straightforward, then slightly woozier/weirder toward the end, and finally moving into a slow final wind-down.

blue highlight denotes track pick