Dry The River - Shallow Bed

Dry The River - Shallow Bed
Album Reviews

‘Shallow Bed’ is set to prove that the band’s incessant hard work will be completely worth the endeavour – and the wait.



Label: RCA
Released: 5th March 2012
Reviewer: Heather Steele
Almost a whole year after the East-London five-piece recorded their 11-track debut in Connecticut, Dry The River’s ‘Shallow Bed’ is finally set for release this spring. It’s certainly been a successful year for the band, one that has seen the quintet’s profile continue to rise and consequently earn a nomination for the celebrated BBC Sound Of 2012 award, while quietly accumulating new legions of fans and laying the groundwork for what is surely set to be a landmark year.

What was once the solo moniker of front man Peter Liddle, today Dry The River encompasses five members and an immense, orchestral sound. While there are occasional moments that comprise of just Liddle’s voice and a violin, or an acoustic guitar, these moments are fleeting and often set the song’s tone before sweeping, grand explosions of splendour burst through. Take ‘No Rest’, and its gradual build towards its full-on choral outburst, ‘Weights And Measures’ and its equally euphoric amalgamation of group vocals, strings, brass and guitars, and the closing cacophonic moments of final track ‘Lion’s Den’. The dual nature of their music continually shines through, for Dry The River are a band possessed of the ability to contrast fragile beauty with full-throttle bravado. The brass passages of ‘Bible Belt’ and the climaxing chorus of ‘New Ceremony’ in particular are moments that bear witness to the volume of their live shows and the full-band fortitude of each member’s individual contributions to every song.

On first inspection one would be forgiven for thinking that Dry The River were members of the post-hardcore bands that they collectively admire: with striking tattoos and long beards the five-some cut an identifiable shape, yet their music is in complete reverse to their aesthetics. While there are certainly more classically traditional folk moments, such as ‘The Chambers And The Valves’ and ‘Shield Your Eyes’, this is an album that is sure to smash preconceptions and simultaneously attract new fans to the genre. Yet while Dry The River’s instrumentals are astounding and far from predictable – with production that allows the quintet to revel in their own world of analogue equipment – it is Liddle’s vocals and lyrics that are most likely to capture imaginations and take centre stage. While it’s not a concept album, ‘Shallow Bed’ is strewn with biblical narratives and personal love stories that interweave their way throughout the entire album.

The track titles alone are enough to expose this lyrical consistency – see ‘Bible Belt’ and ‘Shaker Hymns’ – yet it is the stories themselves that demonstrate this religious fascination. Take the previously released ‘Weights And Measures’ and its line, “It's a question of needs, and not rosary beads, in the end,” alongside its closing sentiment: “There's no patron saint of silent restraint.” Meanwhile the opening words of ‘No Rest’ claim: “I used to be a king alone, like Solomon,” as the comparative quietude of ‘History Books’ paints religious imagery with, “Weep, with fingertips opposed like a church where nobody congregates,” and ‘Bible Belt’ proclaims: “Darling when the ice caps melt, when the Devil's in the Bible Belt, don't cower in your bed.” It’s an interesting chain of narratives from a band that claims not to be particularly religious, yet it gives its listeners another reason to revel in its continual intricacies and the immense attention to detail that is embedded every aspect of the record’s entity.

‘Shallow Bed’ is an album that is both tender and full-throttle; a rare collection of songs that succeeds in both evoking the ethereal and forcing you to reach for the volume button. Dry The River are folk reincarnated: indeed they draw as much influence from At The Drive-In as they do from more classic singer-songwriters such as Leonard Cohen. By placing interesting lyrical concepts alongside untarnished vocals and incorporating the full-band lusciousness of their live sets within one record, Dry The River have paved the way for their inevitable success in 2012, and ‘Shallow Bed’ is set to prove that the band’s incessant hard work will be completely worth the endeavour – and the wait.
Rating: 8/10
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