Various Artists – Rivers Home (Flaming Pines)

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From pristine headwaters in New South Wales to Brooklyn’s stinkiest canal, this ambitious project “celebrating rivers great and small” is the brainchild of the already waterlogged Kate Carr (last year’s album Summer Floods and compilation appearance ‘The Sound of Fish in a Rock Pool’) produced by her burgeoning ambient label Flaming Pines. Carr wishes to focus ears on the challenges faced by running water throughout the world in an era of disinformation and non-commitment about our natural resources.

Marcus Fischer follows the Willemette River through the town of Eugene, Oregon, before absorbing and synthesizing its gentle purl. In all its twists and turns and diverse instrumentation, it is the most diverse and composed piece of the quintet. Kielerfjorden is a cold, oppressive place where, according to Field Rotation, the Baltic Sea and sky are always cold, grey and rainy. He grew up there and is now leaving for good. This brief adieu to Kiel is also the most emotionally wrenching of the set.

Coxs River in the Blue Mountain range above Sydney, where Broken Chip angled for trout as a boy, is now threatened by an enormous hydroelectric power station. He delivers a mournful, ten-minute guitar eulogy against a backdrop of field recordings of the still-lively stretch as yet unaffected by the dam.

Kate Carr reacts to the Brisbane River unexpected flooding its banks for the first time in a century, leaving entire sections of the city under several feet of water for a week. A softly strummed guitar is underscored by an electronic burbling and bobbing, the burble suggesting that the water isn´t where water is supposed to be nor are the things bobbing supposed to be in water. Her guitar is the mind of the bemused individual wrapping itself around the sight.

Billy Gomberg presents four portraits of the Gowanus Canal, a nineteenth century ditch wending through Brooklyn, four “urban and industrial” pieces for a place “most folks stay away from”. Spare and dank, it is more about the bankside surroundings than the water itself, all crumbing red brick and rusting chain link fence. The closing ‘Call’ is highly evocative of mid-seventies Eno and lends bright credence to the claim that he really does enjoy passing by the canal every day.

Each little disc, ranging from nine-and-a-half minutes to nearly twenty, comes in its own tiny, crayon box-coloured slipcase and contains a paper insert with a personal statement from the artist about his or her choice. Flaming Pines will soon release five more CDs in the same format to complete the series.

Stephen Fruitman

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About Author

Born and raised in Toronto, Stephen Fruitman has been living in northern Sweden lo these past thirty years. Writing and lecturing about art and culture as an historian of ideas since the early nineties, his articles have appeared in an number of international publications. He is also a contributing editor at Igloo Magazine.

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