Friday, 18 October 2013

Album review: BILL CALLAHAN - Dream River

Highlights: The Sing, Javelin Unlanding, Small Plane, Winter Road

If you want to get into the technical aspect of it, let’s put it like this: were I to rate this album on a track-by-track basis, nothing would change. What is more, were I to rate these songs individually, I would give each of them the exact same rating of ‘bloody good, great if you’re in the mood’. Which is just another way of saying that Dream River is almost clinically consistent and homogeneous. Clearly the sound of an artist who has long found his creative niche and feels relaxed and confident exploring it. 

‘Exploring’, however, is a wrong word.

More like naturally inhabiting it. Bill Callahan’s newest is the usual: slow, pleasingly meandering melodies wrapped in wistful atmosphere and Bill’s cozy baritone. The sound is warm, just like the washed out colours on this album's cover. Instrumentally, there are no big revelations: Bill's guitar and economical, affecting orchestration. Dream River sounds so effortless, it’s like he isn’t even trying. Songs seamlessly blend into each other like faces of old best friends, creating a really engaging experience. Nothing stands out, so I just typed the first three tracks as highlights (because they come first and also because they are really good; besides, the chorus of “Javelin Unlanding” is distinguishable for its near-upbeat nature) – as well as the sleepy, violin-driven beaut of “Winter Road” (because it comes last, but also because … well, you know).

Dream River is both a mood piece and a rather compelling collection of songs. The songs are not particularly memorable or ear-catching, but they are also addictive in a very understated, October-like way. Bill Callahan isn’t doing anything remarkable here (and has he ever?), but equally – I almost can’t imagine a better album from the man. It doesn’t even matter whether you like this album or not – Dream River is good. It’s beyond tastes and opinions, by this point it’s almost a physical fact. Likewise, my predictable rating is just as immaterial.


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