Polish progressive peeps Riverside are back with album number six, 'Love, Fear and the Time Machine'. Firstly, do we have a continuation of their acronymic album titles of recent years? Ignoring the conjunctives etc, we're left with LFTM. Less obvious than the acronyms of their last two full-length releases - ADHD ('Anno Domini High Definition') and SONGS ('Shrine of New Generation Slaves') - can any significance be applied to the initials LFTM? Well, I'm sure frontman Mariusz Duda will have his own interpretation of the acronym if, in fact, one's intended here, but the Urban Dictionary would have you believe that it's defined as "Looks Fine To Me". That'd be apposite for the album's overarching theme of hope and optimism within the context of the life changing decisions people make during their lives. Of course, the theme of 'fear' is also explored in lyrical matter, completing the love/fear duality inherent in any feeling of uncertainty engendered by a course of action that might change your life in profound, irreversible ways, for the better or worse, but 'Love, Fear and the Time Machine' ultimately sways towards hope and optimism. So, yes, 'Looks Fine To Me' fits here, intended or not. Further, Riverside's creativity, in 2015, still looks fine to me... or, rather, sounds fine to me. Significantly more than fine, in actual fact. And they've continued their own progressive journey with a few more unexpected twists to their sound.
Predominantly, while 'Love, Fear and the Time Machine' is loaded with Riverside idioms that sonically root the album firmly within their own established aesthetic, the band have presented their music within a far more laid-back space than ever before. Take a look at Riverside's rich canon of work and you'll find examples aplenty of their temperate side, although this album, as a whole, has a distinctly laid-back bias. There are a few, sporadically scattered moments of rock punch thrown into the mix, although the music, this time, seems to have been composed from a more melodically measured mindset. Melodies have been given a wide breadth to develop and unfold in their own time and space, and the album, as a result, proves to be a truly sublime listen, time and again. In fact, so subtle are the emotional complexities and variance on 'Love, Fear and the Time Machine' that each new listen reveals further affective depths. There is, of course, the optimistic vibe running throughout the album, as I already mentioned, both lyrically and sonically, although Riverside haven't entirely abandoned their melancholic side. The melancholy is still present in their palette, but blended with a brighter sense of hope... almost as if the two have been pitted against each other, and it's the optimism that eventually triumphs.
Mariusz's bass work is as distinct and distinctly refreshing as it's ever been, although I'm guessing some might be thrown by his vocals this time around. I was initially. Befitting of the album's calmer vibe, it's perhaps his most laid-back vocal performance to date, at least on an album in its entirety. On the initial listen, I was kind of waiting for his singing to erupt into those emotively explosive crescendos that he always executes so perfectly, injecting songs with an extra kick and elevating them to even greater emotional heights. Not so here. But, with each new listen, as I previously stated, compositions reveal emotional depths in their own time and space. There's no sense of urgency or immediacy here, and there doesn't need to be. Likewise, Mariusz's vocals unveil different emotional sides over time... for this is an album that needs time to fully digest and appreciate its essence.
And the other players have skilfully forged the sonic foundations of this subtly compelling journey. Piotr Grudzinski's lead guitar tone is, as ever, exquisite, as he weaves wholly original melodies with some flawlessly executed fretboard work. And his array of other playing is performed with perfectly posited precedence, including some beautiful acoustic parts. Michal Lapaj's keyboards are as wide-ranging and engaging as ever, albeit contributing with a more subtle layer of measured moods than on previous Riverside albums. Likewise with the man behind the kit, Piotr Kozieradzki, whose sticksman duties call upon the more subtle side of his skillset, although he still manages to accentuate the moods in the music in all the right places.
For me, with 'Love, Fear and the Time Machine', Riverside have achieved perfection once again. I've adored Riverside since witnessing their first ever show outside of Poland, in the Netherlands back in 2004, when they had just one album to their name, 2003's 'Out Of Myself', and I've never ceased to be amazed and in awe of their art on each subsequent release. 'Love, Fear and the Time Machine' is no exception; I remain in awe of this most special of bands.
LOVE, FEAR AND THE TIME MACHINE
Review by Mark Holmes
4th Sept 2015
1) Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By A Hat?)
2) Under the Pillow
4) Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire
5) Saturate Me
7) Discard Your Fear
8) Towards the Blue Horizon
9) Time Travellers
10) Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Melodies have been given a wide breadth to develop and unfold in their own time and space, and the album, as a result, proves to be a truly sublime listen, time and again."