United Waters
Your First Ever River [DL; Self-Released]

Brian Sullivan’s latest raft trip as United Waters has taken a strange deviation. Your First Ever River still retains the aquatic production of its recent predecessors (2014’s Sunburner and 2017’s The Narrows), but Sullivan has pushed himself far from the muddy banks and dropped his anchor straight through the mighty logs that guide his vessel. Ten minute opener “My Geology” lodges itself in the sediment below, wriggling to go deeper into inescapable ooze. The eroded minerals of the river bed start filling all open holes — nose and ears grow silent and the sound of helpful hands reaching through the surface are muted. Sullivan is happy to sink as far as the tributary allows until it washes him out to sea or engulfs his melody in an near-impenetrable sludge, never once lifting a hand to meet ours.

But what happens once he passes through to the other side? Behold “Platetectonics” and its nearly clear visage. Turns out we were being led through the muck and mire to be shown the other side. That unhindered vision is fleeting, for the river has Sullivan in its clutches and will not let go. We are brought back through it all, only to surface onto a world unchanged — but perhaps we are a bit wiser. The muted natural world we enter is a bit easier to stand against when the noise has been toned down; the journey has made our senses more keen to what matters and Sullivan was our sonic guide, taking us aurally to the places he’s ventured physically.

United Waters is the ultimate reflection of Sullivan’s work in previous incarnations (Mouthus, Basalt Fingers, Death Unit, etc.). Underneath the heavy production is the mind of someone so attuned to the principles of popular music but also informed enough — thanks to a journey to the other side of the river and back — to pervert and distort them to reach a higher understanding of music-as-conscious. Sure, it’s a joy to behold and take in, but it’s better as a means to impart wisdom. Though I cannot pretend to glean what Sullivan’s ultimate meaning is with Your First Ever River, I’ve come this far downstream due to his previous scripture that I shall follow him once more to be baptized by the sediment.

Cerberus

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