State River Widening Cottonhead

[Vertical Form; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: ephemeral rock, moody instrumental
Others: Mice Parade, Rachel’s, Japancakes

While it's true that London trio State River Widening's Cottonhead is going to call up a lot of other artists, their tastefully exploratory, yet gently rocking instrumental liltings are almost perfect to these ears. New tonalities are always being fleshed out of lush melodies in an ever-shifting mix. You'll hear what sounds like a cool drum beat fading in, and it just lazes back into the corners of the mix ("Desertesque"). Then there's the epic, slow rolling "Madder Hues," which implodes in the middle before returning to its graceful, gentle stomp.

I suppose I'm biased toward this kind of romantic music that is as unpredictable and intricate as it is soulful. I'm sure there would be plenty of naysayers around to call some of Cottonhead 'glorified elevator music.' It's a trite observation, and though I'm far from beyond such a thing, I can't help but point out that it's simply short-sighted. Though there is a serene vibe running through this recording, closer attention reveals small intuitive counter melodies keeping the proceedings from becoming sterile. In a way, the songs call to mind all those stately indie rock songs that you almost liked till the vocals started. There are no wrong turns, or wasted movements. Everything on Cottonhead is perfectly arranged and creates the kind of easy listening music that simultaneously scoffs at the limitedness of its genre.

Yup, I said 'easy listening.' This record is like a long slow float down an endlessly meandering stream through a dense forest on a beautiful, breezy day. Elevator music is more along the lines of, say, Peter Cetera or something. State River Widening make subtle easygoing music that fascinates as it soothes. This album is kind of like what I secretly wanted the rest of Marz's similarly organic Wir Sind Hier (after the third track) to sound like. It's just as crystalline and lovingly intoned as Our Endless Numbered Days (Iron & Wine), and it will make you feel as warm. These songs are a work of supple, quietly soaring majesty that will undoubtedly leave the patient listener swooning.

1. Crown
2. Touched
3. Cottonwood
4. Lowlands
5. Knifegrinders Song
6. Desertesque
7. Cottonhead 1
8. Madder Hues
9. Unspinning
10. Cottonhead 2