on 13 December 2000
Once it might have seemed an indulgence to make a record with guitars, bass, drums and electric pianos and not have any singing. Not so now. When people bemoan the impoverished state of contemporary music, they forget that 80's progenitors Talk Talk had to dodge a battalion of brickbats when their swoonsome pop morphed unexpectedly into practically wordless ambient jazz-rock. A war was fought just so Radiohead could later get all wilful on us. I Kid A you not.
Indeed, today you can't leave the house without being assailed by the work of eerie soundscapers, austere drone-merchants and interestingly tuneless dirgemeisters. Just check the music to tonight's TV adverts and you'll see how "we,ve" come on. What a relief!
So to State River Widening, London's 3-piece answer to the still booming Chicago post-rock "scene". Where Tortoise, Chicago's premier polymath post-poppers, revel in rhythmic complexity and dense electronics, SRW essay a far lighter, almost rural-tinged take on evocative wordless craft. The acoustic guitar (played here with the finesse of twin Nick Drakes by SRW mainstays David Sheppard and Keiron Phelan - and a fine achievement in and of itself) is at the forefront of the SRW sound, with Jon Steele's jazz-turned-inside-out drumming providing an oddly colourful counterpoint.
In Peach Republic and Interlaken SRW have surely minted two of alternative rock's most pricelessly gorgeously numbers - and much of the rest on this debut LP is of equal allure.
It can't be long before these eloquent, seductive tracks are appearing on a gardening or wildlife programme near you - they're that bucolic - but don't be put off if they do, there's more going on here than an intial earful of dulcet acoustic guitar might portend.
One day soon, Radiohead will want to make a record this glorious, but it's doubtful they'll have the chops to do it. Can't wait till the next one.