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Rivers Of EnglandRivers Of England
Album: Astrophysics Saved My Life
Label: Folkwit
Tracks: 11

So many questions. The meaning of love, life and the Universe. Can we understand? Are there any answers?

"Astrophysics Saved My life" is the second release from West Of England folk rock band Rivers Of England. And on this outing they attempt to look at the interplay between science and life. It's an interesting approach.

Opening the album "In Universe In Universe" explores the space within and without as they consider micro and macro infinities. One moment riff driven with strings providing the tension, one moment dreamlike, soft and fluffy, luscious. Lyrically they mention "photon particles" and "put love in your heart", there's a strangeness quark and charm here.

And it carries on, weirdness of thought, visions that are lodged in your brain, images that stay with you, such as the delightful "You, Me And The Sea" where the song takes on a nautical bent as a relationship is compared to sailing a yacht "haunted by the future, haunted by the past, I only had a handkerchief to rig up to the mast". Lost at sea. Haven't we all been in that position?

There's a balance though as chief songwriter and vocalist, Rob Spalding, occasionally slips into comfortable and predictable clich├ęs and easy rhymes. It's a small price to pay when you listen to "Underneath The Moon" a tale of a parting pair and the realisation it's possibly for the best. The track is gorgeously orchestrated with strings courtesy of Danyal Dhondy.

Indeed the music here is first class and varied, folk augmented with a tad of Blues, a smidgen of Jazz, a whiff of prog rock. It deserves a wide audience.

Add in the unusualness of including grid references for songs that point to alternatively Belgium, Norfolk, Shornemead Fort a disused artillery fort on the banks of the Thames, and the middle of the North Sea amongst others, then you have to wonder what's going on.

"All I want to do, exhilarate my brain, got to feel alive, 'cause living is a game".

Rivers Of England certainly stimulated me. Will they you?

Ian Cripps