Released April 18th 2011
Guillemots have been away for far too long, and from the release of their third full-length studio album Walk the River, you might wonder if the melodic quartet have been scaling mountains, or taking rockets to the moon. The sound they have come back with following Red is dark, cinematic and full of musical scope that I wasn’t expecting from the indie outfit. The whole album is a series of images captured in sound, making it a sensible and thought provoking release that will no doubt divide opinions.
For me, this cinematically rich record is mostly astounding. It’s full of spine-tingling vocals and melodies that take you on a musical journey, whilst guitars and drums pulse and surge in modest ways. The record opens with eponymous track ‘Walk The River’, a lovely little number which exhibits a rather sparse sound to begin with. But as we progress, the record becomes dusty and caked in many sounds layered on top of one another, with Fyfe’s vocals ringing clear over the mess and cutting straight to the core of your being. It’s a beautiful sound, perfect for cloud gazing or watching falling snow.
And this is what makes Walk The River a fantastic record – its temporal relevance. You can listen to it (almost) from start to finish under a pale summer sun or curled up by a fire in the deep darkness of winter, and it makes perfect sense in either context.
What is also great, is that we are not miles away from the well received record Red. A grimy bass opening suggests that ‘Iceroom’ is going to be a small taste of Guillemots from this record, but then some harmonies and tinkling melodies kick in pretty quickly to make you change your mind. But moments later we start this all over again, throwing the listener into turmoil. It’s a fantastic track that rests uneasily between the upbeat and heavier sound we grew to love through Red, thrown together with some of the beautiful moments that have preceded it on Walk The River. The lyrics go “I am so alive”, and never has this been more true – ‘Iceroom’ brims with musical and emotional energy, making this a personal highlight of mine.
Another notable mention must go to ‘Tigers’, which is a cinematic offering, invoking some rather interesting sound combinations. There’s electronic noises fused with synth that could easily be whale song, whilst the guitars and drums go on as if nothing unusual is happening. It’s a song void of space and time, one that suits MC Magrao’s idea that the album was about a man floating in space: “Cuz I’m a tumbling star/ Home isn’t anywhere we ever are”. It’s a rather dark offering, that is thematically bleak, but stunning nonetheless.
Walk The River is not without it’s low points though. ‘Insider’ ambles along without making much of an impact, whilst the whole nine minutes of ‘I Remember Long’ are just a little bit tiresome, but these are the only two moments where momentum was lost.
The latest offering from Guillemots is outstanding, wrestling with darkness and light, and space and time in a way that is evocative and spectacularly visual. It’s an album that could easily be the soundtrack to an indie sci-fi movie (minus aliens and spaceships), and is worth listening to in its entirety. A truly stunning third album from the indie rock quartet.
Good: Big sounds and images, with interesting sound effects and stunning vocals
Bad: Some odd orchestration at times, and a low point somewhere in the middle with a few tracks.