Matthew And The Atlas - Other Rivers (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
HAVING impressed with previous EPs, London based musician Matt Hegarty, the driving force behind Matthew And The Atlas, delivers a similarly striking debut album with Other Rivers.
Combining elements of the folk and Americana that helped get him noticed with a broader musical palette that draws on both electronic and live beats, this is an endlessly fascinating listen that boasts plenty of highlights.
A moving, full-bodied piece of work, it is – admittedly – the type of album that rewards the patient, attentive listener as very few tracks make for background listening or easy toe-tappers. But for those willing to invest their time, this haunts and inspires in equal measure.
On early album highlight Pale Sun rose, for instance, Hegarty adopts a folk-rock vibe (complete with rousing banjo licks) that’s also infused with some electronic layering and a gritty set of vocals that build to a rousing chorus. It’s a distinct sound, too, that defies easy comparison, making the track all the more compulsive.
In single form, the song was notable for featuring a video starring Charlie Cox (of Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey fame) as a loner fisherman who’s day to day routine takes a dark turn when he comes across his doppelganger. But it’s evidence of the imagery that is rife within all of Hegarty’s lyricism.
Similarly rich in both lyricism and instrumentals is To The North, which finds Hegarty exchanging boy-girl vocals and employing swirling electronic arrangements that build beautifully from a somewhat sparse opening. It’s cinematic and, instrumentally at least, evidence of the more optimistic, inspiring sound of the LP.
A little later on, Everything That Dies finds Hegarty’s striking vocals taking centre-stage early on (and sounding almost Eddie Vedder-like) over an atmospheric synth before more electronics, pianos and wave-like drums begin to add layering. The track, meanwhile, finds optimism in the notion that “everything that dies in some way returns”. It’s evidence of the LP at its most thought-provoking and inspiring, hitting almost euphoric (by Hegarty’s standards) highs come the gospel-tinged finale.
Strong, too, is Nowhere Now, with its insistent electronic hooks and religious backdrop, and Old Ceremony, which once again slow builds from a sparse, somewhat brooding opening into something quite big and wonderful.
Another Way, meanwhile, rounds the album off with guest vocals from Australian vocalist Matt Corby and another intelligent and captivating blend of instrumentals (acoustic guitars, atmospheric beats, an almost Elbow-esque finale), ensuring that you depart the album with the highest regard for what it has to offer.
What’s more, once experienced fully it’s the type of LP you’ll want to return to in order to catch up on what you may have missed the first time. There’s so much here to savour.
Download picks: Pale Sun Rose, Old Ceremony, To The North, Everything That Dies