The fingerprints of producer-singer-beatsmith River Tiber (Tommy Paxton-Beesley) seem to be running across popular music at the moment. The Toronto-based artist’s name has appeared alongside the likes of Kaytranada, Pusha T, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Dukes. Most notably Paxton’s No Talk was picked up by Drake, eventually being reworked into 2015 single No Tellin. But River Tiber’s musical credentials aren’t in question here. With a debut LP Indigo, comes the artist’s own statement of identity. The better question might be whether the first album is capable of making its own impact.
Opening track and GEnESIS lays down symphonic a wash of electronica. Given its meticulous soundscaping and Paxton’s sublime R&B tinged vocals, it’s certainly not hard to draw comparison with James Blake. The haunted harmonies and skipping beats of No TaLK beg scant comparison to Drake’s reimagining. Alongside No TaLK, the menace, and lamentations Midnight consolidate the album’s electro soul feel. Both tracks showcase a talent for melding vocal elements with the shimmer of mesmeric synth. There’s also an affinity with Flume and Andrew Wyatt 2015 collaboration Some Minds. Vocals and the richness high fidelity of production are beyond fault. In BaRCELONa ‘70s soul slithers through the cracks of this well-crafted production veneer. Likewise, aCID TEST charms with ascendant falsettos and an infectiously rolling funk bass.
Clarity Ft Tess Parks adds some oddness to the mix with off-kilter production that moves towards a more experimental space. Green in Blue also feels more explorative. With chopped production style evocative of Avant producer Arca, the track seems to be channelling a sound which is creeping ever further into the world of mainstream pop.
Indigo is blissful and meticulously delivered. Yet it’s difficult to shake the desire for that one groundbreaking moment. River Tiber paints lavish and immersive soundscapes over distinctive beats, there’s little question why the artist has been so consistently sampled. But re-contextualising these sounds within the sonic cohesion of an album, there may be a clinical efficiency behind the artist’s work that will ever so often hamper the all too important ability to connect. For someone looking for edge and rawness, River Tiber may not sit that far ahead of a pack of contemporary artists striving for a similar sound. It’s with the sonic quality of Paxton’s work; the vocal talent and layered production that this album defines itself. For those looking for a convergence soulful R&B and Avant-electronic sound, Tiber’s balancing of sound worlds and melancholic soul is nothing short of remarkable.
Image: 9 Clacks