According to the hand-written press release — a first for me — that accompanied this CD, The River represents “the crux of a branch of a tree [Thanksgiving] chose not to climb.” I appreciate that oblique metaphor on a number of levels, but mainly because it fits the skewed nature verbiage overflowing on this album so well. Thanksgiving is the alternate identity of Adrian Orange, a 21st century backwoods poet hewn from the same profound and lonely tree as Jason Molina, Alasdair Roberts and Mark Kozelek. He was an unknown to me until name-dropped in some capacity by Phil Elvrum of The Microphones. This is one instance where the indie rock six degrees of separation flow chart actually pays off.
The River is as shambolically lo-fi as any fan of this genre could hope for. It lilts, it plods, it mopes and it revels. Though this is the first time Orange enlisted a full band to enhance his recordings, there’s a pervasive sense of emptiness and isolation. Rarely does the music rise above the bare bones guitar/bass/drums combination; when additional instrumentation is introduced — like melodica or accordion — it bubbles briefly below the surface and is quickly drawn out of the mix. Overtop of these forlorn soundscapes, Orange spins tales of being surrounded by “dark garden’s grief” and blushing winds with a conversationalist tone where only he and his companion exist. It’s excellent stuff, and deserving of much greater recognition than it’s currently receiving.