Birthed back in 2010 as the brainchild of Jonathan Ogden, Rivers & Robots began in Manchester as a one man worship project. Six years, three albums and multiple shows later, the group (now three men strong) is still producing the upliftingly worshipful, uniquely crisp music we loved about them from the beginning. Keeping with the usual pattern of creativity and biblically rich lyrics is the fourth album, The Eternal Son– completely new, yet very familiar. The 58 minute record branches out from the indie-ambience of previous albums to discover a more syncopated, bouncy work.
Jonathan Ogden has a record (no pun intended) of musical prolificacy in his published works. Not only are his albums full- each one is about an hour- they are also filled with songs that are full. Jonathan doesn’t recycle music; he has too many ideas for that. He’s not afraid to experiment within tracks, particularly with electronic effects. A Love That Carries Me establishes itself as peppy, with mellow vocals and catchy guitar riffs. But after a couple minutes, we’re inundated with wispy, windy audio. High Priest has an easy listening groove, a super laidback feel supplemented with an 808 electronic drum kit. You Know My Name borrows from several genres as well; melodically simple melodies are layered over a soft hip-hop beat partnered with a West Coast beach guitar and arpeggiated marimba-like sample. Quite possibly the most fun is Who is Like Our God, a psychedelic, syncopated hymn of praise to the Creator. It’s strange how one album can be so chameleonic in style yet so effective in curation.
If you’re more partial to the feel of the last album, don’t worry; tracks like Jesus, Your Blood, To the Highest Place, and Home bring the indie-worship vibes with a swirly delayed electronic guitar, piano/cello duo, and ambient guitar picking, respectfully. But nothing is old or tired. Ogden allows each song to evolve by seamlessly layering appealing musical ideas under (and sometimes over) inspiring lyrics. The text in each song looks like it came from the Psalms; to the Bible-reading listener it is not surprising. But in the way Ogden generates sound, in the way he pairs lyrics to music, it is life-giving. The final offering, Jesus, Your Blood appears to be a generally good worship tune…for the first three and a half minutes. But approaching the four minute mark, something happens, something so magical. Guitar, keys and drums are removed, exposing a lone electric guitar and shifting the whole atmosphere of the song. Ogden solos: “I will ascend the hill of the Lord/ ‘Cause you have rescued me”. It’s then as if a grand curtain drops, revealing that we’re sonically surrounded by chorus of voices and a full band that have been there all along. It’s quite cinematic, the ending, soaring until a lone whisper of an acoustic guitar reminds us that this song, this musical offering is for One and One alone.
Buy “The Eternal Son” here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-eternal-son/id1109183004
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