Barcode Free Music (label)
22 April 2021 (released)
30 July 2021
We humans are at least half water. Our planet is 71% water. Water pervades every facet of our lives. Could it not be said that water has its own personalities? In it there is calm and chaos, life and death. Billions of organisms feeding ecosystem upon ecosystem. The most sacred need for life is alive and has a consciousness of its own.
The Silence Collective is a Canadian group of singers, poets, instrumentalists, filmmakers, craftspeople, activists, composers, cartographers, and scientists. The group is assembled to give a voice to our greatest resource by creating a piece that personifies water, more specifically the Grand River watershed which feeds a large swath of southern Ontario. The watershed is home to the largest First Nations reserve in Canada, the Six Nations of the Grand River, and in 2018, under 10% of its population had access to safe, potable water. The album, though just four tracks, is composed of two massive set pieces that jump from poetry reading to avant-garde freakout, to serene meditation, and back again. RiverChants exists to not only raise awareness of your interconnectedness with your ecosystem but to help you empathize with the water that surrounds you.
A spoken word contemplation doubles back on itself with waves of echo as droplets begin to coalesce and create their uneven yet rhythmic patter. Drones quiver, metal clangs, strings flick with pizzicato plucks. A clarinet and trumpet chime in with haphazard bursts as a female voice channels the percolating nature of life poking its head out of the water. The narrator returns to namecheck the tributaries which feed and are nourished by the great reservoir. Deeper reeds and strings enter to carry like the undertow. 'Born of a Cloudburst...A Sparrow Takes a Beakful of Water' takes countless twists and turns, emulating the life journey of a drop of water over its 20-minute runtime. From infinitesimal singularity to the vastness of a rushing river across the land, transporting minerals, plants, food, and even reshaping the land itself to its new plan. The sounds swell to a mighty cacophony as the river rushes to meet its end. As a listener, you get swept up in its inexorable current.
'Alive' takes on a slightly more conventional form, albeit a loose form jazz expression. Ride cymbal chinks out an arhythmic time as scat bursts over meandering cornet. Gorgeous cello and bass clarinet intertwine in a sultry dance. Swells recreate rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds. The elements combining then re-finding their separate ways. 'Its Music a Form' is more singular in focus, individual melodies enjoy their own brief spotlight rather than being flotsam and jetsam swept up in a grand current. The final setpiece 'Of Memory...A Watershed' sets out delicate and unassuming. A wounded bird facing a long recovery or a quick death. A mournful singer articulates the intrinsic memory contained within the water itself. It has seen all the life, death, violence, and rebirth that the community has endured. The notes are simultaneously welcoming and uncomfortable, the sensation of a familiar pain. A warm mantra emerges with the serene cornet soaring over fingerpicked guitar. A hopeful outlook for the future.
RiverChants is a beautiful multi-disciplinary piece in the most unconventional sense. Avant-garde, textural, jarring. Criss-crossing mediums with aplomb. This is by no means an easy listen. The album challenges every facet of your listening muscles. But in that challenge is a great reward. The chaos of a roaring rapid spilling into the most pristine, still mountain lake. A living breathing personification of the music of the natural world in all its wild entropic glory.