Review: The River ‘Harrows On The Down’ EP

Harrows On The Down is not the first time The River have ventured down an acoustic path, as the Violet Violent Sine Waves EP released in 2020 featured reimagined tracks found on the preceding 2019 album Vessels Into White Tides. In fact, Harrows… shares common features with that EP what with it being acoustic renditions of material found on their recent full-length album, A Hollow Full Of Hope and the addition of a brand new bonus track.

The River 'Harrows On The Down' EP Artwork
The River ‘Harrows On The Down’ EP Artwork

The Beckingham, London four-piece’s line-up remains as steady as ever with Jenny Newton (vocals, guitars, strings, piano), Christian Leitch (guitars, percussion), Stephen Morrissey (bass) and Jason Ludwig (drums). Finally, a common feature of The River‘s releases is nature and this here EP is no exception; the title referring to both a farming implement as well as a type of land (open chalk hills), the horses on the cover would also be utilised for such agricultural purposes. So, with that said, let’s get ‘down’ to it (pun intended).

The band’s work usually tends to be of epic progressive type proportions, however, for the purposes of the EP, the tracks are trimmed down considerably. In recent years The River has tended more towards emotional depth than crushing power, so it’s not entirely outside the realms of possibility for the band to put out such a release. It’s a more comfortable fit than it would be for the likes of say Slayer or Disrupt, whose fans might possibly die of shock.

Tiny Ticking Clocks doesn’t deviate too much from the original, a little more stripped back perhaps, with the orchestral elements removed. Acoustic tracks done effectively induce a feeling of intimacy and warmth, and this is something The River undoubtedly achieve here and which they are exceptionally good at. A promising start.

Acoustic tracks done effectively induce a feeling of intimacy and warmth, and this is something The River undoubtedly achieve…

On their last album, Exits was one of the album’s heavier numbers, with moments of both awe inspiring shoegaze beauty and post-rock explorative goodness. Obviously, an acoustic rendition will render these elements relatively null and void, however, that doesn’t mean Jenny‘s exquisite heart-wrenching vocals are sacrificed, if anything their fragility is only enhanced by the more restrained nature of the music. Acoustic folk in the wrong hands can be cringeworthy, mawkish and frankly dull, that is not the case here. Superb.

A Vignette, which originally weighed in at a hefty ten-minutes twenty-five, was the longest track on the aforementioned A Hollow Full Of Hope and demonstrative of The River‘s trademark sound, doom metal of the melancholic variety (as opposed to the weed and wizards obsession of a lot of their contemporaries). This time round there is a lot more delicacy, with lightly strummed guitars and an insistent drum pattern that provides a steady accompaniment, much like a faithful, loyal dog who rarely leaves its master’s side. Glorious.

The EP ends with a brand new track in the shape of Distant Summer Days and boy is this a standout and a personal favourite. An instrumental, its wistful, nostalgic quality reminds one of youth when responsibilities were few and you could afford to be carefree. It’s rather moving and as you listen, you start to reflect on where the time went, producing a sense of longing for those long-gone days. A wonderful, elegiac conclusion to the EP.

Having reviewed pretty much everything by The River since 2019, there’s not much I can add other than this is another lovely release by a band who haven’t yet disappointed. Roll on the next album!

Label: Underlin Music
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Scribed by: Reza Mills