Doves were one of the finest indie pop bands of the early 2000s, but after four excellent albums the group’s members decided to have a go at creating music outside of the band. Bassist and lead singer Jimi Goodwin delivered an interesting and experimental offering in the form of ‘Odludek’ last year, and now it’s the turn of Jez and Andy Williams’ group Black Rivers to provide some post-Doves music.
While Goodwin made a big effort to avoid retreading the same ground he did with Doves, Black Rivers stick with what they know, adding a heavier synth presence perhaps and shaping the songs to suit Williams’ voice. It pays off too – sprightly guitar riffs characterise the album, serving as the solid framework for tracks like Diamond Days and The Forest to burst forward and bloom into powerfully epic tunes.
The Ship sees the band pushing their horizons quite considerably, with a pulsing synth dominating the track, and the intelligent use of dynamics imitates the sensation of waves ebbing and flowing. The natural accompaniment to this electronic sound would of course be a drum machine, but the band refrain from that cliché, and the vibrant live drum beats add much to the tune. It’s an exciting and refreshingly different sound for the Williams brothers.
On the other hand, Harbour Lights flops badly. The song reeks of filler, with the instrumentation being quite plain and unimaginative, while vocals are replaced by a sample of a woman speaking French in what appears to be an attempt at high sophistication. It’s hard to know what the band were really aiming for with this song, and is the one major blot on what is otherwise a very solid album.
Instead of over-hauling the Doves sound as Goodwin did on his solo release last year, Black Rivers embrace it, while at the same time gently pushing themselves in new directions. The result is this assured collection of alt-pop tunes that stand up favourably to former releases by the Williams brothers.