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(Chair Kickers Union)

Although there is a veritable slew of guest and collaborative artists on this release, the main person behind Rivulets is singer/songwriter Nathan Amundson. Blessed with an amazing voice and a knack for writing quiet, plaintive songs, it seems almost natural that this album was recorded in an actual church. It's because of this that even simple vocal tracks often have a completely otherworldly quality to them. Tones reverberate up to the 20+ foot ceilings, and percussion rings out and wraps around things like a wet blanket.

I mentioned the guest artists above, and not only did Alan Sparhawk of Low sing on a couple tracks, but he also recorded and produced the disc with Amundson. In addition to Sparhawk, his other half Mimi Parker sings on one track, as well as Jon DeRosa (Aarktica), and Jessica Bailiff. The disc opens with a short and simple vocal track entitled "Evil," but it's obviously recorded in an non-sterile environment, and chair creaks and other noises are the subtle and fitting accompaniment. The track leads directly into "Cutter," which is probably one of the best songs on the entire disc, moving along with strummy acoustic guitar, plucked banjo, and very subtle keyboard. Amundson's voice soars above it all, and the second half of the track is so fragile that it sounds like it will fall apart at any moment.

"Bridges" moves through similarly haunted waters as solitary cymbal strikes become deep gong hits that fill the entire background of the track while plucked piano strings and acoustic guitar provide a limber foreground. It's some of the most simple tracks on the album that work the best, though. "Conversation With A Half-Empty Bottle" is nothing but Amundson and a guitar, but the natural reverb of the recording facility again just adds an almost otherworldly-ness to his already great vocals. Likewise, there are tracks that command attention simply by breaking out of the sort of sleepy, melancholy haze that the majority of the album drifts by in. "If It Is" is basically one rising crescendo, and by the time it reaches a louder point (complete with eerie Optigan organ), it shakes some life into things.

Not surprising is that the track which features both members of Low is the track that sounds the most like that group. "Will You Be There" is easily the best song for strictly vocals, mixing not only Parker and Sparkhawk in with Amundson, but Bailiff as well. With only tambourine, organ, and acoustic guitar for accompaniment, it's still enough. Despite a couple moments, Debridement is almost relentlessly deliberate and washed-out. Despite a couple moments of catharsis, it's best heard locked inside on a cool winter night. Fans of Low will most definitely want to check it out, as well as fans of drone-rock in general.

Rating: 6.5