Cohesion through discord is a theme that runs rampant through robot by the river’s birdsong sayonara. Though that idea seems like an oxymoron (how on earth can something be cohesive and discordant at the same time?), bear with me as we go on a journey into a world unknown.
“Antidepressants & Vitamins” opens with a folky guitar and funny, clear lyrics. You’re just kind of grooving along, and then you hear a weird sound. Thinking maybe it’s just the stream, you continue. There it goes again, and again. Suddenly, you’re blindsided by a cacophony of grating feedback riding along the catchy tune. Just when you think it’s going to blow your eardrums out, it stops and you’re able to hear an almost improvised sounding section of that tune. You calm down, thinking that was just a weird moment.
“Searching for the Elephants” borrows heavily from blues influences, all the way down to the subject matter. We find the same funny lyrics that you’re likely to find yourself repeating, and you’re even treated to a moaning harmonica rhythm that’s coupled with a high-pitched electronic aura. In contrast, “Sometimes” is a flat tuned, deeper song, with lyrics that reach into your chest and rip your heart out. The vocals sound a bit held back, which also adds to the emotional sensibilities.
“Stars” is the logical next step, after the previous two songs, including echoed vocals, the reappearance of the blues guitar and a strong bass. Halfway through you hear that high-pitched feedback type sound again, and you will finally understand why cohesion through discord is the name of the game here.
If you thought you’d heard it all, just wait. “Oh, Lord” goes in a COMPLETELY opposite direction from what you’ve been hearing up until now, incorporating softer high vocals and science fiction-inspired background noise. It’s a positively elevating song. By the time you get to “Simply Smiling,” you’ll be thankful for the much calmer, more predictable sound of the track. It ends the album smoothly and rounds everything out.
This album is not for the weak of heart or those who suffer from pronounced auditory sensitivity. I thought the feedback was an incredibly bold choice and, once I got over the initial shock, actually enjoyed how well it was catered to match the music it accompanied. However, some people may find it too powerful to process. Not all of the songs here use that same effect so there is bound to be something here for everyone.
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