Album: Eye of the Soundscape
Label: Inside Out
Arguably one of the greatest progressive rock bands of the 21st century, Riverside faced a tragedy earlier this year when founding member Piotr Grudziński unexpectedly passed away. However, the surviving members decided to finish the new ambient and instrumental music they’d been working on in the studio, which means that Eye of the Soundscape features the late guitarist’s last recordings.
Eye of the Soundscape is a 2-disc compilation that consists of four previously unreleased songs, two remixes, and the bonus content originally released on the special editions of the last two full-length albums. Those expecting a traditional Riverside album will be disappointed, as these ambient- and electronica-tinged instrumental songs represent the band’s experimental side. To be honest, for me the “Day Session” bonus disc of last year’s Love, Fear and the Time Machine has been merely a curiosity that I’ve never really felt like going back to, so I wasn’t sure how I’d react to 100 minutes of music in that vein, since I’d never heard the other tracks. Luckily there turns out to be plenty of variety within the two discs.
“Where the River Flows” opens the first disc with lush keyboards, sound effects, and electronic beats. The guitar playing reminds me a bit of the James Bond theme(!), and frontman Mariusz Duda’s wordless falsetto vocals at the end are beautiful. “Shine” has got a darker mood, but it’s rather energetic with a driving beat – I could imagine this song on the soundtrack of a crime series on TV. The other two new pieces, “Sleepwalkers” and “Eye of the Soundscape,” bookend disc 2 – the former is very electronic and includes some distorted bass and mysterious whispering, while the latter is a fully ambient track. The title track is too uneventful to work as a regular stand-alone song, but “Sleepwalkers” is really cool and gives me a hospital show vibe.
As for the previously released material, The Pink Floydian delay guitars and groove of “Rapid Eye Movement,” and the light and relaxed “Rainbow Trip” – which combines guitar-oriented and electronic sounds – are the highlights. As the name implies, both parts of “Night Session” are great to listen to in the small hours. The “Day Session” tracks, however, are not any more interesting than they were a year ago when I first listened to them. It’s nice to spot some familiar references to Riverside’s rock songs though, such as the “Celebrity Touch” keyboards heard on “Machines”, and the saxophonist from “Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination)”, who makes an appearance on the second part of “Night Session.”
Eye of the Soundscape may not be the kind of record you specifically put on and sit down to listen to, but it works perfectly as a mood-setter or background music for, say, reading or relaxation. Then again, songs like “Where the River Flows” flow (no pun intended) so nicely that they don’t feel very long even if you’re really concentrating on them. This album is also the perfect send-off and a beautiful tribute to the underrated and talented Grudziński, who was a fan of this kind of atmospheric instrumental music. Now that these pieces have been compiled onto one release and they’re not overshadowed by the songs on the main albums, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Riverside’s ambient side, which I had previously overlooked due to the strength of the band’s rock-oriented material.
Rating: 8/10, 4 stars
1. Where the River Flows
3. Rapid Eye Movement (2016 Mix)
4. Night Session – Part One
5. Night Session – Part Two
2. Rainbow Trip (2016 Mix)
8. Eye of the Soundscape
Text: Ville Karttunen | Ed: Amy Wiseman