Album Review: “ETT” by Row Boat (Bottle Imp Productions)

 “ETT” is the latest effort and first full length album from Row Boat, the ambient/post rock project of Mark Wardale.   As enjoyable as were the EPs,  “Romance” and “Svaret är ja”, “ETT” unfurls the full scope and power of Mark’s creative vision and it arrives as a significant and ear-catching contribution in an increasingly crowded field.  At times delicately nuanced, at others epic and bombastic, “ETT” is an outstanding multi-faceted album that brings together a number of diverse genre aesthetics and has real growing power.

The title track opens the album and sets a tone of bold and stark beauty by evoking a vivid wintry landscape through the sound of blustering winds, plaintive strings, human voice, and a plethora of other textures.  ‘Prova’ then builds on this as the first full length track.  It begins with some unique reversed vocals which Mark uses sparingly and effectively in various places on “ETT”.  They sound a bit odd to the ear at first, but soon become indispensable to the song and serve as a focal point for the melody as the song builds to a thunderous crescendo that instantly gives the album serious post rock credibility.

From here the intersections and variations between evocative soundscapes and rousing instrumental rock are masterfully developed and sequenced.   The hauntingly beautiful ‘Frostavallen’ is followed by the epic peaks and valleys of ‘Radslan’.  The contemplative ‘Fix Your Bones’ is followed by the melodic romanticism of ‘By Winter’s Night’.  The album then downshifts to a pure ambient mode with ‘Aurora’ and ‘Igloo’ before rising up to what I consider the showpiece of the album, ‘Kampaglod.   This track has wonderful melodic pulse, a snarling bass line, and is driven by a fabulous drum riff.  It is perfectly placed on the album to deliver wide-eyed catharsis before easing you home with a long, delicate outro and into the reflective closing track, ‘Annika’.

I was glad to be able to spend a good amount of time with this album before reviewing it.  I found it yielded new rewards and deeper satisfaction with each and every listen, which is the sign of an album that was constructed with great care and emotional investment and built up with many well thought out layers.   It fires the imagination, touches the emotions, and always stays interesting.   It manages to be eclectic and maintain a sense of wonder and mystery while always remaining accessible and engaging.

“ETT” is currently available in digital format on a name your price basis or in a nice physical CD package, both available to order on Row Boat’s Bandcamp site. Do yourself a favor and give it a thoughtful listen.  Once you do, you probably will not be able to stop.

Album Info via Bottle Imp Productions: