Don’t let the title of Row Boat’s latest album give you the wrong impression. With ‘Shallow Waters’, Mark Wardale gives us an EP that provides a very deep and satisfying listening experience over the course of its four tracks and which smartly expands the artistic range of his ambient post rock project.
If you enjoyed ‘ETT’, his full length release from last year, you will find yourself in a familar musical territory but you should also notice a subtle thaw in the wintry mood as the music on ‘Shallow Waters’ is not quite so densely layered and brighter, more verdant tones are allowed to permeate the sonic landscape.
The opening track, ‘Ever After Memories’, begins with scratchy ambience, mournful strings, and stark percussion reminiscent of many tracks on ‘ETT’, but then an angelic vocal breathes space and light into the piece (sung very capably by Annika Wardale). Celesta, piano, and cymbal washes add more brightness and flourish and the track blooms into something shimmering and full of melancholic beauty.
The enigmatic second track, ‘Orkan’ captures the epic Scandinavian musical zeitgeist in a way that would do Sigur Ros proud. Presumably the title refers to the Swedish word for hurricane. The cadence of the slow build is set with a well articulated ride cymbal and ominous bass lines upon which layers of abstract vocals, guitar, and horns are added, all marching inexorably to a massive stormy crescendo befitting the title.
The calm after this storm is ‘kärleksbrev’ (love letter in Swedish), featuring solo piano and delicate horns. It is an exceptionally lovely piece which adds a new dimension to Wardale’s repertoire that I would be happy to see him continue to explore. The piano then leads us into the closing track, ‘Inertia’, a lush and sprawling ambient post rock track full of suitably mysterious atmosphere and pleasing changes in tempo.
What I especially enjoy about Row Boat is the intimate, organic feel to Wardale’s style. It is grand and mysterious, yet intimate and introspective. Wardale constantly explores the abstract and keeps the listener engaged by choosing musical roads less traveled.
‘Shallow Waters’ is simply an excellent EP for the discerning listener who enjoys both ambient and post rock music. Bonus tracks include the more experimental piece ‘Midnattsol’ as well as ‘Prova’, which also appeated on ‘ETT’. If you are a fan of Row Boat, don’t miss this one. If not, this is a perfect place to start.
Listen to ‘Orkan’