[sic] Magazine

Cubs – Rivers Of Amber/Frozen Waterfall

An expansive volume of material is on offer here from the Irish psychedelic folksters Cubs. One half, Frozen Waterfall, was originally released as a download last year and is now accompanied by a collection of recordings from the same sessions.

The music is a breezy, rustic, earthy affair. Despite sounding like it was conceived in a barn on the outskirts of Limerick, I’m surprised to learn that it was actually recorded in Galway, Belfast, Huddersfield and Atlanta. The best way of describing the songs is a collection of simple ideas which often take a starting point and develop and extrapolate it using layers of instrumentation and vocals that aim to be as organic as possible; in other words, none of your modern day keyboards and programming are present here, particularly if there are acoustic guitars, flutes, and a mandolin present and correct nearby.

Vocal duties are shared across the band – some are male-led – and others, such as the beautiful ‘Crystal World’ are female-led. Often, as in ‘Hot Honey Glazes Hills’ and ‘Thunder Calling’, there’s a mixture of both. These guys feel genuinely authentic in terms of attempting to both protect the heritage of Irish music and develop ideas based upon it. Where modern Irish music is arguably represented by the post-punk from the likes of Fontaines DC and Sons Of Southern Ulster, Cubs are taking an entirely different route and exposing the sound of Olde Ireland.

Highlights include ‘Time Slowly Melts Away’, which feels sorrowful and thought provoking, and ‘Crystal World’, which is best described like wandering around Glastonbury Festival and stumbling across a secret stone circle with musicians dressed in matching costume playing magical tunes to an audience of eager listeners sitting around a campfire.

The feel of both halves of this double album is consistent – there’s no big transition as we progress from ‘Rivers Of Amber’ to ‘Frozen Waterfall’, and there are a number of standout tracks across the second album, namely the instrumental ‘Cold Bulbs’, the haunting title track, and the Cocteau Twins ethereality of ‘Neon Tetra’. The album closes with ‘Aunt Myrtle’, which is a perfect coda to an eclectic and uplifting collection of songs that genuinely describe organic Irish music.

I can certainly see this album particularly appealing to fans of The Declining Winter, epic45 and July Skies. It’s rather lovely.

~Rivers Of Amber/Frozen Waterfall is available on July 2nd from Rusted Rail.~