I am a patient person—except when it comes to music. Songs that delay the entry of sensible structure or noticeable melody tend to annoy me, if I may be blunt. So I’m not sure how I managed even to listen to “Rivers”—with its 30 opening seconds of ambient electronic sounds and 30 additional seconds of instrumental introduction—without hitting stop and delete and moving on to the next thing. Sometimes, it seems, my ear hears things that my brain doesn’t initially latch onto. And I am in any case very glad I didn’t throw this one in the scrap bin, because that opening minute leads us into something grand and memorable.
It turns out this song, musically at least, is all about delayed gratification. After the long (long) introduction, the melody, in a series of ways, keeps edging near resolution and backing away. You can hear it, maybe, at 1:20, and then in an extended way at 1:40—note that Julia Catherine Parr then literally starts singing about being “so lost,” as the music retracts into background noise. We wait and wait and find deliverance with the line she belts at 1:57. I can’t understand the words but the music, at last, tells us the wait is over, and at 2:01 we plunge into something that feels deep and grounded, while also kind of sparkly and flowy. We are led to a point of resolution at 2:11 (on the words—no coincidence—“take you home”) that feels both solid and liquid: we resolve, and yet we keep flowing. The second half of the song is like that, at once robust and feathery, and the fact that it leads to a coda of heavenly voices seems exactly right. I suspect that not one moment of this song is accidental. It’s a fine ride, and reminds me to be patient in music as in life. At least sometimes.
Black City Lights is the project of Wellington, New Zealand producer Calum Robb and vocalist Parr. Either a sign of the times or a complete aberration, Robb just began writing and producing music late in 2010. “Rivers” is one of six songs on the Black City Lights debut EP, Parallels, released last week on Stars & Letters, a small NYC-based label. MP3 via Stars & Letters.