David Bickley: Still Rivers At Night

Manchester-born David Bickley is no ingénue, having worked with German ambient musician Hans Joachim Roedelius and for Brian Eno's Opal company during a rather storied career of music-making and video production. Written and produced in West Cork, Ireland, Bickley's latest outing, Still Rivers At Night, presents eight samplings of finely-crafted electronic mood music. His work has been compared to The Orb and, in fact, the group's dubby propulsiveness echoes throughout Still Rivers At Night, specifically in songs like “Traction Cities” and “Zebo-Black.” But Bickley's material eschews the daft dimension that characterizes some Orb releases, and that's not necessarily a good thing, given how much that wacky quality helps distinguish its music; Bickley's atmospheric material, by comparison, is inarguably polished but also errs a bit too much on the ambient side, making for a too-tame collection (unfortunately, those moments when the album pursues a more aggressive line typically spotlight the rock-tinged snarl of Kieran Kennedy's electric guitar playing). Having said that, the album title suggests that that's exactly the effect Bickley's aiming for—too bad the results aren't as provocative as they are pretty. Interestingly, the title piece of Bickley's disc strongly recalls the titular composition on Tangerine Dream's Phaedra—a good or perhaps not-so-good proposition, depending on one's listening preferences.

August 2006