Scott Solter: One River
Hidden Shoal

Though Scott Solter's One River isn't a new recording—it was first released in 2005 on Tell-All Records—it's as timeless a recording of ambient music as could be imagined—and beautiful, too, I might add. Its title is well-chosen, as the recording unfolds in an uninterrupted, thirty-four-minute flow, despite the seven-track indexing of its presentation. What separates it from many another ambient recording is its timbral character, and in particular the steel guitar-like sound that Solter generates through the heavily processed treatment of the electric guitar. Its flowing lines reverberate so powerfully One River begins to sound as if it was recorded in an immense cathedral setting. A mood of peaceful calm characterizes the material, as if to suggest the lulling drift of a boat as it floats downstream, propelled by nothing more than the movements of the river itself.

Solter has built up an impressive CV as a producer and for having worked with artists such as Spoon, Pattern is Movement, Superchunk, Liam Singer, and St Vincent, but it's another side of Solter that's showcased on One River, the one that finds him acting as a member of both The Balustrade Ensemble and Boxharp, the latter with Wendy Allen (whose manipulated voice briefly appears on One River). Though, as mentioned, One River plays without interruption, distinct shifts in character do assert themselves as the material moves from one indexed track to the next. Whereas “Tarn” inaugurates the journey with a becalmed ebb-and-flow of delicate guitar shadings and soft bell percussion accents, “Antique Brothers” brings the ethereal breath of Wendy Allen aboard; elsewhere, cymbal shadings by Solter's other guest, Desmond Shea, amplify the resonating character of “Cypress Road” before “The Palace Wedding” closes the album on a ever-so-graceful note. One River is like a single protracted sigh, a lyrical and and beautiful setting that stands head and shoulders above the standard ambient recording.

December 2011