My Beatific Vision – the title of this record obviously refers to the Christian thesis of the visio beatifica, which describes the direct self communication of God to the individual in the person’s afterlife. Needless to say, this communication is said to bring ultimate joy and happiness upon the person.
The number of persons who’ll actually perceive joy and happiness by listening to this present record might not be an overly large one – the seven-song EP is loud, incredible noisy and not exactly eager to reveal its subtle glory. Ecstatic waves of pure, sonic noise clash on the listener mercilessly. Ultra distorted, fuzzed out guitars produce a permanent feedback resembling a total acoustic annihilation. All the while THE LOST RIVERS keep a surprisingly strong sense for melodies and an undeniable coolness commemorative of their spiritual forefathers The Velvet Underground. My Beatific Vision is the incarnated beast of a sonic meltdown, pictured by a band that surprisingly isn’t based in New York, London or Berlin but in the placid Southwest of Germany, an area more known for its economic wealth and dubious construction projects than musical experimentalism.
The name THE LOST RIVERS might be a bit generic at first sight but offers quite some depth, if one looks further into it. You might think for example of rivers that play important roles in ancient myths and religious stories, like the four rivers mentioned in the Judeo-Christian Genesis. Or the five rivers of ancient Greece that were said to run through Hades. Perhaps it refers to actual lost rivers in urban areas, rivers and streams that have been put to the underground or built-over to create space for the spreading urban civilisation. In fact this picture has an almost desperately romantic overtone: On the one hand there’s no more space and no more need for those rivers, but it’s almost impossible to erase them from the land – they’ve been here way longer than the human civilisation and probably will still be there when all human life is extinct. Until then the waters patiently crawl underneath the stones we’ve built our fragile existence on.
Another possible reference is the novel Army of the lost rivers by the Italian writer Carlo Sgorlon (original title: L’Armata dei fiumi perduti). The book tells of the invasion of Friuli (an area in Italy’s northeast) by the Cossack nation that happened during the final months of World War II. Sgorlon tells of the Cossacks’s hopeless desire to regain their homeland – their lost rivers.
To whatever the band’s name actually might refer, its musical lineage is probably easier to define. Of course the mentioned The Velvet Underground paved the way for every band experimenting with stark feedback and noise not as unsolicited but indispensable component. Especially the second album White Light / White Heat heavily leaned on improvisation, strongly distorted guitars and white noise. Considering the time this record came out – the year of peace and love 1968 – makes this album one of the most radical statements in pop’s history, forging extreme noise into a trippy, psychedelic experience.
The Shoegazing scene of the 90ies owes a lot to The Velvet Underground, although most bands expelled the aggressive element present on White Light / White Heat and replaced it with a dreamy fragility. But a lot of those bands in the vein of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive or Ride also created sprawling, psychedelic soundscapes not by playing extensive guitar solos but drowning their riffs in tons of reverb, delay and feedback. One needs not to be a clairvoyant to see the influence of these bands in THE LOST RIVERS. Of course, the English outfit The Jesus And Mary Chain, which was a prime-influence for the Shoegazers, probably left its mark, too.
The second buttress of THE LOST RIVERS can be found in early Post-Punk. The repetitive, simplified drumming might be the most obvious borrowing, but also the style of the riffs, if one subtracts all the noise and feedback, is strongly reminiscent of the early exponents of this genre. One might think for example of the Joy Division predecessor Warsaw. It’s not only the instrumentation of THE LOST RIVERS that shows traces of this raw and unaltered music, also Phil Wolkendorf’s vocals are indeed similar to the early recordings of Ian Curtis. Not exactly the same or imitated in any way, but the overall style of singing is definitely comparable.
However there aren’t too many contemporary bands you could link THE LOST RIVERS to. Not too many, but one for sure: The New York based outfit A Place To Bury Strangers actually sounds a lot like THE LOST RIVERS (or the other way around). It’s the same approach of creating this weird, noisy pop music both bands choose, and due to this the outcome is quite similar. A Place To Bury Strangers might be a little more harsh and direct and therefore a little less psychedelic, but aficionados of this band would definitely enjoy THE LOST RIVERS, too.
My Beatific Vision was originally released in 2011 by Northern Star and recently saw its rerelease by This Charming Man Records. THE LOST RIVERS also released a full-length album in the meanwhile titled Sin And Lostness, which is no less exciting and demanding than the seven songs of this EP.
THE LOST RIVERS‘ music tells of destroyed instruments, bleeding fingers, headaches, trips and beatific visions received through high volumes. Listen.