If you have ever experienced the confluence of rivers, of water flowing together and becoming one, it is something that sticks in your memory. In my own recollection, I can recall the rivers of my youth flowing together, of two great rivers becoming one entity at a confluence not far from the house I grew up in. This place, where two things become intertwined, could be understood as a sacred place, a center of an inexorable change that happens to all things on earth. Fionn Regan, with his new album, feels the same way about our life and our bodies, using that imagery to describe the meeting of two individuals in love:
“The meetings of the waters
Just below the ribs
To the higher reach
From the roots of love
Meetings of the waters”
The use of natural imagery to describe inner states is a theme that runs across Regan’s new album “The Meetings of the Waters.” In this way the artist reminds one of the imagery of Tarkovsky film, where inner worlds and outer worlds are fluid and changeable with each other. I think of the use of trees in “Ivan’s Childhood” to show the growth and decay of beauty and innocence. Through similar ideas, Regan searches for those natural processes in us, whether that be “below the ribs” or in the way that we can strive to be like the sky:
“Trace your eyes across the broken way
Summer’s on your wing
Talk until the break of day
Turn those skies of blue on”
As for the sound, the album takes an interesting turn with the use of several ambient textures, such as on interlude track “Ai” or on the epic realization of similar sounds called “Tsuneni Ai,” which also happens to be the Japanese translation of his record label. The 12 minute ambient track closes the album in a brave move for the singer-songwriter, showing that he’s not afraid to redefine the ordinary idea of a folk album. This adventurousness is a refreshing on “The Meetings of the Waters.”
Yet it is an album that at times faults in its quest for different sounds. The produced guitars and “oh oh ohs” of driving beat of “Cape of Diamonds and “Book of the Moon” sound out-of-place and strangely poppy among the rest of the album’s subtle imagery and experimental sounds. Regan seems to be reaching and scrambling for solid ground on a shifting cacophony of ideas, where sometimes he strikes gold and other times falls flat. Though I would like to give him due credit for trying new things.
So it seems that Regan is on a quest to redefine his own music. Riding on the energy of his song “Abacus” being sampled for Bon Iver’s “1000000 (Million)” off of the album “22, A Million,” he seems inspired to challenge his own notions of music, figuring out what sound encapsulates his vision of music and storytelling. Songs like “Wall of Silver” and “Euphoria” mix together Regan’s new ideas well, finding a balance between acoustic guitar and electronic sounds while the artist’s voice soars overhead. The fingerpicking of “Euphoria” almost becomes ecstatic in its constant roll while the dark sounds echo behind it.
By the ambient release of the album’s ending, we’ve gone on an interesting journey through Regan’s mind, experiencing a shifting wall of sound and ideas. Although not transcendent in its compositions, the idiosyncratic space the artist is discovering is one that he should continue to cultivate. We’ll keep on expecting the unexpected.