Another River is the second full-length album from London-based duo Alpines. On it, the band retains its mature electronic pop sound, delivered with cool confidence reminiscent of fellow Londoner Jessie Ware. The fashion world is obsessed with Alpines, and with good reason; the music they make offers the same understated impact as every classic design aspires to.
The album opens with its title track, which features sounds of rushing water fading under glacial piano, giving way to Catherine Pockson’s emotive vocals. Pockson’s voice is central to Alpines’ distinctive sound, always quavering slightly, as if on the very edge of composure. Her voice cuts out as the track explodes from delicate piano into one of the the duo’s signature electronic breaks, showcasing in a single track the breadth of Alpines’ musicianship.
Tracks such as “Completely” and “Stay” move in a darker direction, with basslines and vocal effects not unlike artists such as Banks and SOHN. Pockson’s yearning vocal on “Completely” tugs at the heartstrings, whilst the driving percussion underlying “Stay” is intriguingly ominous.
Pleasingly, Alpines continue to revel in the delights of slow jams. The sparse arrangement of “Motionless” gives the record breathing space, whilst “How It Hurts” sees an elegant piano ballad come to a thoughtful crescendo without becoming overwrought. All too often, bands neglect tracks such as these in favour of danceable singles. By retaining and nurturing them within the tracklisting, Alpines provide the ebb and flow necessary to create a cohesive album.
“Love and Money” is a particular highlight, infusing classic songwriting themes with an R&B inflection. It features one of the record’s most understated vocal performances, along with album closer “Under the Sun”. These tracks allow producer Bob Matthews the chance to shine, building intricate soundscapes around the skeleton of Pockson’s vocal melodies.
Another River reflects the propensity of British musicians to work with an incongruous collection of influences and build a cohesive musical identity. While the record may not see Alpines taking any great risks, the security and sincerity of Another River is nonetheless rewarding.