Often, when I dig in to an album for reviewing, I’ll get a word about it stuck in my head, and it becomes central to my opinion. In the case of Where Moss Grows from Hidden Rivers, that word is “pretty.” Now, this may not be the descriptor Huw Roberts was hoping for, but the fact is, this is a pretty set of music. It exudes an air of contented calm, it offers up laid-back beats and sweet melodies, struts some serious old-school cred, and it’s just a pleasure to play. Roberts’ tones are shiny and cool, and he confidently sets his sounds to a relaxed-but-vibrant framework and never finds the need the crank up either volume or intensity. And it works for me—which is to say, I want this playing while I sit near the ocean having cocktails and watching the sun set. Roberts uses just synth and drum machine on this album, and leans heavily on rich sequencer lines. In fact, it’s the old-school vibe present in several tracks that catches me most. “Red the Sun’s Cold Disk” skirts the edge of the kind of sounds that made some ’80s EM a little cheesy—and I love it for that. The tone of the lead line brings up memories of iffy detective flicks from back in the day, and the irresistible nostalgia of the hand-clap synth is like a guilty pleasure lifted intact from early electro-pop. “Futureproof” comes away like a lost Tangerine Dream track, packing signature bass sequencer work with high keys launched over the top. On “White Light Peak,” the crisp lines of the sequencer matched up with floating chords spins out the album’s most soulful moments. “Awash” is a great example of the simple cool that winds through the songs here. A lazy beat, yawning pads, and an easy sway take hold—and, yeah, it’s pretty.
Roberts throws in a couple of tidbits that clock in under two minutes. They’re fine for what they are, little breathers between better tracks, but as is often the case with short pieces, it feels like they leave before they’ve had a real chance at expression. “Circa 96” in particular grabs my attention with its potential for interesting cool, but then it’s gone. The opening track runs just 1:40, and I don’t pay it much mind until it steps the more upbeat shine of “In and Out of Days.” Snippets are never my cup of tea, and I feel like these few little moments get lost in the shadows of the better music around them. Overall, Where Moss Grows grabs and holds my attention, will fit nicely into the kind of playlist that accompanies me and my drink out to the deck, and leaves me wanting more from Hidden Rivers. Definitely one you need to dip into.
Available from Serein.