“WHO THE HELL IS RIVER TIBER AND WHY IS HE SUDDENLY EVERYWHERE?” asked Noisey’s Tania Peralta early last year.

Ahead of last Friday’s release of debut album INDIGO, Toronto’s Tommy Paxton-Beesley made himself ubiquitous in the local art scene, starting with Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015) and BADBADNOTGOOD’s 2014 collaboration with Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul.  You may remember him most recently from “Vivid Dreams” on KAYTRANADA’s 99.9% (2016), another much-anticipated debut album.

In each instance, Paxton-Beesley brings a smooth voice and wistful lyrics. He continues the trend on INDIGO with 12 self-produced tracks that harken back to early Weeknd tapes like House of Balloons (2011). They’re simultaneously nonchalant and melodramatic, provocative … cinematic. A majestic string section on “Genesis” preludes the intro track’s own sickly sweet vocals and lead single “No Talk,” on which background vocals are reminiscent of Rhye.

River Tiber’s tones blend into one another, a technique more frequently employed as of late, to create looming tension in momentary dissonance. This unrest is occasionally cut with lighter measures, such as the stylistic switch in “Motives” at its 2:55 mark.

As often is the case with debut records, the first half of INDIGO establishes River Tiber’s sound, while the second half is more experimentally-involved. A wobbling bassline in “Clarity” gives way to sparse guitar and woodblock while a feminine voice sings the main motif: “I know what I want / I know what I’m not.” Paxton-Beesley adds his own (“You’re looking for God”) before ending on a speech sample. Immediately after, “I’m a Stone” provides an ominous ballad with non-falsetto vocals and a harsher sounding break between softer songs, including the piano-based “Green in Blue” which would’ve been a good note to end on.

But alas, the next and very last track of INDIGO is the most confusing of all; “Flood” floods its listener with samples so scattered and layered they result in gross dissonance. The effort to branch out is welcomed, considering the uniformity of the rest of the album, but River Tiber steps into his own trap here.

Nevertheless, this is just the start of Paxton-Beesley’s already impressively grounded career. If you’re not already familiar with River Tiber, INDIGO’s worth getting acquainted with. You’ll find sonic washes to hide in, tones to be soothed by, and grinds to make love to. We recommend any of the aforementioned tracks, including “Flood”, if only to hear for contrast and forget.

Article by Joanna Jiang

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