River Whyless A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door

River Whyless A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door
North Carolina's River Whyless are the new band to watch. The quartet, which met at Appalachian State University, boast a classically trained violinist (Halli Anderson) and a drummer with an English major (Alex McWalters), whose literary input resulted in the title, A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door, taken from Thomas Wolfe's novel, Look Homeward, Angel. Between their academic strengths, their love of coasts and woodlands, and their respect for folk traditions, all the while experimenting with unconventional sounds, they more than have their bases covered. The interplay of vocals and strings on their debut is as magical as it gets. Baroque instruments lurk in the background, as if sulking. They inch their way into the soundscape, creeping past Anderson and Ryan O'Keefe's singing for an occasional frenzied wail, a distorted crackle or a deep, droning grunt until finally released. Thrilling is "Widow's Walk" (which would be right at home on the Decemberist's Picaresque), for its eerie cacophony of distorted foghorns echoing in misty atmospherics. Another track worth mentioning is "Stone." The seven-minute opus begins with surges of layered harmonies, pastoral and hymn-like, trading off with O'Keefe's verses, sung in quiet yet urgent desperation. Unruly cymbals join a brisker rhythm, making way for a slow shuffle in an exquisite moment of swampy blues, then cycling through the glorious combination it began with. (Independent)