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Remora/Rivulets/Pale Horse and Rider
The Alcohol EPs
CD Split 2002 | Silber 022
14 tracks, 72 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (256 kbps, ~128 megs))
Three projects, all of quite accomplished musicians, contributing to a concept album - an interesting idea and one pulled off here admirably. While all three take similar directions and help make this album cohesive, each has their own approach, which keeps the album interesting. Much better than a simple split EP, this is a split album of three EPs, a truly impressive project.:: Delusions of Adequacy

You could say that Nathan, Brian, and Jon have each had their share of alcohol problems in the past. With enough hindsight and sobriety to make this undertaking a possibility, but not quite enough to forget the emotions stirred up by the booze, The Alcohol EPs is a collection of short releases by each artist, containing songs influenced by or written under the influence of alcohol.

Rivulets is the project of displaced Alaskan Nathan Am, who now calls Duluth, MN home. His appearance on The Alcohol EPs follows his 2002 debut album on Chair Kickers' Union, and his 2002 EP release on BlueSanct. Rivulets' steady touring regiment has given Nathan ample time and appropriate atmospheres to hone his craft of writing quiet, alcohol-inspired laments in the vein of Nick Drake, perhaps Jandek versus Jackson Browne at his most melancholy.
Remora is best known for forays into aggressive ambient and post-punk atmospheric drone. However on this collection of songs, Brian John Mitchell (Remora) sheds the effects in favor of acoustic guitars and performs stripped down misery ballads that mix one part Willie Nelson's ruggedness to two parts Michael Gira's desolation. It's a completion of some of the songwriting ideas hinted at on last year's Some Past's Future full-length & Some Future's Past EP.
The Alcohol EPs marks the first appearance of Jon DeRosa's Pale Horse and Rider. DeRosa picks up where his previous acoustic projects have left off. A departure from his experimental work with Aarktica, Pale Horse and Rider works under the model of classic country tinged with themes of modern alienation. It seems DeRosa truly feels at home in the bar atmosphere, perhaps because he lives right upstairs from one. Classic songwriting, influenced by Johnny Cash and Hank Williams.
Together The Alcohol EPs make for a cohesive concept album celebrating acoustic guitar-built songs as well as personal stuggles for growth.*
Track Listing:
  1. Remora - I Told Jesus Christ How Much I Love Her
  2. Remora - First Call
  3. Remora - Built
  4. Remora - Joy Division
  5. Remora - Oblivion
  6. Remora - Hope is Gone
  7. Pale Horse and Rider - Bruises Like Badges
  8. Pale Horse and Rider - You've Been Keepin' Secrets Again
  9. Pale Horse and Rider - Open Letter to an Empty Bar
  10. Pale Horse and Rider - Pincushion Hands
  11. Rivulets - Anaconda
  12. Rivulets - Gimme Excess
  13. Rivulets - Shakes
  14. Rivulets - Your Light & How It Shined
"22 bottles of beer on the wall, 22 bottles of beer...." Brian John Mitchell's Silber Records' 22nd release celebrates the death of John Barleycorn with a concept album dedicated to "personal struggles for growth." With bartender Tom Waits serving up double shots of JD, the mood is somber throughout - no loudmouthed, barbrawling lagerlouts here - but, as the press release offers: "substance abuse is not glamorous." So what we have are three pseud-anonymous solo artists peering through a haze of barroom smoke wondering aloud why their pots at the end of the rainbow are overflowing with vomit and cheap rent-a-piss.
Remora (Mitchell) buys the first round with the punnily titled "I Told Jesus Christ How Much I Love Her," whose meaning reveals itself in the course of the sad ballad of our narrator who's lost his girlfriend in a car accident and has turned to the bottle for solace. "First Call" (the tracks should have been reversed) is an instrumental mood piece wherein Mitchell strums a guitar over a set of backwards tape loops and sets the stage for the remainder of the album, which thematically regresses into drunkeness (or alcoholism over the long term), recalling what a friend once told me about that "first call:" the first drink of the evening always tastes the best and you spend the remainder of the evening chasing after its elusive "rush."
"Built" is a quiet, depressing confessional that sounds like Michael Gira on 'ludes, and will appeal to everyone who misses the mood of the final Swans' albums. And speaking of JD (and depression), the world's most depressing band is the titular subject of "Joy Division." A friendly word of advice: one thing you don't want to do after your lover's left you is put on a JD record and settle into a comfy chair within arm's length of the liquor cabinet. Mitch at least hasn't gone over the deep end just yet - there's a glimmer of hope in the closing lyric, "I don't want to put a rope around my neck/I'm listening to Joy Division."
By the time he reaches "Oblivion," a lengthy, ominously strummed instrumental that illustrates the false sense of nirvana that alcohol de/in-stills, you'll be reaching for a bottle yourself. By then, "Hope is Gone," and old John Barleycorn has got his claws stuck into you and you have nothing to look forward to but a Sisyphusian climb out of the bottom of a bottle that will haunt you for the rest of your life.
New Yorker Jon De Rosa has recorded under nearly half a dozen different monikers (including Pale, Still, Dead Leaves Rising, and Aarktica), and his latest incarnation is Pale Horse and Rider. When I interviewed him a few years ago he expressed his fascination with the work of the "man in black," and his four tracks here offer the opportunity to mix Johnny Cash and Hank Williams (with a little bit of ice and a lemon twist.) Jon lives over a bar and he told me that he writes a lot of his material downstairs with the aid of a sixpack and a notebook, just watching the world go by. "You've Been Keeping Secrets Again" has the feel of an Olde English ballad about the descent into madness, or in this case alcoholism. I'm also reminded of some of those old ballads that McGuinn used to reinterpret with The Byrds. It also illustrates Reason #46 why people turn to drink: to drown their sorrows while questioning why loved ones have such a difficult time being honest with us. I can picture Jon at the end of the night sitting alone at the table after the customers have stumbled out, extemporaneously contemplating life's mysteries.
All of you who've been present at too many "closing times" will appreciate the sentiment of "Open Letter To An Empty Bar," and you certainly can identify with our hero's "Pincushion Hands," another morose ballad ruing love's labours lost. If you're familiar with any of De Rosa's other projects, this is closes to the acoustic melancholia of Dead Leaves Rising (with a Tequila chaser); if you're not, imagine Mark Eitzel getting thrown out of every American music club for too much drinking and you're in the neighborhood (bar).
Alcoholism is, of course, inherited - the gene sometimes lies dormant for years until an event triggers the wakeup call that will ruin the rest of your life. It's amazing how often that trigger is the loss of a loved one (literally and figuratively) and both sides of that trigger are explored across the 14 tracks on this full-length split EP.
The only thing I can make out of Nathan Amundson (aka Rivulets)' "Anaconda" is that he's using it as a euphemism for a suffocating relationship. Unfortunately, I had to sit through 12 minutes of him repeating the title before he got to the (spiked) punchline: "I always knew you'd leave." "Gimme Excess" sounds like it was recorded on a boombox in the next room. It consists primarily of Nathan strumming the shit out of his sixstring for 7 minutes and stream-of-consciously talking to the pink elephants and "spirits" of the night until it sounds like he falls out of the chair and Nathan and said guitar go crashing to the floor. A female companion shouts "Nathan!" and seems to rush to his rescue, so it might not be an act!? Well, that's one way to end an evening, but it's a bit too much "method singing" for my liking.
"Shakes" is surprisingly beautiful in light of the foregoing and is reminsicent of the naked honesty of Nick Drake's Pink Moon  sessions. THe whole bender comes to a close with "Your Light & How It Shined" that benefits from a driving beat that shuffles along with equal parts David Crosby trying to remember his name and John Sebastian having a dream. Overall, his segment should appeal to fans of Songs:Ohia (Jason Molina), Daniel Johnston, and Jandek. Unfortunately, I'm neither.
…As to the release itself, granted it starts in the gutter and proceeds to trickle down the sewer of depravity, self-pity, and self-loathing, but it's unique as perhaps the first release dedicated entirely to alcoholism, and its aforementioned message that "alcoholism is not glamorous" is to be congratulated and bears repeating. Alcoholics may find it about as comforting as an AA meeting, vicariously reliving their own personal demons with a knowing "been there, done that" nod; teetotalers, on the other hand, will probably shake their heads and remind the participants that no problem was ever resolved "under the influence;" while the social, on-the-cusp drinkers might want to stick this on next time they're feeling in a particularly melancholic mood, and wallow in the misery within these grooves rather than the bottom of a bottle. Imagine if all the characters in Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit were alcoholics and you'll have an idea of what this AA meeting from hell sounds like. The press release says all the songs were either inspired by, or written under the influence of alcohol. Whether they were performed under the same condition is for you to decide."
~ Vinyl Junkie

The idea of three different projects, each contributing an EP's worth of material, in a concept album is a unique one. But since all three of these projects are primarily the work of one man, all who have had their share of alcohol problems in the past, the idea works surprisingly well. All influenced by or written under the influence of alcohol, these 14 songs are surprisingly good, mellow, mostly acoustic tracks that work excellent together.
Remora is the project of Brian John Mitchell, who has previous experimented with post-punk drone and more ambient effects, but here he goes in a more folk/acoustic direction, offering six simple songs of acoustic guitar and low, intimate vocals. The dreary "I Told Jesus Christ How Much I Love Her" uses repetitive guitars to create a lulling feel over the subtle vocals. By contrast, "First Call" uses repetitive guitar with some interesting effects to create a more urgent feel. More a mournful dirge, "Built" is as dreary as the album gets, while "Oblivion" is true to Remora's ambient sound, combining hints of guitar with thick drone. The best song from Remora, the depressing "Hope is Gone," closes out Mitchell's offering and provides a nice bridge to Pale Horse and Rider.
The latter band is the new project of Jon DeRosa, who has been in the chamber-pop band Flare, the ambient band Aarktica, and the acoustic Dead Leaves Rising. These new songs have a definitive Nick Drake meets Hank Williams feel, each comprised of almost solely acoustic guitar and DeRosa's strong voice. "Bruises Like Badges" is my favorite, as he has a desperate feel to his vocals and the hint of an accordion and perhaps banjo to back up the guitar. "You've Been Keeping Secrets Again" is quieter, more subtle, yet possessing a longing quality, while "Open Letter to an Empty Bar" is deeper, more melancholy, offering up a quiet sense of desperation. It leads into the slightly lighter but similarly soft "Pincushion Hands."
Rivulets is primarily Nathan Amundson, although he's helped a bit on drums and bass. Taking a Low-like approach, Rivulets' music is ultra-quiet and softly flowing. The 12-minute "Anaconda" does break up the movement of this release due to sheer length, but it's also quieter, using sparse guitars to create a dreamy feeling that picks up by the end as Amundson's desperate vocals fill out the song. "Gimme Excess" continues along a similar sound and goes for eight minutes, but vocals are more prominent, and you can feel the emotion and pain in Amundson's voice. On "Shakes," he sounds more refined, going for a Bright Eyes-esque mellow pop song of a normal length, and he ends with the slightly more upbeat "Your Light & How it Shined," a fitting finish.
Three projects, all of quite accomplished musicians, contributing to a concept album - an interesting idea and one pulled off here admirably. While all three take similar directions and help make this album cohesive, each has their own approach, which keeps the album interesting. Much better than a simple split EP, this is a split album of three EPs, a truly impressive project.
~ Delusions of Adequacy

The Alcohol EPs (subtitled: Substance Abuse Is Not Glamorous), released last week on Silber Records, collects three mini-albums by geographically disparate artists sharing a common, stunningly dark aesthetic.
Surprisingly, the result is as engaging and pretty as it is depressing.
Brian John Mitchell (aka Remora) lives in Raleigh, North Carolina; Jon DeRosa (aka Pale Horse And Rider, previously Aarktika) lives in Brooklyn, New York; and Nathan Amundson (aka Rivulets) relocated from Alaska to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The new album—all 72 minutes of it—boldly explores extreme depressiveness and mindful angst, conjuring art, beauty, and hope out of the sad and the impossible. The colors are, in order, gray, gray, and gray.
Remora leads off the album with six exceedingly hopeless ballads, including one referencing the late, great Manchester band Joy Division—but magnitudes darker and more introspective than anything Ian Curtis and company ever created. The Remora set also includes the track Oblivion: six minutes of a single guitar chord that, with subtle overdubbing, grows deep and evocative.
The middle of this gloomy musical sandwich: four tracks by Jon DeRosa’s new solo project Pale Horse And Rider, which, as slo-core country, is more accessible than what precedes and follows. His Open Letter To An Empty Bar sounds strikingly like Mark Kozelek on his gorgeous acoustic set What’s Next To The Moon.
The Alcohol EPs closes with four previously unreleased tracks by Rivulets, recorded at home and at Crazy Beast studio in Minneapolis. These are lower-fi and more raw—musically and emotionally—than his tracks on the band’s self-titled debut LP out this past January. Even in context here, Rivulets’ music comes across as slow and quiet, although Amundson spices the mix with moments of extreme, almost over-the-top dynamism—including a physical collapse captured to tape—offering more unvarnished honesty than you might be ready for. But it’s clear that Amundson enjoys the humor as well as the gravity in his expression of excess.
This ain’t no disco. Four bites out of five.
~ Rockbites

This release had the idea of compiling songs together by three singer-songwriters who experienced excessive? Drinking, alcohol permeated inspiration, while losing control. Alcohol remains a poison and abuse tires any self-development down to a two chord hopelessness. I cannot see how alcohol could bring more inspiration other than what it leaves behind : a hope for departure on its addiction. I reviewed a couple of Rivulets releases before. New to me are Remora, usually down into more underground musical territories, and Jon DeRosa's Pale Horse and Rider from another countryflavoured  background.
REMORA. The music itself takes you somewhat down as well. With excessive alcohol you repeat yourself without realizing. The reverbs on "First Call" don't make evolution either. The love-call to the bottle ("built") is a boring lullaby complaint I saw drunk people perform as well, as long as they received more booze, otherwise it would be aggression, which is not performed here. This flows nicely into "Joy Division"  and "hope is gone", droning onto the repetitive drone of oblivion, as much that the player forgets to stop repeating the same idea over and over again. An organ playing along here would have been nice. I think I hear one extra aspect of self-satisfaction with it (which comes authomatically with alcohol).
PALE HORSE AND RIDER makes actual songs, booze songs, romantic about bar-addiction, nicely arranged with some extra instruments here and there (like "Bruises like Batches")or with double layered vocals.
RIVULETS describes the person himself, in decomposition ("Anaconda"). Also this one keeps on lasting (for over 12 nice, but pretty similar minutes). On "Gimme Excess" voice and guitar are at the edge of failing, resembling a unique mood, experienced from a drunken state of mind, with an electric bass seemingly coming from the resonance box of the guitar ? varying in moments from almost self-indulgent and over-self-assured expression in its "state of conscious sensibility", then becoming a bit more aggressive in playing, even overloading for a moment. cars drive by on the background.. evolving to moments of true inspiration.. until something falls down.. a worried voice heard the noise.. "Nathan ?!" which became a true reality document ! Most beautiful track of the album is "Shakes", a track which I guess will work any time. Very sensitive. Very dark in content, but with clear and virtuous playing, something which makes its expression complete.
I had to leave this aside for a while, because in sober perspective this compilation seemed at first not to bring any transformation, hope or growth out of the situation. Instead the alcohol EP is too much an alcohol FACT.
It's not an album with an easy access for everyone, but it still is rewarding when listening to the real person behind the inebriate. Listening to the album from this viewpoint makes the project also more unique.
~ Gerald Van Waes, Psyche van het folk

Not a collection of previously-unreleased material, but a batch of new tunes from three individuals-posing-as-groups, supposedly dealing with the titular subject in one form or another. (Kinda like how the Foxtrot compilation dealt with John Balance's similar battle with alcoholism.)  Of course one has to be a harsh sonnuvabitch to criticize work done under such conditions, but since that's why we're paid the big bucks.... The lineup includes Rivulets, Remora, & Pale Horse and Rider, trading in their (mostly) usual atmospheric post-rock for quieter but no less intense songs trading in a topic they know all-too-well.  Even though other instruments/effects are used at times, it's the acoustic guitar that drives them all.  Would have to admit taking the aforementioned Foxtrot over this, but the tracks from Remora work the best, especially when he incorporates some of his own brand of post-rock in the mix, resulting in a desolate two-in-the-morning feel to the tunes.
~ David Hill, Shredding Paper

Three band entities deliver their songs inspired by, or created under the influence of
alcohol. Which means the songs have an emotionally direct somewhat depressive
immediacy. Remora (Brian John Mitchell, the man behind Silber Records), do
six uniformly downbeat grey horizons made of folky strums and far away hums,
glacial distance and endless night. Pale Hose and Rider is Jon DeRosa of
Aarktica doing a stripped down acoustic based ritual bathing in the blood of
Leonard Cohen. Some really fine introspection and bleak beauty is dispalyed
through the course of his four songs.
Rivulets also do four tracks; built around the songs and guitar playing of
Nathan Amundson, with able help from his other band members on bass drums and
effects. Here the band has a desperate edge and a slightly ragged sound, both
of which are atypical and quite effective given the concept. You may have
never heard a guitar slur before; but check out Gimme Excess. The last
project to emit this much tangibly wasted mojo was Neil Young’s Tonight’s the
~ George Parsons, Dream Magazine

This CD culls EP-size contributions from three indie songwriters, united by their love of the bottle. These are misery songs written under the influence or influenced by alcohol. All are bedroom productions, acoustic guitar and voice laid down at night on a four-track tape recorder. Remora, aka Brian John Mitchell opens with a 20 minute set. The leitmotiv of the first song sets the mood: "I told Jesus Christ how much I love her / Why did He have to take her away from me?" This simple complaint would have worked better later on the album, once the listener has had time to adapt to the mood. Mitchell¹s shoegazing instrumentals don¹t even lift up the bleak atmosphere reigning over his set. After that, Jon DeRosa's project Pale Horse and Rider feels somewhat lighter. Informed by folk and country music, his four songs (another 20 minutes) are better written, more assumed, and generally more straightforward than anything else on this CD.  "Bruises Like Badges" even evokes Barenaked Ladies at their quietest. Don¹t be fooled though, the lyrics are still heavy in life experience contents, as "You've Been Keepin' Secrets Again" can testify.  Nathan Amundson's Rivulets closes the proceedings with 30 minutes of music split between four songs. Darker and more tortured, his long repetitive songs ("Anaconda" runs for 12 minutes) have a theatrical side, but it¹s overdone. "Gimme Excess" ends in a staged collapse that is simply too logical to strike and not enough to make us forget the horrible sound quality of that particular track. He is much better when sticking to shorter songs like "Shakes", the disc's highlight. The Alcohol EPs will not brighten up your day, If you can¹t stand indie folk singers in their early 20s ranting about their lost girlfriends, stay away.
~ François Couture, All Music Guide

The concept is interesting for a compilation to say the least: three bands recording songs that are influenced by or created under the influence of alcohol. It could be an absolute disaster, but here it works quite nicely. Then again, the artists featured here are no slouches (even though they may be out of their element a bit). Remora, a.k.a. Brian John Mitchell, usually creates ambient drone-rock, but chose an acoustic guitar as a starting point for his contributions. Jon DeRosa used to present more experimental fare with Aarktica, but his Pale Horse and Rider—making a recording debut here—has a more country flavor with that modern troubadour appeal. And what more can I say about Rivulets? Nathan Amundson, fresh from his full-length debut and EP, adds the longest tracks here with aplomb. The results of these three different projects are quite stunning as well as incredibly maudlin in nature. DeRosa is a fresh voice with heartbreak on his mind, and his songs are incredibly affecting. On "Bruises Like Badges," he explores the mindset of the casual victim who thrives on the attention of others, as his voice trembles and begs for her to hide the conversation pieces from him. The seven-minute "You've Been Keeping Secrets Again" is the best of the lot, with DeRosa providing his own haunting harmony. Remora's songs are less polished than the others, and far more eclectic, though still solid. They're also the spookiest, as the titles would suggest ("Oblivion," "Hope is Gone"). On "Joy Division," he approaches madness: "We both know I always wanted you forever / I don't want to put a rope to my throat / but I'm listening to Joy Division." Scary. Rivulets just add more reasons for accolades to the set, with simple songs that are far beyond the length my tolerance affords other artists. Amundson never loses you, as his earnest tunes have an inescapable gravity with every guitar strum. He seems to be growing more comfortable with his voice, too, even if the vocals are mixed way in the background. The climax on "Anaconda" with its "I knew you would leave" is especially touching. And there are a few missteps all around (Amundson misses more than one note on "Gimme Excess," for instance). The simple charm of the release gets you over that real quick. Just don't listen too long, as it's liable to depress you.
~ Rob Devlin, Brainwashed

A three-way split between three slo-core acts, featuring songs "influenced by or written under the influence of alcohol," the press release informs us. This is the sound of three artists bravely recreating the visions of long nights spent drinking alone, as well as confronting their inner demons, working their way out of hard substance abuse.
Brian John Mitchell is Remora, and the six songs on here marks a slight detour from his "regular" post-rock influenced drone towards a more acoustic, stripped-down and insanely intense folk sound. Some truly haunting moments on here -- notably "Built" and "Oblivion" -- showcase Mitchell's grand talent for making music that is both world-weary and tired yet searching and confronting. This is music to get lost in and, once you accept that approach, to find your way in as well. Stunning.
This release marks the first appearance of Pale Horse and Rider -- Aarktica's Jon DeRosa, that is -- and this is a most welcome new acquaintance. Less outwardly slo-core than the other artists on here, DeRosa delivers songs in a more "classic" folk songwriting mold, less repetitive and churning, but equally stripped-down and intense. Represented by four songs, of which the lovely "Bruises Like Badges" and the darkly beautiful "You've Been Keeping Secrets Again" -- with its insane backing vocals -- are the top moments. An amazing new name, this, and I can't wait to hear more from him.
Rivulets are Nathan Amundson's outlet, and are obviously one of the leading exponents of the current slo-core scene. The four songs on here convincingly explain just why that is so. "Anaconda" is a captivating, beautiful track, layered and rich in a stripped-down, minimalist setting. Building in intensity, going from a whisper to a scream over the course of its 12+ minutes long rung, this is Amundson at this most uncompromising, and one of his finest works yet. "Gimme Excess" is more desperate and more degenerate, in a sense, a primal brutality underlined by the out-of-tune, monotonous, frantic guitar. Emotions run out of control, and the song breaks down by the end, Nathan crashing to the floor, with a woman crying out his name in the background. Unsettling and moving. "Shakes" is both more extroverted and upbeat than your regular Rivulets song. That is, until the end, when it fucks it all up to create something completely different and probably more interesting as well. "Your Light & How It Shined" ends the album on a somewhat redemptive note, albeit a paranoid, haunted kind of redemption. As it must be, for sure.
Three of the scene's finest slo-core bands on one 72-minutes long split, then, offering a disturbing and distressing, but brutally honest and richly rewarding collection of songs. Unmissable.
~ Stein Haukland, Ink 19

*Substance abuse is not glamorous