Switched On – Three Rivers Project: Confluence (Lewis Recordings)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Three Rivers Project is an intriguing collaboration between DJ Yoda and his regular production partner Mark Ross, who records with Roland Faber as Go Atoms. They are named as guests on five of the tracks on debut album Confluence, which as Yoda admits is unlike anything he has worked on before.

The trio describe Confluence as a ‘soundtrack to an imaginary movie, combining the best elements of made-for-VHS electronica, 80s synth/cold wave, against the clock electro house, and the influence of John Carpenter, Jean Michel Jarre and DJ Hell.’ The introductory paragraph on Bandcamp goes on to speak of the album as ‘a classic in future/retro sounds and the accessibility of strange new worlds’. All of which points very heavily indeed towards the influence of cult 1980s throwback hit Stranger Things, the Netflix series notable for its brilliant analogue soundtrack and attention to recent historical detail of electronic music.

What’s the music like?

If you know Yoda as the source of some original, witty and tuneful hip hop, the sound of Confluence will come as a surprise – in a good way.

There is no doubt that the music for Stranger Things has played a big part in the formation of the album, but thankfully Confluence is more than a derivative imitation. The three protagonists are too inventive for that.

As a result we get a richly descriptive album that flows well and is very descriptive, with several tracks of standout musical beauty. Dawn Eclipse provides a wide open sonic panorama from the start, beautifully expansive and more than a bit mysterious. The broad canvas segues into next number Confluence A – Water Leaves, where big reverberant drums cut to a watery backdrop.

The Stranger Things parallels become more apparent as the album progresses. Osmosis could be an offcut from Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygène, while Dark Neon – which also features Go Atoms – has all the hallmarks of an extraterrestrial 1980s soundtrack, with burbling analogue synths and the weird contours of a main theme. So too does Colony, which pumps more energy into its beats, and Conurbation, a faster and nicely aligned imitation of early techno.

Wolfram accentuates the oddness, the sound of a moaning creature blended into some of Yoda’s typical scratching sounds, while Out Of The Blue is a pure drone.

These different elements provide the essential light and shade of Confluence, which ends with a cavernous beat applied to the resolution of Confluence C – Waters Reach.

Does it all work?

Yes, largely. The concept behind Three Waters Project may be almost wholly based on music from the recent past, but it is well executed and structured. With Yoda already a man of many styles, it follows that with Go Atoms he should be able to blend types of writing which are new to them – and sure enough they do so skillfully.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Confluence sounds great on headphones, and is ironically at its most effective when the drones come out and the atmospheric tracks are in play. Yet even the moments where pastiche is most obvious are full of good, strange, instrumental things.

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