Infinite River

Tabula Rasa

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Available on limited black wax

While their first two releases (Prequel and Space Mirror)
saw these veterans of post-punk, new psychedelic noise,
and 1990s garage rock expertly navigate the murky waters
of COVID isolation with yoga-worthy ambient excursions,
on their third record the quartet slides into fifth gear and terraplanes toward a fresh take on instrumental prog-rock. It’s not entirely unexpected, but there’s rapid accelerated growth at play on Tabula Rasa.

Infinite River is composed of Gretchen Gonzales (Universal Indians, Slumber Party, Terror at the Opera), Warren Defever (His Name is Alive, ESP Beetles, Ethan Daniel Davidson), Joey Mazzola (Detroit Cobras, Sponge, Sugarcoats), and special guest drummer Steve Nistor (Sparks, Ural Thomas, Seedsmen to the World). These instrumental recordings were tracked between the end of 2022 and the start of 2023 in Warren Defever’s new loft studio space in glorious Hamtramck, MI, where the sessions were supervised by Defever’s cat, Brother James. “My apartment is a big, echoey room; previously we were close together in a tight space,” Defever explains. “The other studio is cozy; this is an art gallery. So it’s a really different vibe.”

Tabula Rasa is closer to what the band is like live now. It highlights the point at which new age type music can become biker rock—which at times approximates Hawkwind or much German music from 1976, while rarely sounding like anything but itself. Tracks like “Around the Sun” and “Sky Diamonds” definitely have evolved out of the group playing new age type music together. But here, the melodies are more pronounced; the chords and harmonies are more like pop music. Drone-based elements remain, but the pieces are shorter and far more propulsive.

Gonzales shows off her noise-guitar pedigree with both subtlety and aggression. Defever has largely ditched his tanpura for a bass synthesizer. It’s a joy to hear Nistor, who’s been a member of Sparks for close to two decades, open up, and just go gonzo on his kit. Mazzola’s songwriting has followed suit; these are great (and often lovely) compositions here. And his practice in playing with the band, especially Nistor, allows Mazzola to open up new possibilities for downright prog than he’s ever shown before.

A highlight has to be their crunchy and multi-part take on “Favorite Things,” which truly shows off Infinite Rivers’ diverse backgrounds. Defever relates that “Gretchen only knew the song from Coltrane’s take, while Joey only knew it from Sound of Music.” If that’s not worlds colliding, what is?

- Mike McGonigal