Steeped in the tradition of electronic psychedelia, The River is often at its strongest when it's able to weld its influences onto a contemporary aesthetic. The more retro-leaning tracks are nonetheless still quite effective, often trading heavily in the sort of trippy bliss that Popol Vuh pioneered in their work for Herzog's films. "Upon the Hill" is the most notable example, with its eerie choir of sampled voices and ecstatically ringing guitars. Elsewhere, on "It Was Never Meant to Be This Way," Silver flexes his knowledge of krautrock's more repetitive end. With its hypnotic bed of undulating synth-loops the tune sounds like it could have been nipped from anything Conny Plank-produced: Harmonia, Cluster, Eno, you name it.
Ultimately, however, Silver has more in mind than stylized homage, as you can see on the title track, perhaps the record's standout. It's a gorgeous meditation with spare flute-like synths and windy exhalations that swells into a Tim-Hecker style white-noise freak-out. "Before and After Light" is the most contemporary-sounding, as Silver adds loops of percussive percolation. "Frozen Forest" is a close companion, more of a downtempo/trip-hop style number whose vibe and guitar pluck are more than a little reminiscent of Massive Attack's "Teardrop." It skirts that very fine line, perhaps impossible to define, between ambient and background music.
The digital release features a handful of interesting attempts to reweave CFCF's sonic tapestries for the dance floor. Consider it the soundtrack to Fitzcarraldo 2: Electric Boogaloo, in which the obsessed hero builds a disco next to his jungle opera house. Jacques Renault takes up "Frozen Forest," tossing the guitar and revving things up into a characteristically dubby house groove, which feels like a natural development of the original. Coyote's take is more on the disco tip, its greater emphasis on melody providing a sort of wayward compromise between the original and Renault's minimalism. "It Was Never Meant to Be This Way" gets the heaviest rework, courtesy of Games, the dance floor project of Daniel Lopatin, AKA Oneohtrix Point Never, and Joel Ford of Tiger City, who explode the krautrock lullaby into a skittery electro-disco caffeine rush.