Songs of Water seem to have hit a stride with releasing new material with next to no notice. The (mostly) instrumental “Kingdoms” showed up on Spotify a few weeks before the band made an official announcement last December, and “Amara” was announced within a week of its release. It’s an interesting approach and I have my assumptions why – it’s a less-commercial methodology and these EPs are a bit of an experiment when compared to 2015’s eponymous “Stars and Dust”. Needless to say, “Amara” embraces much of the world music side of the band and shirks a fair share of the rock and pop elements. Hammered dulcimer, fiddle, and traditional drums result in an expansive and unconventional musical palette, while melodies remain diatonic (as opposed to the microtonality that typically follows such instrumentation).
All things considered, “Amara” is intellectual. It’s an artistic risk in many senses, but it’s one the Songs of Water team manages easily. “Amara” may only be 17 minutes long, but it feels longer. Listeners are transported around the world through the five songs – Irish folks melds with Middle-Eastern tradition on Horizons. African rhythms and whispery vocals are the foundation of Dorian Blue. Finger-picked guitar plays is at the heart of the dreamy mood of Solace.
Much like its predecessor “Kingdoms”, “Amara” is pretty bare in terms of vocals. When present, they’re not in English either – which really places focuses on the music. It’s a nice touch, but I definitely enjoyed the stronger vocal presence on “Stars and Dust” and Songs of Water have continued to deviate from that direction.
Nonetheless, “Amara” carries much of the expansive instrumentation and powerful arrangements have come to expect from the group. Perhaps this is merely an experiment and we’ll see them return to the chamber pop sound of “Stars and Dust”; regardless, there’s still much for listeners to enjoy in this cinematic EP.