Boomkat Product Review:
Maxine Funke's latest is a record of two halves: one side of hushed, Linda Perhacs or Vashti Bunyan-inspired acoustic folk, and a second that dissolves her songs into Andrew Chalk-style elongated drones, insectoid electronics and evocative field recordings.
A low-key legend in the New Zealand scene, Funke has put significant work into her output since the mid-'00s, playing in $100 Band before carving out a niche for herself as an idiosyncratic solo artist. 'River Said' is another gossamer set that plays to her strengths, first centering her anxious, heartbreaking songs before vaporizing them into tender soundscapes. It's rare to find an artist so capable of straddling two very different artistic poles; Funke's songwriting is so affecting it's not hard to see why she's been compared with Vashti Bunyan, Sibylle Baier and Bridget St. John, and her atmospheric compositions are just as emotionally weighty, avoiding any of Big Ambient's repetitive tropes.
What's most remarkable is that the album's two distinct sides actually compliment each other. Funke's relatively spartan folk songs are deviously complex, but the intricacy doesn't come from the production, it's in her dreamy poetic lyrics and poignant fingerpicking. Just take a listen to the title track, opening with Funke shifting in her seat before she hums a story pierced with nostalgia. "Undressed by the river," she recalls quietly, plucking just a couple of strings. When the record switches gears on 'Long Beach', with delicate clicks replacing the guitar and placid electronic ripples standing in for Funke's voice, the mood doesn't shift, the palette has simply just been switched.
On the 10-minute closer 'Oblivion', scraped strings echo over pastoral environmental recordings and it's hard not to think about Arthur Russell or Andrew Chalk. But Funke isn't making any grandiose gestures or referential nods, and when her voice appears again, singing over suspended electric piano notes, it closes the loop, reconciling the album's two expressions in warm-hearted tones. It's almost too lovely.