Culture  Cerebral transmissions

River Tiber’s Synapses

Synaesthetes across Canada will be happy to know River Tiber. Melodic, textured, and evocative, River Tiber’s first full-length album Synapses is something worth downloading. This four-piece group (Tommy Paxton-Beesley, John Mavro, Thadeus Garwood, and David Lewis) produces a layered sound reminiscent of bands such as Sigur Ros, Bon Iver, Flying Lotus, and Radiohead. Synaesthete or not, Synapses will make you taste colour and hear shapes.

River Tiber was born from a solo project by Paxton-Beesley, a former McGill undergraduate who now attends Berklee College of Music. Paxton-Beesley composed and recorded the entire album himself, and then assembled the band to play in live settings. As they started picking up steam, the group evolved into the collective and collaborative project that is now River Tiber. Synapses is the strength and clarity of Tom’s vision and our collective enthusiasm to see it through. “It’s an exciting album; exciting to play and even more exciting to play with good friends,” says Lewis, River Tiber’s bassist.

Paxton-Beesley sings from the soul. He smears together his soft vocals with layers of dissonant guitar and off-kilter beats. “Every level has a different character, from the rhythmic foundation, to the keyboard and guitar textures, to the vocals on top; every part adds to the conversation. To me it’s like a big collage of colors and shapes,” he says. Tracks such as “Prophets” and “Reverie” feature delightfully tender vocal harmonies and chorus-rich guitars accompanied by interludes of convulsive crescendos and rock rhythms.

Synapses was released on January 1, after which the album received considerable attention from social media forums both in Canada and abroad. On January 3, River Tiber performed live to a packed crowd at the Drake Underground at Toronto’s celebrated Drake Hotel.

With many fresh bands such as River Tiber penetrating the local music scene today, it would be naïve not to address the paradigm shift within current music distribution. “Free music is the norm, and it’s actually a good thing,” argues Lewis. “Albums no longer have price tags, therefore the competition and comparison among artists is now based [on] the assessment of something much more substantial than monetary value.” By making Synapses available for free online, River Tiber has been able to reach a much wider audience. “The music scene is such a different place today than it was even 15 years ago. Obviously labels are still a valuable means of distributing a band’s material,” explains guitarist Mavro, “but thanks to technology, big labels aren’t as crucial to a band’s success as they once were.”

Paxton-Beesley succeeded in knitting together elements from a variety of genres, including jazz, electronic, and rock, to create a fresh and tantalizing sound. “Synapses are the connections between neurons. Neurologists believe that the root of intelligence isn’t contained in the neurons themselves, but in the connections between them – their plasticity, their substance,” he says, regarding the album’s title. “I thought that was a pretty awesome metaphor. Meaning created in the space between words, life in transitory bodies, infinity between two mirrors.”

Synapses is available as a free download at