Two for one by outré percussion-centric minimalists
Not your oh too beloved, hyper-idolized Marvel characters, Thor & Friends have just dropped an album. Wait, what is that? We’re receiving a message from headquarters. Yes, this just in… Thor & Friends are actually dropping two albums: 3 and 4… on the same day. What prompted that Texan poly-percussionist, Thor Harris, along with femme sidekicks, Peggy Ghorbani and Sarah “Goat” Gautier, into this stylistically inscrutable decision? Only they safeguard the answer, that mad method. Most of the tunes are strictly instrumentals sans vocals, and of the tracks that actually do have vocals, there’s seldom any at all. Intelligible words, at least.
Each LP has six songs each. Of the six songs in 3, they are comparatively longer than those in 4. The fifth track in 3, “Falling,” lasts for an inordinate 10 and a half minutes. It lifts in with some strings and features some female non-lexical singing as various instruments come and go in a jumbled discourse. The sensation the track imbibes might more aptly be called “floating.” The strings stay persistent through and through and is about the only persistent aspect, minus the faraway grating in the background that buttresses the feathery track.
The last track in the same LP, “Stine and Her Animals,” is the soundscape that may be captured in a distant exotic jungle as the creatures begin to rise with the day. It has this sensational purring throughout the entirety of the mostly jazzy harmonies. Jumping back to the first track, “As Above So Below,” that ultra-famous axiom is incessantly repeated with interstitial variation, as if the revelation may strike listeners only through dizzying repetition. It’s really not all too overbearing though. It supplements the track in its fostering of enigma.
Onto the other LP, 4. The cover art is delightfully grotesque and disquieting. It features the members’ faces all purposely malformed with the aid of white powder, faux eyes and an unabashed direct stare at the viewer. What iTunes prescribes their sound as is minimalism. This one is significantly more minimal than the other, what with the lack of vocals and the presence of no more than about three instruments on a track all in unison to a very simple, linear line. Like in “Uber Driver,” (it seems impossible to conjecture how the title applies to the music), it has an unsettling repeating crescendo that suggests something formidably unfavorable is happening over and over, as if some bad luck is only getting worse with each unfortunate event. The acme of the crescendo is final and total and inescapable and kind of evil. Then, it comes again.
The signature of not only 4, but 3 is Harris’s use of a sundry of idiophones. Sometimes it’s xylophone, sometimes it’s the marimba, sometimes vibraphone. Whatever mallet-struck instrument it is, it instills an encompassing feeling, as if lassoing one into their fabricated sphere further. In track, “I Told You They Were Lying,” some sonorous percussion is to the likes of a musical representation of a spider nimbly running down a dew-flecked web on a Discovery channel documentary. Some august synth enters, gradually increasing volume, inexorably sending one to epiphany. It’s all very strange and indecipherable, just as the track title.
By the ministration of the inimitable Thor Harris armed with the curious clanks and clucks of assorted percussion instruments, 3 and 4 comes to loom. If one is into extemporaneous session music that is on the experimental side, that also doesn’t devolve into farrago, that keeps it blissfully simple with complex percussion lines: look no further. These sonic catalysts to contemplation may be a couple attempts at an updated Blade Runner sequel film score, or something with an affinity to many cats running across many highly esoteric recording studio setups. No, actually, these LPs are each a shortcut to feeling locked in a sensory deprivation chamber–everything elides, blurs, connects, sunders, twists, confluences in a wonderland of evanescing noise.