Written by: Dave Cantrell
Suggesting no less than Jon Hassell trapped and ecstatically curious in Nino Rota’s basement, Thor & Friends, the album and the amalgamation, are by turns surprising, elusive, intrinsically and structurally solid, and, yes, cinematic. They and this eponymous debut also consistently brim with a gentle avant-mystique.
None of which really amounts to a great revelation when the principals at the heart of this project are taken into consideration. Aiding and abetting the constituent trio – Peggy Ghorbani (marimba, xylophone, voice), Sarah ‘Goat’ Gautier (vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, organ, mellotron, voice) and Thor Harris (add to the above parentheticals clarinet, bass drum, gongs, actual tubular bells) – are Heather Trost and Jeremy Barnes of transcendental folk duo A Hawk and a Hacksaw, chamber/noise experimentalist Raven Chacon, and a certain John Dieterich whose own band Deerhoof hasn’t exactly been known over the past twenty years to shy away from the frontiers of the sly experimental. Factor in the not inconsiderable rèsumé of the not inconsiderable (and aptly-named) man at the center of things – collabs with the likes of Swans, Shearwater, Hospital Ships, Bill Callahan among many others, Amanda Palmer included – and this hovering mystery and mastery of sound makes nothing but sense.
Reminding at times of Pillars & Tongues remarkable End-Dances album – no small praise coming from this writer – Thor & Friends seems to draw from an inexhaustible supply of the evocative. Whether it’s “White Sands” hypnotically pulsing atmospherics that bring sonic voice to the heat shimmers and inherent mysticism of the great sere reaches of the US Southwest (it pays to keep in mind that co-producers – along with Dieterich – A Hack & A Hacksaw are based in Albuquerque and that the record was made in that city’s Sonido Del Norte studio), the dusky wanderlust of “Crusades,” “Slow Prisoner’s tip-toeing – and invincibly lovely – quietude, the dramatic undercurrents infiltrating otherwise temperate outings like “Lullabye for Klaus” and “New Medieval” that proves the art of subtlety is an act of tension, this is the type music that, frankly, asks by its very nature that it not be reduced to mere words. Though I feel I’ve done it no disservice here, description no matter how eloquent is pallid by comparison to the thing itself, so allow me to cede the stage to a live recording from earlier this year. There are charms here, and an emergent bliss.