Exposé Online banner

Thumbscrew — Convallaria
(Cuneiform Rune 415, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-10-24

Convallaria Cover art

This trio’s second album finds the players developing their sound into some new areas. The busy, distorted middle section of the lead track, “Cleome,” brings a different sound from Mary Halvorson’s guitar, more edgy and aggressive than I’ve heard from her before. Her bandmates Michael Formanek (double bass) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums) join in the ramped-up mood. Notching up the energy level serves them well, adding an urgency that contrasts with the first album’s sometimes muted mood. Once again, composition duties are shared out, though Formanek gets five to the others’ three each; only one of the tracks stretches beyond nine minutes, so they never waste time repeating themselves or over-indulging in their improvisations. Fujiwara’s tune “Trigger” presents some interesting elements, starting with a lengthy bass solo of a pensive, melodic nature, then adding in some of Halvorson’s oddest guitar playing, with numerous effects combined in a very unusual way. Tremolo, echo, distortion, and pitch shifting interact in a most unsettling manner. The hair-raising “Screaming Piha” and the driving title track are a couple more highlights. The circumstances of the album’s recording have really paid off. The trio was granted a two-week composers’ residency at City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, providing the opportunity to hone the pieces in a more focussed manner than their normally busy convergent schedules would permit. The album makes one wonder how much more great music would exist if more artists had access to such programs. Convallaria is also an exercise in how minimal production can serve music beautifully. The trio sounds like they are live right in your living room — or inside your head if you’re on quality headphones — with no mucking about or funny stuff. This is definitely a case where the sophomore effort tops the debut, and resolves the slight reservations I had about the band.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Thumbscrew, Mary Halvorson

More info
http://cuneiformrecords.bandcamp.com/album/convallaria
http://cityofasylum.org

Latest news

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more

2018-11-02
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more

2018-10-17
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more

2018-09-29
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more

2018-09-25
Help the Psychic Equalizer Avoid Extinction – Last year we reviewed the debut album by Psychic Equalizer, a musical project of Hugo Selles. He's now working on the ambitious follow-up to that release, and is seeking funding from listeners around the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Thomas Kugler - Lilith: The Rock Opera – Based on the play by Remy de Gourmont, this rock opera adaptation is composed by Kugler. It features God, Satan, Adam, Eve, Lilith, and various angels and assorted baddies. Instrumental backing is...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues