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

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more

2018-06-13
Jon Hiseman RIP – One of the great drummers of the rock era has died. Jon Hiseman was a veteran of such ground-breaking groups as Colosseum (I and II), Tempest, John Mayal's Bleusbreakers, and was a founding member of the innovative large band United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. » Read more

2018-06-05
Koenjihyakkei Seeks Funding for New Album – It's been quite a few years since the last new studio album by the amazing Koenjihyakkei. Now they are preparing Dhormimviskha for worldwide release, and they're asking fans to pre-order via a Kickstarter campaign to help it happen. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Echolyn - The End Is Beautiful – I don’t anticipate the releases of many bands as much as Echolyn, and for good reason. For fifteen years they have been evolving continuously, working current musical and lyrics ideas into a...  (2006) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues