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

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

Latest news

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Centrozoon - The Scent of Crash and Burn – Centrozoon represents the combined talents of singer Tim Bowness together with the German duo of Markus Reuter and Bernhard Wösteinrich. The trio does a fine job navigating around sophisticated dance...  (2004) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues