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

2017-11-16
Celebrate 10 Years of Fruits de Mer – As a special celebration for a decade of cool vinyl releases, our friends at Fruits de Mer records have prepared a limited edition reissue of an album by the first band ever to appear on the label: Schizo Fun Addict. The band is known for unusual release strag » Read more

2017-11-02
Mega Dodo Presents New Charity Album – Our friends at Mega Dodo have put together a lovely compilation of their artists performing new arrangements of nursery rhymes, and all the profits from sales of the album will benefit Save the Children. It features a number of artists we've covered. » Read more

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Stips - Egotrip – Originally I thought this album was a throwaway, but a shrewd scheme unfolds after a few passes through the disc. You see, it's interesting how far people stray (or evolve) from seventies roots into a...  (1998) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues