The Broadberry Presents
Thor & Friends
623 E Main Street
Richmond, VA, 23219
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs-the triumphant fifth album by Wye Oak-begins with an explosion. For a few seconds, piano, drums, and a playful keyboard loop gather momentum; then, all at once, they burst, enormous bass flooding the elastic beat. "Suffering, I remember suffering," sings Jenn Wasner, her voice stretched coolly across the tizzy. "Feeling heat and then the lack of it/But not so much what the difference is." The moment declares the second coming of Wye Oak, a band that spent more than a decade preparing to write this record-its most gripping and powerful set of songs to date, built with melodies, movement, and emotions that transcend even the best of their catalogue.
Louder is the third record that Wasner and Andy Stack, who launched Wye Oak in Baltimore, have made while living in separate cities-she in Durham, North Carolina, he in Marfa, Texas. They flew to one another for a week or so at a time, hunkering in home studios to sort through and combine their separate song sketches. These shorter stints together produced less second-guessing and hesitation in their process, yielding an unabashed and unapologetic Wye Oak. They discarded past rules about using just guitar or keyboard to write a record, instead funneling all those experiences and experiments into perfectly unified statements. The result is the biggest, broadest, boldest music they've ever made. The title track is a coil of anxiety and exuberance, its verses and chorus sweeping into cascades of magnetic harmony. By the time the song ends, it feels like a real pop anthem, a spell to be shouted against the ills of our world.
Louder pursues a litany of modern malaises, each of its dozen tracks diligently addressing a new conflict and pinning it against walls of sound, with the song's subject and shape inextricably and ingeniously linked. The rapturous "Lifer," for instance, ponders perseverance and survival in times of profound struggle. It is, at first, hesitant and ponderous, Wasner wrestling with her own choices. But her ecstatic guitar solo leads into a chorus that feels like a triumph over doubt, or at least a reconciliation with it. "Over and Over" finds Wasner alone at home, watching clips of violence abroad on repeat, her outrage outstripped only by her ineffectiveness. Stack's colossal circular rhythm and Wasner's corroded harmonies conjure a digital hall of mirrors, a place where we can see all evil but do nothing. During the intoxicating "It Was Not Natural," a tired walk through the woods unearths a discarded antler, a talisman that provokes deep questions about our work lives, social codes, and romantic mores. The music-a sophisticated tessellation of pounded piano and loping bass, scattered drums and chirping synthesizer-is as complex and ponderous as the issues themselves. "It Was Not Natural" is Wye Oak at their most sophisticated, navigating life's difficulties with the nuance and power they demand.
For all the struggles Wye Oak confronts here, Louder ultimately reflects a hopeful radiance, with the parting sense that human connection and our own internal resolve can outweigh even our heaviest worries. The final two tracks are tandem testaments to weakness bowing to strength. Wasner first shuffles through her day during "Join," beset by worry until she finds a way out. "I just want a clear head," she realizes at the end, "the sun on my shoulder." And during "I Know It's Real," over twinkling guitars and a drum beat that feels like a steadying pulse, she stumbles upon a necessary credo: "Still, I'm alive, stronger than energies riding on my back."
The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs arrives at a time of immense doubt, when our personal problems are infinitely compounded by a world that seems in existential peril. But these dozen songs answer the challenge by radiating self-reflection and resolve, wielding hooks and musical intricacy as a shield against the madness of the moment. The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is a powerful reminder to keep calling, to keep trying, no matter the peril it poses. Merge Records will release The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs TK TK, 2018.
Thor & Friends
After five years of touring as the percussionist of The Swans, Thor Harris began Thor & Friends in the autumn of 2015 as a vehicle to experiment with a cast of rotating Austin based musicians in the vein of American minimalism. As an instrument carpenter and acoustic polyglot, Thor & Friends is the sound of Harris’ return home — an elongated greeting and ode to his community, woodworking shop and the instruments his hands bring texture too.
With the three core members of Harris, Peggy Ghorbani and Sarah “Goat” Gautier, the expanding and contracting ensemble works within the flux of compositional and improvisational contexts, where the range of tonal color depends on what instrumentalists are joining or absent from the process. They can perform acoustically or with hues of electronic instrumentation, as a stripped down trio or a large ensemble. In addition to drawing on minimalist composers such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich, Thor & Friends amalgamate the diverse influences of Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Moondog and The Necks through a polyrhythmic center of mallet instruments, primarily marimba, xylophone and vibraphone. Around the core motifs of the aforementioned mallet timbres are shifting streams of everything from processed pedal steel and analog synthesizer to violin, viola, stand up bass, clarinet, duduk and oboe.
The group builds off of the similarities and contrasts of Harris’ past projects and continuing collaborations, which include The Swans, Ben Frost, Bill Callahan, Hospital Ships, Shearwater and John Congelton. The result ushers in a utopian optimism contemporized through 20th century predecessors via the promise of improvising with neighbors and friends and utilizing what and who is around at any given moment.
Thor & Friends debut LP will be out on LM Dupli-cation in autumn 2016 — recorded with A Hawk & A Hacksaw’s Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost and Deerhoof’s John Dieterich in Albuquerque, New Mexico — at which point the transcendent live performance that’s drifted across Central Texas over the last year will continue its crescendo across North America and Europe.