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Thor & Friends
The Subversive Nature of Kindness is the sophomore effort from, Thor & Friends, the avant-chamber ensemble formed by its namesake, polymath percussionist Thor Harris. The album was recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, produced by Jeremy Barnes from A Hawk & A Hacksaw and engineered by Jeremy and Deerhoof’s John Dietrich. It is hoped that the melodic meditations offered up on The Subversive Nature of Kindness will ease some of the terror of living in these uncertain times.
The three primary members of the band are Peggy Ghorbani on marimba, Sarah “Goat” Gautier on marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, organ, voice, mellotron and piano and Harris on sundry percussion and wind instruments including some of his own devising.
Thor & Friends has toured North America and Europe extensively over the past year and have performed live with many guest musicians. All these players have influenced the way the group hears its music and this had a significant impact on the new album. On this recording voice plays a more prominent role with the core trio being joined by several guest singers who provide wordless vocals: Stine Janvin Motland, an opera singer from Oslo, Norway; Michael Gira from Swans; Enrique Soriah a throat singer from Oregon. The new album features more fully developed string arrangements by Barnes and Heather Trost, that thoroughly surprised and delighted the band. There are also contributions similarly adventurous musicians including Jhno Delicateer on Armenian Duduk, violin improvisationist Aisha Burn, and Adam Torres who provides finger-picked guitar.
Thor & Friends draws on the classic Minimalist composers including Terry Riley and Steve Reich, but also amalgamate such diverse influences as Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Moondog and The Necks around a polyrhythmic core of mallet-struck instruments, primarily marimba, xylophone and vibraphone. Circling these core motifs are shifting streams of everything from processed pedal steel and analog synthesizer to violin, viola, stand-up bass, clarinet, duduk and oboe.
The group also builds upon similarities and contrasts with Harris’ past projects and continuing collaborations; these include Swans, Ben Frost, Bill Callahan, Hospital Ships, Shearwater and John Congelton. They embody utopian optimism by rooting their art and operation in both improvisation and the involvement of neighbors and friends in their process, making use of what and who is around at any given moment to make music with.