The Sonic Diary of Thursday Bloom

This article may break your heart.  Earlier this year, Adelaide, Australia artist Thursday Bloom set out to record 12 EPs in 12 months.  After the sixth EP was released, the artist was hospitalized; after the seventh, he was never heard from again.

coverFebruary 2013: A Lonely Light
The first EP begins softly with conversation and cars, an overheard conversation on a city street.  A light rain is beginning to fall.  The cello’s entrance seems at first apologetic, then melancholic.  A story is waiting to be told.  Midway through the piece, static enters in, as if a voice is trying to break through; but soon the listener understands that the voice is speaking not to anyone in particular.  It’s not a garbled telephone conversation; it’s a distorted television transmission.  The disconnect between voice and human contact is reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

I called my secretary into the office for independent confirmation.  “What mood are you hearing?” I asked.  “Sad,” she said.  “Mournful.”  I showed her the cover image.  “It seems like it would be hard to listen to,” she said, “but it’s good”.

The strings surge in the center of “A Sorrow”.  Thursday Bloom calls this “a beautiful sadness”.  In retrospect, we hear what is to come; a dark fate is foreshadowed, but the outcome is still in doubt.  Hope and despair have not yet begun to battle, but each has been introduced.  The former has the last word, as “The Hope That Remains” introduces bright piano tones beneath an ambient veneer.

 

coverMarch 2013: Quiet Fire
Thursday Bloom introduces the EP by writing, “There is a quiet fire in the heart and its warmth is what gets you through.”  The EP begins with the sound of birds and a crackling fire.  This a warmer work than the first.  But intentionally or not, the EP’s title also references the creative fire experienced by artists who struggle with depression.  These artists burn bright and crash hard; periods of brilliant creativity are tempered by periods of crushing despair.  In a manic period, an artist may produce a large amount of work in a short period of time; in a depressive period, nothing.

The melodic theme of “Haze” continues in “Sunshine”.  The piano provides an anchor.  When it disappears, its absence is clearly felt; by the end, tendrils of sadness begin to sneak in once more.  The EP walks the very thin line between melancholic reflection and euphoric surrender.  Its hope may be tentative, but it’s still palpable.

 

coverApril 2013: Monolith
Something must have happened to Thursday Bloom in March: a broken relationship, a lost job, the death of a loved one.  No description accompanies this release, which is decidedly darker than the last.  Entering the realm of dark ambience, Monolith begins with the sounds of construction in a vast hall, only gradually adding anything that sounds like music.  Tones arrive first; it’s as if the melodies lack the energy to rouse themselves from sleep.  Even the cover image is dark.  The Siren Sound calls it “twenty-one minutes of drone-sadness”.  Through what sort of sieve has the hope been drained?  And what is the monolith?  In retrospect, we fear that we already know.

And yet, Monolith is still a beautiful EP, awash in the cloud of encroaching blackness.  The piano awakens only in time to join the last minute of the 14-minute title track, but it’s still present like a fading heart.  Halfway through “Horizon”, the sound field grows nearly silent, save for the sound of waves.  Something wicked this way comes.

 

coverMay 2013: Like Ghosts
This time out, there’s no description, not even a brief review.  Like Ghosts lives up to its title.  The track titles provide interpretive clues:  “Departure” and “Like Ghosts, We Fade Apart”.  The mood is forlorn; construction sounds continue, accompanied by footsteps and creaks.  Is someone closing up a house, a room, a life?  Are memories being buried or preserved?  Either way, the EP operates as an elegy.  Something has been lost.  Shifting from drone to post-rock, the May EP concentrates on the sound of the guitar: first shimmering, then after a brief pause, more noticeably melodic, like a funeral solo.  For the first time, we hear the sound of a human voice, singing wordlessly, as if in tribute.  Drums appear midway through the title track, marking a clear shift in sonic direction.  Is the artist gathering strength for a final push, or making his peace?  In the fourth minute, the disembodied voices of the first EP reappear like returning demons.  For six additional minutes, the listener waits for the energetic guitars and drums to return as well, but they never do.

 

coverJune 2013: Halcyon
Wasting no time, Thursday Bloom brings the strings back in the first seconds of the title track, “Halcyon Song”.  Later he writes that the EP was written during a time of depression, and that he is disappointed in the way that it turned out.  The enormity of the project is beginning to register.  It’s unreasonable to expect a steady flow of new creative thoughts, but this artist feels differently.  The cracks are starting to show.  He’s beginning to think about putting the project on hold.  Again, the track titles provide an indication of his state of mind:  “Slow Descent”, “Through Inner Sorrow”.  By this time, the hope of the first two releases has nearly dissipated.  And yet, while the EP returns to former sounds rather than introduce new ones, it’s still a solid work; by now, the listener is beginning to appreciate each entry in context, rather than as stand-alone sets.  To the artist, it’s a disappointment; but to the listener, it’s an example of the willingness to soldier on.  Piano piece “Reprise” is Thursday Bloom’s simplest and quietest track to date, a psychological surrender to the forces that threaten to undo him.

 

coverJuly 2013: Persephone
With the strains of production weighing heavily upon him, Thursday Bloom revisits some of his older tracks for Persephone, reworking them into a thick sonic stew.  The EP begins with a startling addition: the spoken word of Jane Fielding.  Is hope once again becoming apparent?  Bolder than its predecessor, the July EP seems like a statement of faith, but it’s also a wrapping-up: every good idea has now been used, leaving only the invisible new.  “Flowers of Persephone” comes across as the artist’s fullest track to date, integrating the many facets of the artist’s persona, rising to a confident finale.  But “Into Darkness” and “The Sleep Eternal” follow in shadowed tones, as Fielding gracefully reads Swinburne’s poem “The Garden of Proserpine”: Then star nor sun shall waken, Nor any change of light … Only the sleep eternal in an eternal night.  A shroud is drawn across the artist’s soul.  After completing the album, Thursday Bloom attempts to end his life.

 

coverAugust 2013: Somnolence
Upon his release from the hospital, Thursday Bloom completes one final EP in the series, acting “out of sheer determination not to let anyone down”.  One can sense the illness in such a statement.  No reasonable person would put an artist’s output over an artist’s health.  Any loved one would understand if the project were not completed.  Thursday Bloom apologizes that the EP is posted two days later than usual.  As artists, we often place enormous expectations on ourselves.  Somnolence is a lovely EP, crackling and ambient, returning to the traffic flow of A Lonely Light, drawing the entire project to completion.  But the artist is not satisfied with it.  Again, he apologizes, posting the following statement on Facebook:

It is with deep sadness that I am writing to inform all of my fans and followers that I am unable to continue participation in the 12 EPs project and that there will be no further Thursday Bloom releases for 2013.  I apologise to everyone who looks forward to a new EP every month but I have finally come to accept that I am physically, emotionally and creatively unable to continue composing and releasing music for 2013. I am not retiring from Thursday Bloom or music all together, I am just retiring from the 12 EPs project and taking the rest of 2013 to try and get better.   

Since then, there has been no trace of Thursday Bloom on 12eps.com; any earlier posts that might have been there have been removed.  No updates on Facebook or Twitter.  An email was listed, but when I tried it, I received no response.  And this leads to the sorrowful question: is Thursday Bloom still with us?  Is he still recuperating somewhere, or did his light burn so brightly that it could no longer sustain its own energy?  Our hope is that he is simply offline, gathering strength, waiting for the Australian summer to emerge.

 

It’s strange to write about an artist without knowing if he is alive.  In a short period of time, Thursday Bloom has produced a body of work that is greater than what many artists produce in a lifetime.  He set out to make 12 EPs in 12 months, and technically, he fell five short.  But in so doing, he created something even greater: the sonic diary of a struggle with depression.  This is what the battle sounds like: these are the feelings that cannot be put into words.  Ironically, it’s only because the brave artist possessed such inner strength that he was able to record what he was feeling.  We may never know the end of the story, but we know the point:  a man alone, battling until he can battle no more, with every breath seeking to create something that will last beyond his years.  And in this he succeeds.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  (Richard Allen)

UPDATE:  After this article, we received very encouraging news from a friend of the artist, who says that he is still very much alive, although his struggles have continued to be difficult.  He hopes to finish a music degree and one day return to making music.  Our thoughts, prayers and good wishes are with him ~ thank you, Justin, for giving us this gift ~ and thank you, Meredith, for giving us this news.

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