The THESIS PROJECT continues with another wonderful series, this one meant to accompany listeners while they travel. The length of the compositions ~ presented here by William Ryan Fritch, Drombeg, Hotel Neon and Marcus Fischer ~ invites immersion. Three pieces are over twenty minutes long, the fourth ten.
As one can glean from the title, this is the second of a three-part series; the first included tracks from Fiona Brice, Bruno Sanfilippo, Rutger Zuydervelt and Stijn Hüwels, and the third is due later this year. The label’s entire output is worth investigating for its handmade packaging and constant innovation. Earlier this year, another series, THESIS RECURRING, made its debut, specializing in gorgeous one-minute loops.
Is “Unsettled Air” an EP nestled within an album or a single, multi-movement work? Replete with pauses, William Ryan Fritch‘s gentle piece honors its title by refusing to rest. Every time one thinks, “ah, the piano has disappeared, and now the other instruments have gone to bed as well,” they sneak out and clamber down the fire escape to play on the moonlit grass. There’s something charged about the air at night ~ or in terms of this set, the air experienced on a trip. What once seemed stagnant is now alive; the molecules sing with activity like miniature fireflies. The organ is the unifying factor, signifying the holiness of the journey. When the air is unsettled, anything can happen: storm, lull, revelation. By treating his subject with tenderness, Fritch lays the groundwork for awe.
We’ve been waiting a few years for new music from Drombeg (Thomas Brookes), who impressed us with his debut album in 2016. Since then he’s released a vocal album as Cave Birds, but “The White Raven” is the first resurrection of the prior moniker. Segueing well with Fritch’s launch, “The White Raven” is built on a foundation of piano and strings, held together by a three-note motif and a faint jew’s harp. Halfway through, the piece enters a higher level, like a second wind. Hopefully we will hear a new album soon.
As expected, Hotel Neon calms things down a bit with “Phase Changes,” the moniker a match for a road trip. One can almost hear the neon crackling at the start of the piece. Drones emerge as cars passing on the highway. Again, this seems like the middle of the night, an association aided by the cover image of a crocodile moon. In mid-piece, the timbres settle down to tendrils, like moonbeams passing through a window. Cars continue to pass, but nobody honks. Nobody slams a door. Every traveler is considerate, driving on slippered feet. The stage is set for Marcus Fischer‘s “Skypark,” a quiet study for acoustic guitar and field recording. The further reduction in sonic density makes the entire set seem like a day winding down slowly, landing on contentment. This is what it feels like to drive, or in this case to fly, falling asleep with the blinds open, allowing the clouds to capture one’s pillowed dreams. (Richard Allen)