Friday, June 15, 2018

Thumbscrew - Ours (Cuneiform, 2018)

This is a double dose of good news with the excellent trio Thumbscrew consisting of Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Mary Halvorson on electric guitar and Michael Formanek on acoustic bass reconvening for two albums on the great Cuneiform Records imprint which nearly shut down earlier this year do to financial constraints. This album focuses on the group's original compositions, beginning with "Snarling Joys," a track that opens with some taut bass playing and layered percussion, with subtle guitar playing adding color to the mix. There is a nimble melody that the musicians develop with the resulting improvisation becoming quite intricate, as the guitar adds slurred accents to the sharp picking and the bass and drums create a very interesting rhythmic counterweight. Their collective improvisation drops into a spacious bass solo with quiet cymbal tapping, allowing the music to be characterized by constant change and progress. The fascinatingly titled "Cruel Heartless Bastards" has an ominous rhythmic approach of lumbering bass and drums that occasionally sprint ahead, giving the music a slightly off kilter feel. When the guitar comes in, this sensibility of fractured music that is continuously changing shape is reinforced, with the music becoming more powerful after the halfway point of the performance as shimmering otherworldly sounding guitar sounds meld with shape shifting percussion and agile bass playing to excellent effect. Their trio improvisation is very impressive and melds elements of rock and electronic music into the improvised jazz context. "One Day" opens with spare and probing guitar work, in an unaccompanied solo that sets a mysterious vibe as the quiet bass and drums glide in. Their music never resolves like you think it might, keeping the listener on their toes with brushed percussion and thick bass playing and the patience and trust that the musicians have for one another, allowing the music to slowly and gradually evolve without rushing or forcing anything. The pace of the performance to gradually increases in volume and tempo as the music evolves in an organic manner to a fine conclusion. There is a gentler sensibility to "Words That Rhyme With Spangle" with a floating aspect to the music that develops into an anchoring beat, allowing the bass and guitar to range free and allow the music to shine with a soft tremulous light, with glints of electric guitar like shooting stars across the music's field of view. The band developed most of this music during a residency in Pittsburgh, which allowed them room to focus on composition and interpretation, with the payoff being the production of excellent and unique music. Ours - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.