The Light of Random Star
Silber Media, 2014
I recently received the latest email from the Silber Media mailing list for “press” people (I guess I can call myself “press” – I’ve gotten into a lot of shows as a “press” person & have received many promo CDs, not even always quite ready for mass release, but sent to me to review just before it hits the street, etc.). Anyway, Brian Silber and the gang over at Silber Media are keeping busy, promoting material both brand new and some stuff that I’ve already gotten and reviewed (such as Electric Bird Noise, Feel No Other and a couple other bands that you can find reviews for throughout Independent Review).
Well, one of two albums I just selected for reviewing from this latest email is one by a guy from the wastelands of Siberia, a younger (than the typical age for Silber artists, according to Brian) guy called Evgeny Zheyda. His is basically a one-man band, with the name, Thorn1.
The Light of Random Star is Thorn1’s third, “official”, release for Silber Media, but Zheyda’s also done a couple musical projects on his own, most of which can be found on Bandcamp (http://www.bandcamp.com/Thorn1). The Light of Random Star is a shimmering, sparkling, brilliant object which radiates a unique perspective of drone/ambient sounds, with some smooth noise, experimental, yet amazingly accessible. It isn’t quite in the the harsh dubstep mode, but more along the lines of an ethereal, astral plane. Sonically intense, but not rigid or overdone. From the beginning, throughout, this was a pleasant album to which I listened.
Mr. Zheyda comes from a village called Barnaul, in Siberia. Where it is, exactly, in that wide open, frozen land of tundra and nerves of steel, I can’t say for sure, the literature I read about Throne1 didn’t mention specifics. But clearly, growing up in the rural, bucolic and blistering tundra of Siberia has an effect on one’s mood and outlook and, as for a musician, can bring quite a different perspective than, say, a reggae band from the Caribbean or Africa, etc. or a blue-collar, working class upbringing in a town like Sheffield or Birmingham, England or Detroit and surrounding communities, parts of Ohio – “the Rust Belt”, etc., here in the US or the polarized styles of California music – the laid back, but high-brow, experimental, technological sounds of the Bay Area: San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Marin County even down as far as San Jose or Santa Cruz, vs. the Southern California scene, which, now, can be not-so-very well pigeonholed, but still has a different vibe than the Northern part of the State. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that Thorn1’s upbringing in a land far, far away from the familiar and, sometimes, overdone excesses of the “West” – which includes the US and the influences which have seeped out and into Western Europe, to countries like Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Italy, and, to some extent, France. Then there’s the UK, which is a bit different in this case, in that, since the early 1960s, they’ve been exporting their own versions of amped-up, re-tooled music which was the province of the men from whom rock ‘n’ roll was basically appropriated – the black blues geniuses from places like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, i.e., Southern-fried blues, up to the Chicago Blues scene, which had an edgier kick to it and then there was the hybrid of “hillbilly” music, i.e., Memphis honky tonk: the hybrid of country, blues, a little pop music about a synergy that was conjured up and set down on record on labels like Stax and Sun., which brought about Carl Perkins and Sam Cooke, etc. and eventually Elvis, the sponge, got his start down there.
So, one’s environment and experiences both have an impact in creating a musical direction and it’s the same thing with Thorn1. In fact, I’ve noticed, in the past few years, that a lot of bands and artists have been popping up from all over Eastern Europe: places like Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Russia and others are not at all like their Western counterparts: they were shut off from the “free world” for about 45 years after WWII, therefore, for the most part, not accustomed to the music or other styles of the West, which, now that the iron curtain has been torn asunder, are now accessible to wider audiences, to those who crave a wider, less homogenous styles. The younger generations who’ve come into this brave, new world may have had access to the music, clothing, advertising and other vacuous Western crap, but, simultaneously, they had many years to craft styles of music that reflected their regional tastes and, younger people, not unlike the youth of any nation, unimpressed or just plain sick of hearing old, ethnic folk music, etc., developed, on their own, a new, future sound that, given the openness of the past 25 years, incorporated what they found to be the best of Western music-American jazz, British ambient/drone music, a la Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Soft Machine, Stockhausen, Terry Riley: these are just a smattering of samples of what intelligent, musically inclined Easterners did – they charted their own course and they didn’t feel compelled to come up with carbon copies of American rock music or jazz, etc. They had their own groove in mind and what they had alone was a goldmine of great sounds, but when some of them discovered stuff like Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Faust, Soft Machine – not to mention newer, contemporary bands and artists whose vision was not unlike their own, they would incorporate little bits and pieces into sounds that were uniquely their own. Now there is a huge amount of bands from the East who are making great albums of styles including ambient, drone, “shoegaze”, avant-garde jazz, experimental noise rock and dubstep, etc. It’s really a brand new, just-tapped mine of great talent that is now open to Western ears and it is finding more and more audiences in America, in Britain, in Germany, etc.
From The Light of Random Star, Thorn1 songs such as “Clearly and Consciously” has an amalgam of dreamy drone ambiance with the lightness of a bit of non-saccharine pop thrown in, with low-fi whispering, guitars that have been treated and prepared for eking out excellent sounds: reversed stringing, custom tuning, adding lots of reverb and, of course, the great guitar synthesizers that revolutionized prog-rock throughout the late 70s up to today. “Vortex Gravity” is another example of a piece from the album which attempts to mix ambient/drone/noise with a sort of minimalist dance music. Finally, “Heat Death of the Universe” is a space-y trip through the unforgiving cosmos that has walls of sound: “blissed out”, swirling dials of guitars that pull you in to it’s lair and makes you empty your mind of extraneous thoughts while you’re wrapped in a sheet of velvet in which you could lie forever – or at least until the music’s over.
So, for you seekers of new sounds out there in America, don’t despair: there are plenty of great minds at work creating a 21st century revolution in sound, with constantly improving methods of recording, sampling, sensitivity to the micro sounds as well as the macro.
One thing that I really love about this album by Thorn1 is that, listening to it loudly, one really gets a full-body rush of the depth and breadth of the brilliance of this album. If I’ve piqued your interest, then go to Silber Media’s website, where you can check out what they sound like along with their labelmates’ albums as well. Kudos to Brian Mitchell and Silber Media for bringing this great, underground phenomena to the ears of those who crave beauty and intricacy. Silber Media’s website is: http://www.silbermedia.com – check it out.