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Thuja - All Strange Beasts of the Past

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Artist: Thuja

Album: All Strange Beasts of the Past

Label: Emperor Jones

Review date: Apr. 12, 2004

Thuja creates some of the most beautiful agrarian drone music you are likely to discover, scoring the folklore of remote wildernesses and fabled creatures – a dirtier, more visceral Dirty Three. On All Strange Beasts Of The Past, what first appears to be instrumental clutter and wayward melodies slowly develops into a profoundly affecting love letter to forgotten time.

All Strange Beasts... opens with the resonating hum of the organ accompanied by random plucking of strings; a broodingly pensive introduction. The following piece, however, unfurls in a more lighthearted manner, dominated by wistful guitar, violins and a cello, lazy melodies like wisps of smoke from an abandoned fire. The dim scraping of metallic objects conjures images of extinct creatures dragging their heavy scales across cobble stone streets.

The third untitled track takes a more traditionally melodic direction with guitar, banjo, percussion, piano, violin and an organ. An understated folk melody ensues, rendered eerily with a tinge of reverb. Track four has a more serious tone, guitars and banjo strummed in unison – the violin offering a dirge-like melody buoyed by clanging tambourines while piano notes offer the slightest accentuations.

On the remainder of Strange Beasts, Thuja embrace free improvisation, eschewing traditional melody in favor of suggestions for the subconscious. The fifth offering has a strange clamor; bells and various other objects are struck against one another in shamanic fervor. Track six and its sustained organ notes feels like a funeral service while a congregation of instruments murmur their respects. The unfettered 20-minute finale is pure improvisational wandering, vast and continuous, a panoply of several melodies funneled into one.

Thuja works magic through implication, much like the formations and shapes in clouds. The mind grasps for the familiar amongst the fluffy, billowing unfamiliar.

By I Khider

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