Thuja - "All Strange Beasts Of The Past"
(Emperor Jones Records 2003, EJ 64)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: April 2004
Thuja are Loren Chasse, Glenn Donaldson, Rob Reger, and Steven R. Smith (I reviewed Smith’s solo project, Hala Strana in AI # 26). This is their fourth album, an exotic, haunting journey into deeply experimental acoustic music realms. Often this reminded me the most of Eno’s classic Ambient 4: On Land album, but only if it were played without the electronics. Occasionally, though, the music veers away from the strictly ambient into something a little more melodic, often with a distinctly ethnic feel. A big part of Thuja’s music is the background noises: clanks, crinkles, breaths, bangs, crunches, things being dragged over rough surfaces, objects being dropped. The result is something wholly naturalistic and organic, and often quite primal in nature. This is music from some kind of ancient Europe, before there was such a name as “Europe”, before there were cities or even villages, when men and women would huddle around crackling fires in caves at night, listening to the sounds of the dark, primeval forest outside. The lovely photograph that graces the cover (which reminded me oddly of something painted by Roger Dean) definitely captures the feel of this strange, ambient music. When I use the word “ambient”, however, don’t misunderstand me. This is not the pleasant, relaxing space music we often associate with ambient these days. This music is definitely dark and edgy, challenging, occasionally noisy, often dissonant, and sometimes even frightening, as the deep, shadowy night forest would have been to those ancient humans in their cave.
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Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald