Hailing from Minnesota, duo Aaron Molina and Christian McShane, better known as If Thousands, have been dabbling in sonic experimentation and musical soundscapes since 2000. I Have Nothing, the band's fourth full-length, is the result of a two-day improvisational recording session with guests Paul Metzger on banjos and GST and 2i on horns. Blending more traditional, albeit sometimes unstructured, ambient/ethereal musical pieces ("pull") with experimental/noise collages ("marianas"), or sometimes combing the two (the lush ethereal synth and found sound blend of "walking otis", for example), the album is sonically interesting yet maintains a certain level of musicality. Impressively layered and processed, whether it be the disc's sparser ambient offerings or lush, rich sonic textures, the material here is an organic balance of strong improvisational instrumentation, processing that runs the gamut from reverse looping to pitch-shifting, and strong post-production and mixing.
While the album provides a fairly consistent, flowing soundtrack, certain pieces of the puzzle are rather inconspicuous while others definitely stand out. The aforementioned "providence" is rather compelling, a strong, full drone built around what appears to be processed strings and noise. "Cymbols", too, is particularly poignant, powerful synth passages atop layers of both straightforward and reversed metallic/percussive instrumentation. "Push", "caterwaul", and "trout" all add something of an eastern vibe to the music. The latter two are exceptionally strong with "caterwaul" focusing on the interplay between a lush ambient background and reverb-drenched string arpeggios, bends, and slides and "trout" taking a much more low-key approach with a sparser noise backdrop and more straightforward clean picked banjo.
"2i.gst" is another stunning track, largely horn based and blending the melodic and dissonant in an unsettling way not entirely dissimilar to Lydia Lunch's early work. The closing "stella and me" is, on the other hand, notably the most traditional musical track here, unexpectedly ending the album in a low-key bluegrass-tinged manner. The brief but memorable "cripsin glover" is, perhaps, its only competition in traditional musicality, simplistic and childlike in terms of sound and instrumentation; partially underpinned, however, by a darker layer.
If Thousands' I Have Nothing, as a whole, is a relatively solid and consistent album whose blend of sonic improvisation, instrumentation (and non-instrumentation) and interesting layering and production will likely appeal to those drawn to the experimental/noise end of the spectrum. However, from its sparser ambient drones to its lush, layered soundscapes, the album's overall sound and sometimes more melodic instrumentation and arrangements may also attract ambient and ethereal fans not typically drawn to…say…albums that use found sounds. At the very least, it's an interesting sonic excursion with lo-fi, organic appeal that deserves a listen from fans of the aforementioned genres.
If Thousands website: www.ifthousands.com
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