Review Summary: Exotic avant-garde music featuring a didgeridoo. Need you know any more?
If you search for Thrangh’s sophomore effort, the peculiarly named, Ezerfilisch
, on Discogs you might notice something rather interesting. When attempting to define Thrangh’s playing style on this record, Discogs offers you the following enumeration of aesthetics: 'Alternative Rock, Funk Metal, Noise, Free Funk, Free Jazz, Punk, Avantgarde, Math Rock, Contemporary Jazz, Fusion, Free Improvisation, Hardcore, Jazz-Rock, Experimental'. That might appear somewhat excessive to say the least. A band must truly be exceedingly transdisciplinary to attain such an expansive list of characterisations. However, as far as Thrangh is concerned this prodigious amalgam of styles would be a fairly appropriate characterisation of their style, if not a little vague and bloated. If one had to distil Thrangh’s style in a more cohesive manner one could typify the band’s sonic palette as follows: an idiosyncratic combinations of avant-garde progressive rock, avant-garde metal, jazz fusion and free improvisation with hints of post-punk, brutal prog and funk. This vast array of styles is neatly reflected in the vast array of different and rather unusual instruments the band employs on Ezerfilish
, so allow me to once again enumerate: Alessandro Bonanni on bass and (baritone) guitar, Tommaso Moretti on drums and Javanese gong, Fabrizio Colelli on guitar and guitar synth and last but not least Gabriele Mengoli on (deep breath), saxophone (alto as well as tenor), didgeridoo, bombarde (archaic aerophone) and coulisse flutes (slide whistle).
Now you might be wondering how this odd combination of musical tools is applied to produce a sound of such an aforementioned transdisciplinary nature. Here a confession must be made: an attempt to properly distil the absolute, unerring musical absurdity of Thrangh sound into to mere words is a daunting task that is bound to abortive. Partly, the music is so strange that simply formulating a state of visible confusing would constitute a fairly adequate description of the Thrangh’s sound. Their very obvious emphasis on rapid genre-jumping ala Mr. Bungle or John Zorn, as well as their equal fondness of off-kilter group improvisation are the most obvious ways in which their sound defies concrete textual portrayal. A perfect example of the unabashed quixotic character of the record is found on the album’s mammoth, eponymous title track. The song commences with something we could call ‘stereotypical Thrangh’: a meandering sonic journey through a rough musical landscape characterised by scintillating funky bass lines, syncopated percussion, odd tempo and time-signature changes, distorted guitars, ranging counterpoint, vociferous squawking saxophone and break-neck genre shifts. At points the instruments each seem to operate independently from one another within their own sonic dimensions, but this detachment can be precipitously upended as instruments suddenly coalesce into a cacophonous pandemonium. Another trick Thrangh like to pull off is to entirely deconstruct and derail a composition, shifting into interludes in a seemingly hackneyed manner or delving into an unforeseen crescendo. The aforementioned fourteen-minute title track contains the most explicit example of this as Thrangh allow the song to slowly devolve into what can only be described as an alien sound collage which is comprised of noises I’m not entirely sure can even be produced with the vast amount of tools that constitute Thrangh musical arsenal. After a few minutes, Thrangh slowly starts to exist this dark and twisted musical avenue and continuous reprising in an equally eccentric and bewildering manner, all of the musical themes identified above.
The record’s five interludes foster a musical mood not unlike the downright confounding musical abyss represented by the sonic derailment the title track offers. The rest of the record’s six tracks are in a way similar to the above mentioned titular homonymous cut, with their equally unpredictable and rapid recycling of a sheer innumerable quantity of musical ideas, although these sonic tales last a considerably shorter amount of time: each track encompassing a duration of roughly five minutes at most. Staccato call-and-response patterns, furious saxophone solos, intense slab bass and an overall incredibly thrusting progression allow each of these tracks to achieve a level of fantastical musical intensity and confusion. Although Thrangh does occasionally offer the listener a fleeting moment of reprieve, they are sure to unexpectedly rip the listener from that place of relative safety into another maelstrom of genre hopping, explicit virtuosity and spiralling instrumental improvisation. As far as the record’s production is concerned, one can be brief in one’s evaluation: it’s nigh-immaculate, allowing for a wonderfully roomy sound that allows each instrumental element its proper frequency space, it applies a decently polished treatment to the percussion and saxophone (and other instruments in for which Mengoli is responsible for), while adding a slightly more gritty non-pristine treatment to the distorted guitar and bass. In order words: the production perfectly, figuratively toes the line between polished clarity and intense grit.
Ultimately then, regardless of the frenetic and unpredictable character of this album, regardless of how mentally exhausting its instrumental interplay and extemporaneous musical progression may be and regardless of how quixotic its instrumental template is in general, this record is an undisputed masterpiece. Somehow Thrangh manages to make the unworkable work in a truly splendid manner and in doing so have crafted one of the most formidable avant-garde records of the 21st century. A true testament both to the incredible musical ability possessed by each of the musicians involved as well as an ode to the validity of applying a healthy dose of lunacy to your artistic process, Ezerfilisch
is a perpetually intriguing, startlingly strange and indisputably impressive musical stroke of genius.