Pine Cone Temples (2CD) (2005, Strange Attractors)

If you’re going to get into a project that’s been around for awhile, I highly doubt that an expansive two-disc album would be a very good starting point. Would ‘Leaves Turn Inside You’ be a good introduction to Unwound? I would think not.

That being said, if you are a fan of Thuja’s, Pine Cone Temples will definitely not disappoint you, and at the same time you just may hear something new and unexpected. This album, which is comprised of songs that were recorded between 1999 and 2004, varies a good deal from prior Thuja albums. Which would make sense, seeing as how these songs probably didn’t make it onto different albums for a reason.

If you’re unfamiliar with Thuja, it’s been my listening experience that they usually run the gamut between dark sounding folk (‘Ghost Plants’) to what I would imagine an experimental take on Eastern-European traditional folk music would sound like (‘All Strange Beasts of the Past’), all of which are instrumental. The songs presented on their debut album for the Portland, Oregon based Strange Attractors, do not follow either of those paths. Instead, we are treated to more open-endedness than I’ve heard on prior albums. Drone, ambient soundscapes, piano, field recordings, all sorts of sounds are present here, but in a less structured way than i’m used to hearing.

Classically, Thuja’s songs have had a running time between three and seven minutes, but averaged more around the five minute mark, with usually one long track per album. This time around four of the six songs on the first disc are over nine minutes long, with one clocking in at eighteen. The second disc is just two tracks. The first being thirteen minutes long, while the second one is someone with Attention Deficit Disorder’s nightmare at twenty-six minutes long. However; despite the epic, post-rock, song lengths, this is not an album built around song dynamics. There’s no gentle build up to a cliched noisy apex. The songs on Pine Cone Temples start off slow, and meander all the way to the end. I wouldn’t have Thuja any other way.

The members of Thuja; Loren Chasse, Steven R. Smith, Rob Reger, and Glenn Donaldson, are involved in a myriad of other experimental and folky projects and have been doing their thing before “New Weird America” came to mean anything “folky” and “different”. Some of the other projects Thuja members have been/are involved with: Id Battery, The Blithe Sons, Of, The Birdtree, Mirza, Hala Strana, The Skygreen Leopards, The Ivytree, The Franciscan Hobbies, in addition to their solo excursions, and anything else i’m forgetting. More than a few of which feature multiple Thuja members, I suggest looking into them, as well as the Jewelled Antler Collective.

-avant gardening 10/10/05

Related Links: Jewelled Antler

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