“Storytelling–that’s not the future. The future, I’m afraid, is flashes and impulses. It’s mode up of moments and fragments, and stories won’t survive.”
― Dexter Palmer,
Knowing the brief attention span of most of today’s music listening populous, used to flashes of music, the instant gratification of MTV and three minute songs, would you release an album that ran for fifty seven minutes and yet had only one track on it? No, neither would I….
Well.that’s what Finnish duo Thence did with their debut release ‘These Stones Cry From The Earth’..
“We are the edge of the biggest ride in history. Is this the year when the cosmic clock finally runs down to zero days and zero hope? The deepest questions of our time are looking for answers from the past, facing alarming complexity. Vanishing species…or something? Thence is something from there. Just to feel the ambience of the surrounding world.”
Deep? quite so, this was the concept behind that first album, the music began to grow and the band felt that it must be done in this way. The album was composed and recorded almost at the same time, maybe that is the reason why the listener cannot leave it unfinished, and must listen it to the very end.
Juha Sirkkiä founded the band in 2003. However, the band had been kept in limbo until Erno Räsänen joined the band and immediately from that day they started making the first album and it finally saw the light of day in 2011.
To my ears, it was one of the most exciting, deep and innovative albums of its day. Yes, for most mere mortals, the idea of a 57 minute long track making up the entire album was, perhaps, too much but, for those of us with the requisite attention span, we were treated to an absolute musical delight.
2016 sees the duo return with the long awaited follow up ‘We Are Left With A Song’ which, this time consists of seven tracks instead of one long ‘paragraph’. The content itself has remained, broadly the same: all kinds of emotionally descriptive, diverse and beautiful music.
““Hope. Maybe it is the best adjective to describe this album. It’s a feeling, and it is wished that, after all the difficulties, there is always hope.” says Juha Sirkkiä, of the album’s theme.
Opening track I Burn The Day, The Ghost begins with birdsong and a very slow building guitar, low down and sombre and also quite apprehensive. You’re on edge, awaiting what is to come and then, bang, we’re off. A thunderous riff and epic drums power to a massive crescendo of all consuming music that takes you aback. Once you’ve recovered, the pace eases slightly as the laid back vocals begin, not to say things have calmed completely as the keys wash over you and the music drives you on. A huge wall of luscious sound assails your very soul and Juha’s slightly muted, if very noted, vocal guides you along the pathway to hope and salvation. A fast paced, powerfully upbeat and yet slightly dark tinged song that opens your eyes and awakens your senses and closes out with a lonely piano note.
No One, Anyone, Be Someone opens with a lazy, wistful tone to the vocals and the music. All moving languidly along, unhurried and impassive. The catchy riff gives it some sort of impetus but that feeling of mellow, unhurried tranquility remains at the core. As we move through the track it takes on a more dramatic and theatrical feel as the keyboards take on the feel of a string section and bring a huge wave of emotion to run over you. Then an absolutely delightful saxophone solo adds a huge grin to my face, and no small amount of grace to this impressive track, as unexpected as it is brilliant. A pensive track that opens up to deliver a feeling of hope and optimism.
The opening to Abundance is wistful and silky smooth and you just feel yourself going with the flow as its gentle air of expectancy draws you in. The drums pound out a rhythm that gets under your skin before a suitably graceful and elegant guitar note takes up the baton. I find a sense of serenity take over my whole being as this composed and self-possessed piece of music lets me join it on its effortless travails. Juha’s vocal is totally relaxing and unruffled and matches the mood perfectly. This song leaves you in your own bubble of self-absorption as an undemanding, subdued guitar solo flows around your mind, wonderful.
There is a feel of 90’s techno synth to the opening of It Is Truth That Liberates, even the title has a touch of Massive Attack to it. The guitar is only hiding in the background though and opens up with an aggressive and dynamic riff to counter the slightly spaced out feel of the keyboards. Another track where that dense and substantial soundscape, immediately recognisable as Thence, takes centre stage before a coruscating guitar adds fire and incandescence to the mix to give a uniquely memorable sound, a complicated tapestry of music is laid before you for your delectation.
A slightly distorted guitar note jars your senses at the opening of Pursue as it jangles and resonates inside your head. A hushed, yet passionate, vocal joins the music to give a feel of yearning and hunger. A cool bass line adds gravitas, the drums and percussion giving an undercurrent of longing. You feel this is building up to something as the pace begins to pick up slightly, there’s still an anxious and expectant aura that hangs over everything though. The trance is broken by another monstrous riff that hits you hard and grabs your attention before Juha’s crying guitar adds another edge of despair but wait, you hear a baby’s cry and sense a lifting of something oppressive, there is now more of a feeling of hope central to the music. The piano that takes up the reverie is thoughtful and reflective, it heralds the introduction the superb saxophone again. You are taken on a wondrous journey of sound and tone, one that touches your very heart and soul and, as the brilliant guitar joins the fray, it becomes an almost rapturous and utterly captivating musical experience that closes out to the yearning refrian of that extraordinary saxophone.
Oars In Our Hands opens with a seriously ominous tone, the note of the keyboards giving a feeling of foreboding before the heavy riffing begins and gives it a solid impetus and deliberate feel. This track is the one that reminds me the most of ‘These Stones….’, the scenic sound that fills the horizon and the arena filling vocals. A wide vista of musical theatre that is delivered to your senses and one that engrosses and enthralls at every turn. There is a unique quality to the music that comes from Thence and it is one that I hugely admire as this duo defy what you expect to hear from two musicians. The drama unfolds before you through the music and keeps you intrigued and immersed thoughout, once again, the potent and compelling ending to the song leaves you on a high.
The final seven minutes of the album is devoted to Life Will Get You Eventually, another song that is more than mere words and notes on a page. A melodic, symphonic soul cleansing journey of affirmation and expectancy is laid before you in its genial grace to leave you feeling like you are on the shore of an ocean as the waves gently lap around your toes. An almost infinite space lies in front of you as you gaze towards the horizon, a melodramatic scene indeed but one that this hugely involving tune imbues. The heartfelt, sincere vocals touch you deeply and the rest of the track envelops you in its sonorous embrace, as it comes to a close I honestly feel like I have been changed inside for ever, emotionally cleansed by what I have just experienced.
What Thence have delivered with ‘We Are Left With A Song’ is no mere album, it is a breathtaking, creative powerhouse of sonic delight that grows to fill any space that it occupies to take on a life of its own. It is a life that you will want to share until your dying breath, above mere superlatives, it is an utter triumph.
Released 27th May 2016