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  If Thousands
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There is a sort of continuum in music, with passion at one end and skill at the other. There are a lot of acts (some of which have been reviewed here) where the musician has more to say than their technical skill allows. And there are plenty of people out there who have studied music and have a lot of technical skill but lack passion.

It is passion that tends to be remembered. Someone with a modicum of skill and something to say will usually go a lot farther than someone with a lot of skill and nothing to say. Of course, there are counterexamples: Joe Satriani and Rush are two acts i can think of with gobs of skill and nothing worthwhile to say with it.

A lot of classical music also tends to fall on the passion-less side of things. I suppose it is because that side of music tends to be about study and scholarliness, as opposed to "getting laid" which seems to be the goal of pop music...

If Thousands are a classical act. Not to say this is a symphony, but rather that this is music that has a lot of intellectual activity behind it. If Thousands are a drone band, and this is about their seventh full length release in 14 years. Huh.

There are 13 tracks on this album and each song takes a couple of different instruments and drones them against one another. They make two bold statements on their BandCamp: "No computers were used to make any sounds on this album", which is unusual these days, and "No overdubs" meaning that this was recorded more or less live in some sense. Huh.

Now, i know what you are thinking: an intellectual drone act who do not use computers will make sterile boring music.

You'd think that. Heck, i thought it when i read the press release. But for some reason i downloaded this and, to my surprise, find that i really like it. If Thousands make really cool ambient music from a wide range of different sounds.

I am not going to go over all of the tracks here. It is a two person act consisting of guitarist Aaron Molina and multi-instrumentalist Christian McShane, and the two of them switch out, flipping between different instruments on different songs, but each song remains a duet. I will just go over the few standouts here.

The real standout, for me, is eight, a long track of acoustic guitar thunking away while strings drone. The overall effect is kind of like Songs:Ohia redone by Godspeed: it has that kind of vaguely melancholy but also sort of reflective feel to it. It's just lovely.

On four and ten they manage to channel The Dirty Three in their minimal way. On four a bare guitar picks out a riff while a violin saws away overtop, and on ten the guitar is similar, but McShane is playing percussion that fluctuates between sparse and intense.

On 1, a guitar jangles over some kind of string drone, the jangle eventually becoming so distorted, so overdriven, that it seems as if the guitar itself is almost screaming. Very impressive and quite lovely.

The final standout for me is 3, which is an organ-powered song. It reminds me of being in Mass when i was younger, enjoying the wandering organ sound. Towards the end of the song it goes all creepy, where with a slight change in tone it goes from Catholic Mass with your Grandmother in a big old church in Pittsburgh to 1960s horror movie. An interesting transition.

I have to say that despite the intellectual nature of what If Thousands are doing, they are making some really cool stuff. Playing this for another person isn't going to get you laid, but it is good listening none the less.

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