Genre(s): Avant Garde Progressive Rock
Label: Cuneiform Records
Format: CD, digital
Release date: February 10, 2016
- The Echoes of Their Cries
- Thus Have We Made the World
- Commuting to Murder
- Hoping Against Hope
- The Great Leap Backwards
- A Dirge for the Unwitting
Mike Johnson: guitar, samples, midi instruments
Mark Harris: soprano and alto saxes, B-flat standard and bass clarinets, flute
Dave Willey: bass, drums (5), accordion (2, 6)
Elaine di Falco: voice, accordion, piano
Robin Chestnut: drums, percussion
Bill Pohl: guitar
Adriana Teodoro-Dier: piano (2, 5, 6) and toy piano (2)
Simon Steensland: bass (5)
Mike Boyd: drums (2)
Kathryn Cooper: oboe (4)
Thinking Plague is a storied band, whose thirty-five year history has seen it cleave consistently to the extreme limits of what is possible to do within rock music. Much of the music it released has owed more to traditions external to rock, such as folk, chamber music, and particularly, the avant-garde tradition of twentieth-century classical music.Media/Samples
Thinking Plague are often cited as the leading light of the American arm of the ‘Rock In Opposition’ movement, genre-defying and, above all, unique.
The arrangements we hear on Hoping Against Hope are those we will hear live. Even when singer Elaine di Falco’s accordion is written and recorded in multiple voices, the parts are realizable by a single instrument.
Leader and composer Mike Johnson and newest member Bill Pohl’s tightly scored twin guitars are panned out wide enough for the listener to balance the pursuit of an individual voice against the ensemble texture, which is the creative focus, a carefully crafted polyphony served by each instrumental voice. Pohl’s addition brings a second electric guitar to the texture for the first time, enabling more sinuous scoring, rather than making the sound more ‘rock’.
There is a familiar vocabulary in play, a harmonic palette and a phraseology that has evolved considerably over the band’s lifespan without extreme points of rupture, despite major changes and sometimes long gaps between releases; this is clearly the same band that we heard in the 1980s, but Johnson is writing from a creative position that is fruitfully removed from that he occupied even four years ago. As demanding as this music may be, it is made to sound easy, and more importantly, beautiful.
The Echoes Of Their Cries