Thor & Friends is the eponymous full length debut from, this avant-chamber ensemble formed by its namesake, polymath percussionist Thor Harris. The album was recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, February of 2016 produced by Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost from A Hawk & A Hacksaw and Deerhoof’s John Dieterich. Thor & Friends is being released October 7 by LM Dupli-cation.
The three core members of the band are Peggy Ghorbani on marimba, Sarah “Goat” Gautier on marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, organ, voice, mellotron and piano and Harris on sundry percussion and wind instruments including some of his own devising. On this recording the trio are joined Jeremy Barnes on accordion , drum, and mellotron, Heather Trost on violin , voice & marimba, John Dieterich on guitar, bass, castanets and special effects and Raven on bone flute, and electronic sounds.
“Thor & Friends” were inaugurated in the autumn of 2015 after five years of touring as the percussionist of iconic avant-rock ensemble Swans. The project is intended as a vehicle for experimentation with the conceptual vocabulary of American Minimalism collaborating with a rotating cast of Austin-based musicians.
A crafter of musical instruments and stylistic polyglot Harris is returning home with Thor & Friends and the resultant music is an elongated greeting and ode to his community, woodworking shop and the instruments his hands shape and bring to life.
The line-up of Thor & Friends expands and contracts with the flux of compositional and improvisational contexts. The range of tonal color depends on what instrumentalists are present or absent from the process at any given time. They can perform purely acoustic or shaded with hues of electronic instrumentation, as a stripped-down trio or a large ensemble.
Thor & Friends draws on the classic Minimalist composers including Terry Riley and Steve Reich, but also amalgamate such diverse influences as Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Moondog and The Necks around a polyrhythmic core of mallet-struck instruments, primarily marimba, xylophone and vibraphone. Circling these core motifs are shifting streams of everything from processed pedal steel and analog synthesizer to violin, viola, stand-up bass, clarinet, duduk and oboe.
The group also builds upon similarities and contrasts with Harris’ past projects and continuing collaborations; these include Swans, Ben Frost, Bill Callahan, Hospital Ships, Shearwater and John Congelton. They embody utopian optimism by rooting their art and operation in both improvisation and the involvement of neighbors and friends in their process, making use of what and who is around at any given moment to make music with.
The inaugural release from Thor & Friends was a limited edition fanzine including a download code to a half dozen or so tracks recorded by different incarnations of the project’s revolving line-ups, respectively. The fanzine featured B&W ink drawing by Harris as well as contributions from other band members. This publication, as well as a series of 4” x 5” original paintings by band members was available exclusively at Summer tour dates along with published fanzines by Thor, all on the Monofonus imprint.
Following the release of Thor & Friends’ full length debut the transcendent live performance that’s drifted across Central Texas over the last year will continue its crescendo across North America and Europe.