Another Moody Violin Masterpiece from Hannah Thiem
Hannah Thiem‘s new album Brym – streaming at Soundcloud – finds the intense, haunting Copal violinist in typically eclectic mode. This time out, she’s traded her usual Middle Eastern-tinged sound for a more Nordic and classically-influenced one. As with Copal, her songs here manage to be terse yet soaringly majestic at the same time. Otherwise, the main difference between this and Copal is that the rhythm here is mechanical, and there are light electronic flourishes to flesh out the string melodies. But Thiem keeps those to a minimum, mostly just a simple synth bassline and some delicate atmospherics. Otherwise, it’s her violin, soaring and wailing and dancing with a lithe, wary majesty, dark and pensive and absolutely gorgeous.
The opening track, Skaldic Roulette sets the stage, washes of sound against murky distant lows introducing a trip-hop groove with Thiem’s signature windswept, plaintive melody. It reminds of Kristin Hoffmann at her most intense. Phavet is an example of how interesting you can make what’s essentially a one-chord jam if you vary your dynamics enough, in this case from an echoing, dancing, hypnotically bracing theme to a thicket of overdubs where Thiem becomes a one-woman string sextet.
The title track works variations on a traditional Norwegian theme. like an Alan Parsons Project instrumental from the 80s but more techy. This particular tune is more rustic, with a vivid sense of longing and absence in the midst of all its lush layers. The Finding mingles hints of dub, the Mediterranean, swooping vocalese and goth-tinged piano along with Thiem’s dynamically rich string multitracks. The album ends with Sweetest Invitation, which is bittersweet at best, a terse, goth-tinged ballad that’s the most classically-oriented piece here. Copal’s album Into the Shadow Garden is one of the best of the past decade: as far as short albums go, there hasn’t been anything released in 2014 that can touch this. If art-rock is your thing, grab this before it disappears.