Music as a form of art is something that I feel is often overlooked. This is certainly the case in the modern era as music is always on, but seldom appreciated without distraction. It isn't until you come across a composition, such as Chris Abrahams' Thrown, that your belief of what music is, what it can be, and how it can be subjectively interpreted is challenged. It is only then that you truly begin to appreciate music as a form of performance art.
It would be fair to say that Thrown is not an album that I would actively seek out. Nor is it one that I would generally add to my collection. However, it is unique and I experience a very subjective series of emotional responses as I listen to the album. To be completely honest, I find much of the album to be unsettling, yet a concise description as to why escapes me. Therefore, dear reader, I implore you to join me on this incredibly unique experience as we traverse the album known simply as Thrown.
Upon first listen, you would be forgiven for wondering if Thrown is not merely the work of a slightly deranged individual. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth as Abrahams is a highly sought after pianist within the Australian music scene. While he is best known as a jazz pianist and session musician, his solo projects are largely experimental. While experimenting with sound is hardly revolutionary, the style applied throughout Thrown literally throws me as the composition is unlike anything I have heard before. It is, for lack of better terms, simultaneously beautiful and haunting.
Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised with the direction Abrahams took on Thrown as he is one-third of the experimental jazz trio, The Necks. If you find Thrown to be a little too confronting then you would likely appreciate the slightly less intimidating experimentation that can be heard on The Necks’ song Transparent Roads. As I listen to both recordings, in conjunction with each other, certain musical elements link the two, but it is clear that Transparent Roads would appeal to a more mainstream audience.
Beyond this comparison in style, the artwork is most certainly relatable to the music presented on the album. I’m not sure if one would look at this artwork and be compelled to buy it, sound unheard, but the absent and lost feeling that you get when you look at the artwork, definitely mimics the musical style in visual form.
Bellicose starts with what can only be described as recorder hell. The pitch, while perfect in intent, is traumatising for the mind as there is no escape from this somewhat daunting and very disturbing soundstage. Interestingly, it is compelling and recorded so well that I don't feel the need to tear my headphones from my ears and throw them across the room. To me, this song is the epitome of subjective interpretation and I dare say each listener will have their own subjective response when listening to Bellicose.
Can Of Faces almost seamlessly continues, but it is very different to Bellicose and is sonically compelling. Approximately midway through the song, a sound that is akin to wind comes bellowing through your headphones, yet it is relaxing and peaceful despite the sound being felt in your middle ear. This song is, certainly in the second half, absolutely gorgeous and simply must be heard to be believed. There really isn't an adjective in the English language that can adequately describe the experience of listening to Can Of Faces.
Horsenel returns the listener to the eerie wind instrument that previously plagued the senses in Bellicose. Thinking for a moment about film scores, I can say with certainty that Horsenel would perfectly suit a film like The Blair Witch Project. It is unrelenting in its eeriness, yet I feel strangely compelled to continue listening. Could this be a sign of my slightly mad psyche or the sign that I’m listening to an artistic masterpiece?
Remembrancer has undertones of madness as the piano is frantically played in a repetitious manner. Despite that, it is strangely comforting. I have to be honest when I say that I feel Thrown is my most subjective review to date. I’m sure some of you will detest Remembrancer, and the entire album, but I’m subjectively not feeling disdain towards this piece of art. As it is so subjective, I would love to read your thoughts. Do you find yourself enamoured with Abrahams experimentation, or not? One aspect of Remembrancer that I appreciate is the analogue television static sound effect. There is probably a technical term for it, but I’m sure many of you would recall the snow on the screen, and the associated noise, when there was no signal. Regardless, it closes out the song and repetitious music beautifully.
Coins In Vinegar is perhaps the least compelling song on the album. It never truly captured my mind and I find it to be too similar in style to the preceding tracks.
Hung Door is quite erratic and downright creepy. You have definitely happened across the haunted house in the woods with this track.
Them Hitting is the sonic equivalent of a human dog whistle, albeit with additional musical elements. Surprisingly, it isn't off-putting and I even appreciate the Morse code-styled element throughout the song.
Car Park Land literally increases my breathing and pulse rates every time I hear it. Yet, I'm at a loss to explain this reaction. Can music really have this much of an impact on the human mind? I believe so, otherwise we would cease to have likes and dislikes regarding specific artists, albums, and musical styles. The wind chimes in this song assist with the feeling of solitude and while many find wind chimes to be relaxing, I generally find them to be one of the most annoying instruments in existence. However, in another strange dichotomy, I don't feel that way about them as I listen to this track.
Nocturne, as the final track on the album, presents a repetitiously mismatched compilation of interweaving sounds. It is captivating enough to have me play the album again, yet I find myself compelled to sit in silence and ponder my subjective interpretation of the entire album.
The question that must logically be asked is if this album can really be classed as music, or is it merely a culmination of sounds, resulting in noise? While I have expressed my own subjective thoughts, I can't help but wonder if an album such as this can exist simultaneously as music and noise.
Overall, I find Thrown to be devilishly enticing. Everything I know about myself tells me that I shouldn't like this album, yet I appreciate and respect the experimentation and subjective journey it has taken me on. While I have more questions than answers, regarding my interpretation of Thrown, one certainty is that Thrown will remain in my streaming music library, to be listened to again and again.
This review was based on listening to the 2005 edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It is important to note that while TIDAL Hi-Fi presents albums in CD-quality sound at 1,411kbps, Thrown is only presented as a 320kbps stream as TIDAL has not been given higher quality files from the artist. However, that is of little concern as the album remains sonically impressive. While I have referenced listening to this album on headphones, I have also heard it several times on speakers and can confirm that the sonic nuances remain transparent, regardless of playback method. This is, in part, because the album been beautifully recorded and mastered with kid gloves, thereby ensuring the experience takes your senses to a completely new level that will not easily be forgotten.