Elisa Thorn’s HUE paint an immersive musical picture with their sophomore release.
On their 2016 releaseHue (The Painting Project), harpist and composer Elisa Thorn, with drummer Justin Devries and bassist James Meger, built intricate and tightly woven instrumental pieces based on the abstract paintings of Thorn’s father, Bruce Thorn. While the trio’s follow-up record isn’t as explicitly intertextual as their first, Flowers for your Heart inhabits the same sonic realm. Much like her father’s paintings, Elisa Thorn builds up an immersive and detailed world with Flowers For Your Heart, translating swaths of colour and amorphous shapes into musical washes of texture, punctuated by skillfully orchestrated structures.
Consistently sounding fuller and richer than a trio should be able to, Thorn, Meger, and Devries morph their instruments into roles that are hard to imagine without hearing them. Meger’s bass, for example, bursts out of the mix on “The Other Side”; it’s drenched in fuzz and tears across the forefront of the song in a solo that sounds straight from Wilco’s A Ghost is Born.
“Magnolia” is the only moment on the record that introduces a new element; Toronto-based vocalist Laura Swankey. She sweeps into the song, shrouded in delays and reverbs, situating the vocals as yet another sonic element in the song, rather than the focal point. Even as her voice becomes crisp and clear, its timbral qualities hold more weight within the world of the song than the words she sings.
“There’s No Tomorrow” is the most daringly arranged track on the album. Seamlessly emerging out of the soundscape of “As If,” “There’s No Tomorrow” breaks into the carefully constructed feel, like that of the opening three tracks on the album. Just over two minutes into the seven-minute track, the song transforms into a jagged and stuttering improv section — the dissonance of each instrument pile up on one another, into a mountain of cacophony. As the tangle of sound subsides, Thorn plucks a rhythm back into the track, with Meger and Devries following shortly, until the track once again transforms, this time into an intricate and intense groove.