Thor & Friends
Thor & Friends

Thor and Friends The Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY April 22, 2017

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After seeing this sextuplet you have this overwhelming feeling that if you spent an afternoon with these fine musicians that you would feel really good about yourself. The positivity that eludes from the stage is magnanimous. A very calm yet melodic symphony of combined Middle Eastern and African ambient mellowness, you can tell that these musicians really enjoy playing and being with each other.

Thor Harris, formerly percussionist for the band Swans, is no stranger to being onstage playing a unique style of music. He has put together an ensemble to guarantee this tradition continues. Thor & Friends has a core of three members: Harris himself, Peggy Ghorbani, and Sarah Gautier. They fill out their line up with a rotating Austin-based musicians. Kudos to their openness and willingness to keep things interesting.

From the YouTube channel of phunkdaddie:

Who would ever think that a band with three vibraphone players, a violinist, and two guitarists from Austin, Texas could produce so much sound and produce so much laidback energy. I feel elation and a calmness that you would feel at a waterfall. This being their last night in tour with Explosions in the Sky, there was definitely an aura of excitement as they are off to Europe to play multiple dates and festivals. I will say with a slight warning that this band may not be for everybody but it was definitely for me that night.

About Thor & Friends (from Polymath percussionist Thor Harris inaugurated “Thor & Friends” 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 ensemble has three core members, Thor, Peggy Ghorbani and Sarah “Goat” Gautier – with its line-up expanding and contracting 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 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.

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