Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Thousands - Dream Isle

Album review by jay@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk


A couple of years ago I came across this sparse, gentle, yet mesmerising track, 'Mtse III'. It grew to be one of my songs of the year. It was by Thousands. Their debut 'The Sound of Everything' was as wonderful as 'Mtse III', with an elegant charm. Then a hush descended over Thousands. They left their label, spoke of making a different type of music and followed their own path to here and their second album 'Dream Isle'. Any slight worries are effortlessly washed away in the first few exquisitely strummed bars of opener of 'Standing Waves'. Then you are rewarded for your patience as those beguiling harmonies twist and turn around each other and you. You hear breath inhaled before the next line, the movement of fingers on the strings; it is intimate, close, and magical. As 'Standing Waves' steps back and slows its pace, there is a near Gregorian, timeless feel that is utterly charming. 'Shore' has a more urgent, paced feel. It dances around, skipping along the shoreline where "you make depressions in the sand". 'Shore' is painted with washes of blues and yellows as you pick up a shell to hear the wash.

Warmer, as if watching a leaf floating down the stream as light sparkles off the water, 'Forgetting' expands its and Thousands' sound. This isn't to say they are strutting in some Steinman epic, rather there is an expansion of instruments, electrified instruments, slow and shuffling drums adding a richness that is utterly fulfilling for the song. None of the intimacy is lost, as all complements perfectly rather than overpowering. 'Cave of Skulls' has haunting synths ebbing in the background, darker, more stately acoustics lend a sense of drama unfurling with grace. "We were in the trees swinging hand in dying hand" epitomises both the dark yet enriching nature of both the song's sounds and words. It then simply entrances you, cocooning you in its embrace. Those harmonies add a dash of colour to stop it all becoming to dark. Vocals so close and delivered with a crystal clear clarity and elegance, you feel that frontman Kristian Garrard is sat in the room with you, filling you and the room with journey that is 'All I Can Do'. This is a song that rewards what you put into it, at first it can be a simple folk song, then go deeper and it is imbibed with a sense of drama, a song of yearning, of need, of near heartbreak as "all you can do is wait". After the flourishes of emotion housed in 'All I Can Do', by contrast, at least musically, 'Capsize' is fuller, lighter. Those added sounds build into the song a warmth, like opening the curtains on a sun-filled morning. And here we hear of "glistening rain", yet there is a sense of someone trying to navigate through the vagaries of feelings. Words and music are in perfect synchronicity within 'Capsize'.

'Bearers' feels intrinsically filled with a sense of loss and heaviness. Maybe it is more marked after the light of 'Capsize', there is a funeral stateliness in its pace, but never morose, simply quietly disarming, and yet you wait to feel its touch to know you are still alive. Throughout the music of Thousands the elements and nature are a fundamental part. In the first moments of 'Look At Us' we hear the echoes of the wild, birdsong, possibly wind, maybe the rain, then we are lifted up on the album's most joyous refrain. There is a rolling, looseness that streams from the core of 'Look At Us', heightened by being told "I have found my love". Akin to early Sufjan Stevens, Thousands encompass the feeling of gentle euphoria that is quietly infectious. 'High And Unknown World' is suffused with an elegiac restraint by contrast. It is perhaps one of the prettiest songs on 'Dream Isle'. A chiming guitar line and snatches of angelic harmonies shading in behind Garrard's mesmerising, seductive vocal. He has a timbre and warmth that is a rare gift and enshrouds you in beauty. Closing 'Dream Isle' is 'Maybe'. It is a closing-time lament, filled with sombre, sedate sounds of a loosely played organ, maybe even an accordion. A sweeping electric ushers in a slow beat, creating a languorous, waltzing feel. You and your love alone on the dance floor, lit by the mirrorball, lost in the moment. 'Dream Isle' is a gentle, beguiling and utterly charming album that was more than worth waiting for.




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