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|i have nothing
CD Album 2005 | Silber 043
15 tracks, 50 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (256 kbps, ~97 megs))
: More info
track listing: push, wisconsin bombs, providence, marianas, cymbol, walking otis, caterwaul, children with horns, trout, shaitan, eventide, 2i.gst, crispin glover, alpha, stella and me
If Thousands are the duo
of Duluth, Minnesota based Christian McShane and Aaron Molina, and joined
on this album by members of GST & 2i, as well as Paul Metzger from
TVBC. I Have Nothing is the band's second album for the Silber
label (see AI #23), though their web site indicates there have been two
other albums released since then.
If Thousands uses stringed instruments, electronics, horns, and even what sounds like accordion to create a series of 15 soundscape pieces, plus the occasional ethnic influence. You wouldn't believe the volume of ambient/soundscape submissions I receive, most of which are enjoyable though completely lacking in individuality. So it's refreshing when I hear artists using traditional instrumentation to create atmosphere and mood centered music. Furthermore, If Thousands set themselves apart from the rest by making brief statements in the 2-5 minute range in a genre where lengthy excursions are the norm. While this type of music typically requires room to stretch out and develop its themes, If Thousands succeed by being concise. Whether it's an awareness of limitations or otherwise I can't say, but for this listener the result is a collection of soundscape styled "songs"… a collection of ambient aural short stories to enjoy in a weekend read. This is music you can put on the headphones and just get lost in. It's sparse… yet says so much.
~ Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations
This ambient duo has now
produced six discs since their unusual entry into the ambient music world
when this classically trained vocalist/guitarist & punk bassist dropped
their known instruments to create music on instruments they didn't know
how to play. Give me instruments I don't know how to play (which
means any instrument not made by Hasbro) & the result could at best
be charitably described as excruciating, usable as a weapon of mass destruction.
I'm sure they've come a long way since that initial concept, learning rudimentary
grasps of the many instruments they use & using familiar ones as well,
because I Have Nothing is certainly nothing if not musical. They've
also taken a couple of other unusual approaches as well, using all relatively
short track lengths & recording the entire disc of improvisations in
two days. Considering the fully achieved creation of atmosphere,
the latter is a striking achievement. There's plenty of variation
from track to track, some stark & foreboding, some lush & inviting,
& some inbetween. This variation emphasizes the short song aspect
of the disc, yet there's a continuity at play that brings it all together.
Part of this continuity is due to the use of standard intruments like guitars,
bass, banjo, accodion, horns, & cello for everything from lead voice
to drones. Electronic equipment is used as well, but the acoustic
instruments seem to dominate & heighten the sense of individuality
while serving to engage the less driftably inclined listener.
~ Mac Beaulieu, Expose
Rounding out the second Submission
this month from Silber is this haunting release by If Thousands.
Slide guitars gently breathe against sitar-esque tones in almost heart-breaking
beauty. This is a very, very moving album. This is very much
a free-flowing album of tones & textures, but the use of acoustic instruments
over the top gives it such a human, organic quality, you almost feel as
if it's speaking to you. It's hard to identify ones-self personally
with an instrumental piece, but with this album, the seemingly-impossible
becomes real. A must-have.
~ Poseidon, Gothic Beauty
Hailing from Duluth, MN If
Thousands' two main members are Christian McShane & Aaron Molina, &
I'm pretty sure this is release number six. This is a remarkably
deep & beautiful record, & unusual for this genre, the IT boys
have kept the pieces short. Horns & strings coexist alongside
the electronics on a set of dronescapes augmented by very real sounding
instruments. Kranky label fans, take note. What this music
does so successfully is envelope you. Really. Sure, you can
nod off to the spooky wintry sounds. But listen closely, & be
rewarded with tracks that flirt with eastern sounds (the sitar on opener
"Push") or the dramatically different "Crispin Glover," with its carnival-like
atmosphere. This is fifteen tracks of "musical art"... that you can
~ Michael Pearlstein, The Big Takeover
If Thousands' I Have Nothing
is a collection of experimental soundscapes and improvisational pieces.
Although there are a few straightforward drone pieces like Providence and
Eventide, there are also a number of tracks that go way beyond the norm
of this genre, and the album is pleasantly devoid of incoherent noodling,
showing that improvisation can indeed be put to good use. Push is a far
cry from average experimental music, incorporating sounds that nod towards
traditional Indian music and early country music. Cymbol incorporates windchime-like
sounds into spacey ambient soundscaping. Walking Otis is a relaxing ambient
piece with birdsong sound effects. Caterwaul is not the raucous noise the
name suggests but an unusual mix of almost new-agey ambient relaxation
music and a melodic guitar piece with a bluesy twang. Trout is an original
mix of Middle Eastern style music and experimental sound effects. Crispin
Glover is an excellent melodic keyboard and xylophone piece. Stella and
Me is another example of ingenious eclecticism, comprising a bluegrass-influenced
banjo melody and atmospheric synth or perhaps processed melodica. In a
time when 'experimental' is just another cliche, used as shorthand for
a kind of music that has ceased to be experimental as it's been done so
many times before, If Thousands really can lay claim to the term. This
album is a true experiment, combining various genres to create something
that sounds fresh and new.
~ Kim Harten, blissaquamarine
On this, their sixth release,
Duluth, Minnesota's If Thousands deliver fifteen stark, haunting dronescapes
that evoke the loneliness (and beauty) inherent in wide open spaces. The
album opens with "Push," a track whose droning organ and chattering guitars
brings to mind Ry Cooder's work on the PARIS, TEXAS soundtrack.
"Providence" is a dark, brooding piece, which sets up the flying saucer
landing electronic flourishes of "Cymbal" nicely. "Children with Horns"
(great title, and potentially a great band name) is more layered, with
a horn section skronking over a drone bed. Within the context of the rest
of the album the carnivalesque organ and upbeat, percussive plucking of
"Crispin Glover" may seem slightly out of place, but again, the short piece
serves to prepare the listener for another surprise; after a dronefest
entitled "Alpha," the album ends with a sidestep into some high-lonesome
banjo picking courtesy of Paul Metzger.
Had If Thousands main-men Christian McShane and Aaron Melina just strung these songs together, they would have had a kick-ass disc. Their close attention to sequencing and the ebb and flow of the songs makes it brilliant.
~ Neddal Ayad, Dead Angel
If Thousands comes from the
snowy world of Duluth, Minnesota and is the project of both Christian McShane
and Aaron Molina. I Have Nothing is their fourth release
and is a return to their more experimental style established on their earliest
releases. They use instruments in their recordings that they have little
or no training on to make ambient, subtle music. They combine Indian textures
with ambient soundscapes, among other things. Channeling the landscape
where they live, If Thousands brings to the table a mix of interesting
sounds that really communicate their environment.
“Push” begins this experimental exercise with Indian inspired textures floating upon slow drones sprinkled with other contrasting sounds. An accordion seems to breath in and out and the soundscape begins to stretch out for the listener. “Wisconsin Bomb” has a very lo-fi feel with stringed instruments and maybe a harpsichord or something that sounds similar. Pictured in my mind is the quietness of slow falling snow that wisps in the wind. It’s elegant even though it seems clunky at that same time. “Providence” flows out of this elegance with a loud, distorted drone. It’s almost angry as it travels along a bed of soft, quiet ambience.
“Marianas” begins in a more serene mood. Small, subtle ripples of sound wash over the listener while small layers of sound can be found midst the beautiful textures. This turns into a more chaotic rumble and includes some spacey sounds. “Cymbol” is a much darker piece with a more chaotic beginning. There are layers and layers of different sounds that eventually swim in a lighter toned chorus of ambience. This flows into “Walking Otis” with the chaos dropping out and a peaceful ambient piece starting. Keys rattle and a door opens, giving this peace a story telling feel. A bird chirps in the background as footsteps indicate someone, probably Otis, walking and going about his business.
“Caterwaul” has a beautiful, listful beginning with soft wind like sound and a glimmering drone that is almost playful. Quiet sliding guitar comes into the mix and adds a bit of a folk feel to the track. “Children With Horns” is a track that displays If Thousand’s abilities to play with volume. They are able to take you through a gamut of emotions and feelings with this track. “Trout” is a short track showcasing some guitar work mixed with miscellaneous sounds. This probably displays their experimental side the most.
“Shaitan” is also a very short track with a lo-fi style drone that whispers to the listener in tones like a whale. “Eventide” has a low rumble that fades in and out of the speakers. This is a very patient track that seems almost like something one could call ambient slocore. “2i.gst” plays off of “Eventide’s” sounds and mixes horn sounds to create a very deep and layered affect. “Crispin Glover” has more of a song structure with organ and some strange sounds keeping tempo. The track almost has a spooky, hypnotic feel. “Alpha” has a low drone with a high-pitched layer to it. The movement in the song has tension and beauty and really comes of the speakers as a dramatic piece. “Stella and Me” begins with Sufjan Stevens style banjo and has what sounds like the accordion. This folksy track finishes out the album on a light note and is quite apropos for the feel of the disc.
~~ Jason Lamoreaux, somewherecold.com
This Duluth, Minnesota duo’s
fourth full length combines the amniotic fluid soundscapes of their ‘Lullabye’
effort with more aggressive experimental sonic booms for another excellent
entry in the Drone subgenre of minimalist post rock. Continuing their modus
operandi of playing instruments they’ve never been trained to play (including
accordian, banjo and cello!), the awkward, hesitant elements – mistakes,
if you will – add to the album’s cautious, tense atmosphere as evidenced
by its bleak, existential title. An exploratory intro, ‘Push’ meanders
around the room like a lazy smoke ring before Christian McShane’s forlorn
piano takes over the proceedings on ‘Wisconsin Bombs.’ ‘Providence’ is
a slow, droning feedback exercise for Aaron Molina’s guitar that bleeds
into the SETI soundtrack ‘Marianas,’ a humming, burping, bleeping wave
of harmonic distortion that suggests that maybe there IS something out
‘Cymbol’ is perfect for walking through the woods on a snowy evening, its calm, floating electronics disturbed ever so delicately by glistening bells and the flickering snowflakes of Molina’s guitar with throbbing, humming baslines bringing a hint of Windy & Carl to the proceedings, while the numbing, speaker hum of ‘Walking Otis’ is clearly influenced by Eno and Stars of the Lid.
John Lennon once wrote “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” and the same can be said about listening to I Have Nothing. As you go about your daily chores listening to this in the background, you’ll hardly notice its subliminal influence until days later when snippets of Paul Metzger’s banjo on ‘Stella and Me’ or GST&2i’s (fog)horn outbursts (on ’2i.GST’) drift into your consciousness. As ambient electronic albums go, there is an amazingly warm texture to these tracks
This is definitely an album for the more discerning musical palette – there are no catchy hooks or memorable melodies…hell, there are barely any melodies at all (save the carnival-like atmosphere of the Metzger’s playful lute on the 81-second, childlike ‘Crispin Glover’). No, ‘I Have Nothing’ is just pure, unadulterated ambient drones, and is highly recommended to fans of Raymond Scott’s ‘Soothing Sounds for Baby’ series and the subliminal, speaker hum element of the snorecore brigade, such as Stars of the Lid, Azusa Plane and Windy & Carl.
~ Jeff Penczak, Ptolemaic Terrascope
Two guys in Minnesota decided
years ago to grab a ton of instruments they'd never played and make music
based on their inexperience. It has obviously worked for them so far, as
Have Nothing is If Thousands' 6th studio record, proving to be
a slight but noticeable departure from their earlier works. Dusty AM radios
drenched in reverb supply an austere atmosphere where banjo plucks fade
in and out. Toy keyboards and cellos provide a bed for quiet horns to fall
asleep in. Synthesizers slip in through the back door to slightly offset
the organic nature of the record at times, but never overstay their welcome.
What struck me is that even as loosely as these sounds appear on this album,
there is no doubt that they're carefully applied and controlled. Nothing
rushes out to grab your arm, this music just gives you a place to be and
leaves you there. These sounds almost provide a blank canvas for you to
fill in what is around you, whatever that may be. Soundtrack music. Driving
music. Sleeping music. It will find a place to be appropriate. If you're
into the desolate and roaming recordings of Stars Of The Lid or the deep
warmth of William Basinski's "Disintegration Loops", or even more taken
with the found sounds of Matmos or The Books you owe it to yourself to
check out this release.
The third and perhaps purest
form of drone worship comes with artists that don’t float any boats on
their mountain lakes, plop any Joshua trees in their Dead Valleys and instead
let the texture of the sound tell the story. recent things operating in
this arena that have grabbed me are Sunn O)))’s consistent distillation
of Black Metal into its base ink form, Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening
Band, who enters actual subterranean chambers to explore the psych-physical
properties of natural reverb, and projects like If Thousands, who could
be one person, could be a whole team, that point their efforts in one common
direction,or to put it in Ghostbusters terms, letting the beams cross to
see what happens. Their album I Have Nothing takes the still orbital throb
of Eno’s earlier work and adds a heavier, more human weight to it. Tracks
like “Marianas” sound as if you are projected in the trench of its name,
slight echoey throbs popping in to disturb the pitch-black stillness. Oddly
enough, this album also has a track named “Providence” but this one takes
a darker tinge, like the sound of the gathering storm of an angry, vengeful
god, while the ironically named “Caterwaul” is a more pastoral thing with
slow moving guitars and sweeping lights bleeding through the piece. A great
thing about this record is that the drones are long enough to get their
own little macrocosms going without overstaying their welcomes. Drone artists
are usually in it for the looooooong haul, and the listener generally have
to be as well. But the phase shifting that makes “Children with Horns”
percolate for four minutes is perfect. Any longer and it either takes on
its own vision quest or become simply tedious. Most of the tracks on I
Have Nothing shake the foundation like whalesongs, but there are
a couple like “Crispin Glover” and “Stella and Me” accomplish the same
efect with a simple pulsing melody, but the crowing drone achievement here
is the cataclysmic “Alpha” that takes slowly bowed strings and ambient
screeches ans squeals to create an evergrowing bubble of sound, that eventually
fills up every inch of space in the room, absorbing everything in its path.
Its less song-like than the previous two albums, but this is an excellent
gateway drug to the world of drone music, that once it hooks into you and
realigns your DNA, makes all other music seem fussy and superfluous.
~ Alex V. Cook, Outside the Left
I love these drifty, accordianlike,
twanging opening noises. The album is beautiful so far... and it builds
and grows and gains intensity, warbling... the picture on the back looks
like a city buried in snow, which is quite what the CD sounds like... just
being buried alive in sounds.
I Have Nothing consists of sleepy tunes for sure... perhaps going on a bit long for this sort of thing but if you just want a background sound to fall asleep to or something, this is it. It's choppy, lo-fi, a bit creepy at times. Just an endless sea of sounds. It cascades but the emotional bent of it doesnt change - always slightly on the cusp of something huge, therefore tense and energized. The subtle strings are very nice, relaxing. little country...
~ Andy Scheffler, CordMag
As an excursion into drone,
sounds capes, and warm sonic blankets, I Have Nothing is
the fourth proper full-length by Duluth Minnesota based duo Christian McShane
and Aaron Molina — collectively known as If Thousands. Primarily an experiment
with ambient sounds capes, I Have Nothing also flirts with the sounds of
bluegrass and traditional eastern India. Choosing experimentation over
the formal song writing structure, If Thousands invited bands GST, 2i,
and Paul Metzer of TVBC into the studio for improvisational recording sessions
that lasted two days. This album is the best results of this session. Recommended
to fans of Windy & Carl, Stars of the Lid, Flying Saucer Attack, and
~ William Reed, Echo Magazine
If Thousands - Aaron Molina
and Christian McShane's ongoing experiment in using instruments that they're
not technically proficient in - rolls beautifully onward and upward with
their sixth release I Have Nothing. Their approach has always
been to try everything and anything, in order to stumble across unique
atmospheres. They're always succeeded, at making music that wraps itself
around you and pulls you in, yet each album has its own distinct aura.
That's certainly true of I Have Nothing - if there were an
If Thousands formula, this album would be the sound of them breaking free
There really are no rules in If Thousands' creative world, yet here they seem especially into pushing their sound in new directions. The album opens with a distinctly Eastern-sounding elegy which also features an accordion and sounds like the beginning of a day, like a score for the sun slowly rising over a silent landscape. From there the album glides through a consistently compelling array of drones and moodscapes and gentle improvisation.
Sometimes there's a cloud of sound, ocassionally one instrument crying on its lonesome. Silence never seems too far away. Often they're in an Eno-esque ambient zone, though initial impressions of homogenity will erode the closer you listen. And occasionally they'll be an explicit change in tone, as with the delightfully odd "Crispin Glover", sort of a warped carnival tune, or the banjo-led closing number "Stella and Me". Even with the album's diverse textures, though, what often stands out most isn't one instrument but an overall feeling and sound. The overall aura is silently sad, perhaps, or quietly filled with awe...or as if we're caught in the middle of a contemplation, or the moment between thoughts. Winds howl, open spaces beckon, our minds empty into a pure state of just being.
Of course the feeling the album exudes will no doubt be different for each listener, or for the same listener in different frames of mind, yet the music certainly will provoke an emotional reaction, accompanied by a far-secondary intellectual one ( i.e. 'what instruments are they playing now?'). For a rich work with so many hidden corners, I Have Nothing also feels like one cohesive, even compact work, not like a maze you might get lost in. It offers expansive, involving atmosphere, but in a pointed, powerful way. It's the most inspiring recording yet from If Thousands, a duo in the midst of an exciting musical adventure.
~ Dave Heaton, Erasing Clouds
Hailing from Minnesota, duo
Aaron Molina and Christian McShane, better known as If Thousands, have
been dabbling in sonic experimentation and musical soundscapes since 2000.
Have Nothing, the band's fourth full-length, is the result of a
two-day improvisational recording session with guests Paul Metzger on banjos
and GST and 2i on horns. Blending more traditional, albeit sometimes unstructured,
ambient/ethereal musical pieces ("pull") with experimental/noise collages
("marianas"), or sometimes combing the two (the lush ethereal synth and
found sound blend of "walking otis", for example), the album is sonically
interesting yet maintains a certain level of musicality. Impressively layered
and processed, whether it be the disc's sparser ambient offerings or lush,
rich sonic textures, the material here is an organic balance of strong
improvisational instrumentation, processing that runs the gamut from reverse
looping to pitch-shifting, and strong post-production and mixing.
While the album provides a fairly consistent, flowing soundtrack, certain pieces of the puzzle are rather inconspicuous while others definitely stand out. The aforementioned "providence" is rather compelling, a strong, full drone built around what appears to be processed strings and noise. "Cymbols", too, is particularly poignant, powerful synth passages atop layers of both straightforward and reversed metallic/percussive instrumentation. "Push", "caterwaul", and "trout" all add something of an eastern vibe to the music. The latter two are exceptionally strong with "caterwaul" focusing on the interplay between a lush ambient background and reverb-drenched string arpeggios, bends, and slides and "trout" taking a much more low-key approach with a sparser noise backdrop and more straightforward clean picked banjo.
"2i.gst" is another stunning track, largely horn based and blending the melodic and dissonant in an unsettling way not entirely dissimilar to Lydia Lunch's early work. The closing "stella and me" is, on the other hand, notably the most traditional musical track here, unexpectedly ending the album in a low-key bluegrass-tinged manner. The brief but memorable "cripsin glover" is, perhaps, its only competition in traditional musicality, simplistic and childlike in terms of sound and instrumentation; partially underpinned, however, by a darker layer.
If Thousands' I Have Nothing, as a whole, is a relatively solid and consistent album whose blend of sonic improvisation, instrumentation (and non-instrumentation) and interesting layering and production will likely appeal to those drawn to the experimental/noise end of the spectrum. However, from its sparser ambient drones to its lush, layered soundscapes, the album's overall sound and sometimes more melodic instrumentation and arrangements may also attract ambient and ethereal fans not typically drawn to…say…albums that use found sounds. At the very least, it's an interesting sonic excursion with lo-fi, organic appeal that deserves a listen from fans of the aforementioned genres.
~ Joshua Heinrich, Grave Concerns
Whilst shopping from Silber
you might also want to check out If Thousands’ I Have Nothing,
which also resides in the drone stratosphere but which offers something
a whole lot less aggressive and more varied. Finely textured cloths of
warm drones a la Stars of the Lid meet up with Indian ragas and dense clusters
of sound dust that has me thinking about Flying Saucer Attack at their
most abrasive. Nice.
~ Mats Gustafson, The Broken Face
Wonderfully sparse, yet engaging.
One thing some experimental electronic projects do is noodle to the point
of aggravation. If Thousands incorporate enough shifts and shimmers
in their music to keep my ears focused on what they're doing, and I appreciate
that. I grow quickly weary of experimental music that's so incidental as
to become the audio equivalent of a Thomas Kincade painting. Happily, this
album is a far cry from that!
I have nothing travels blithely through my synapses and takes me to landscapes far from anywhere. Places deep under the ocean, out in the desert, or on another planet. The general feel of this album is that other people are not there. It gives the sense of just the listener, and some vast surrealist landscape. Any other life present seems not to be human, and makes me ponder, "What sort of creature would be making THAT sound?" Excellent!
Each track is solid and extremely listenable; there is no fluff, no filler, nothing to make a person want to reach for the "forward" button. Intertwined with the elegant sonic expanse is a lovely sense of humor, pointing as much to Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" as to Dali or Magritte.
Fans of a small good thing’s Slim Westerns series should definitely check this out.
10 of 10
~ Ginnie Moon, Lunar Hypnosis
The work from If Thousands,
a band that consists of two individuals from Duluth, Minnesota, is called
have nothing and is indicative of the stark, barren world that
is created from this recording. The music is bleak, at times swirling into
a chaotic blend of steady guitar drone and harsh atmosphere. There is a
streak of strange life found in the unlit worlds of i have nothing,
most notable in “marianas,” where you’ll hear the noises of such creatures.
As you walk through, your senses will be rewired. At times, you’ll feel
threatened by a distant malevolence, and at others, you be soothed by a
siren-like flow of melody that is no less dangerous.
If Thousands’ style of ambient is not as cultured and intense as you’d find from Obmana but then Obmana has been doing this for years and is refined in his development styles. However, their minimalist style is endearing, particularly the wailing guitar over synth found on “caterwaul.” The mournful horn found blended with the short instance of drone in “shaitan,” a grammatical variation of the word Satan, perhaps lifted from Brian Lumley’s excellent vampire world series (the trilogy found after the first 5 books in the original Deadspeak series), is effective although far too short. I would have liked a more threaded ambient work that ties all of the tracks together in a more thematic style. Regardless, If Thousands is on track to create deeper intensities of sound for future recordings.
~ Matt Rowe, Music Tap
This duo (Aaron Molina and
Christian McShane) from Duluth, Minnesota make some marvelously evocative
soundtracks to films that don’t exist; or films that only unreel in your
mind while listening to this on headphones. Lonely spaces and places filled
with a warm undertow like some sort of ambient lullaby beneath the outer
melancholic desolation. Comforting and slightly disturbing; a couple passages
are a bit like Eno’s On Land only with a bit more caffeine
in the mix.
~ George Parsons, Dream Magazine
The first notes of the 'I
have nothing' CD leave my speakers and at once I have to think about the
earlier work by the Dead Hollywood Stars. It must be one of my favorites
of the last couple of years. But rather quickly the opposite is proven
by the album's makers, If thousands. It's just sounds and during the second
track I ask myself why in heaven's name this isn't the second half of the
first track. It would have fit perfectly.
The third track though is very hopeful again. 'Providence' is a great guitardrone where the sustain just balances on the edge of feedback. Towards the end of the track eratic sounds come forth. What are they, voices? Loose contacts? This is the ingredient for beautiful drones. Multiple undefined layer, either triggering or entrancing the listener.
I start reading their biography. "All musics evolves from the experiment. Entering the studio using instruments they had no training using". It answers a lot of my questions.
'Cymbol', the already fifth track of "the album with the short tracks", we hear Indian influences which are combined with guitar noises in a very nice minimalistic way. It's definitly (again) not bad at all, but I'm starting to get curious if the gentlemen experiment less and compose more. And exactly as I write it down my prayers are being heard; 'Walking Otis' starts. It is as if men are walking around in a studio playing and fooling around with shortwave radios and guitars. The tension structure is really gorgeous in this 5 minute 19 track; the second longest of the album.
But the drone-fun stops directly after the track. They're starting to play guitar again in 'Caterwaul' but I'ld prefer to play some old Hugo Race, or the soundtrack to Wenders' 'Paris/Texas' (by Ry Cooder). Other tracks worth listening to an this album are 'Children with horns', 'Eventide' '2i.Gist' and 'Alpha'.
The album isn't bad at all, but the 70/100 is based on a score of 55 for the seemingly endless experiments and a score of 85 for the few great drones / soundscapes which are on this album. Because they are most definitly worth it.
~ Bauke, Gothtronic
If Thousands music perfectly
captures the bleak winter wasteland that is the upper American Midwest.
The band was started in 2000 by Christian McShane and Aaron Molina. They
made the conscious decision to make music with instruments they had no
experience with. Their music sounds like early Flying Saucer Attack played
at Loren MazzaCane Connors pace.
The album opens with the beautiful “Push.” An accordion moans as strings are gently plucked. It fades away rather abruptly. My only complaint about this disc is that I wish they let the sound pieces go on for longer. Some of the edits makes some of the tracks feel truncated. The music itself is amazing in its simplicity and its beauty. The photography on the cover by Joe Cunningham of monochromatic snow-scapes perfectly captures the expansive yet simple sound of the band.
“Wisconsin Bombs” may be one of the most misleading song titles ever. The song contains no explosions. It features only gentle guitar strumming and subtle electronic gurgles. “Providence” enters a Dead C like vein. It features a nice blast of guitar feedback and slowly bowed strings. If Thousands inhabit the space of the more abstract, non-rock-out jams of Jackie-o Motherfucker. The If Thousands sound simmers yet never boils over. The band never falls into the trap of wanky-ness which is very easy to do in an improvised setting.
One of the more startling tracks off this disc is “Alpha.” It is a dirge-y tune which features an organ and thumb harp. I found the track jarring and out of place at first. Slowly the sound grew on me and I became at peace with the demonic clown music. The last song on the disc, “Stella and Me,” is another pleasant surprise. It is a nice ditty which features accordion and banjo; it enters late-era Fahey territory. If Thousands music is minimal yet wonderfully home-spun. It will definitely get you through some cold nights out on the prairie.
~ Dan Cohoon, Amplitude Equals One Over Frequency Squares
Slow, sorrowful, and lush
dronescapes that unfold calmly and thoughtfully. This album is like the
quiet before the storm - every track seems ready to explode with energy
but manages to contain itself all the way through. I Have Nothing is confident
and methodical - easily absorbed and brimming with emotion and conviction.
~ Everything is Fire
Despite their five years
of existence, four albums and three EPs, I never heard of If Thousands,
the duo of Christian McShane and Aaron Molina. They return, so I am told,
here to the more experimental days when they first started out. They receive
help from Paul Metzger of TVBC on banjo and GST&2i on horns. Together
they recorded this album during a two day studio improvisation, which were
mixed by Ben Durrant later on. If Thousands play drone music that takes
their drones from guitars (unlike others who use synthesizers or field
recordings - to make the difference a bit sharper) and the music they come
up with here bears resemblance from the likes of Stars Of The Lid or Windy
and Carl - the beatless form of post rock. Heavy mood music with a darker
touch. Slow waving tones, with guitar pedals stuck firmly in endless modes
form the backbone of many of the tracks and on top they play a sparse melody
or sometimes merely a set of tones. Gentle music with a darker edge to
it. Maybe not entirely uplifting, but certainly one that could settle the
mood on an autumn evening.
~ Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
Remember when Bill Clinton
asked the Supreme Court to answer the question of what “is” is? If there
were a soundtrack to that bizarre philosophical tap dance, if thousands
certainly would be it. If thousands is a pair of collaborators who ask
us to define the meaning of another basic human impulse: music. I
have nothing presents an ellipsis of unresolved, repetitive meditations
on sound and composition. The all-in music approach is just as slick as
Clinton’s evasive testimony, masterfully rebuffing intelligent criticism.
Please define what you mean by “songs”? There aren’t any here. The guitar
riff of “Wisconsin Bombs” returns deeper into the album on “Caterwaul,”
and more unifying moments like these would help lift the record out of
its boring ambient soup. If thousands of industrial/ambient sounds were
captured on tape, this is what you would get. What sounds like the dull
side-project of two guys in some rock band least in demand for interviews
is out capturing samples and background noises for their proper outfit’s
magnum opus. Maybe when the swaggering rockers of the band are back from
their photo shoot they’ll complete the ellipsis.
~ Steven Green, Altar Magazine
Le duo composé d’Aaron
Molina et de Christian McShane, If Thousands, expérimente depuis
ses débuts, en 2000. Ambient, distordues et lentes, les voies musicales
empruntées, pas toujours vierges, menaient tantôt à
des lieux inconnus, tantôt à l’ennui. Le nouvel album, I
Have Nothing, est un virage important pour If Thousands, comme
le confesse d’ailleurs McShane sur le site du groupe. En effet, la manière
même d’aborder la musique a changé : les morceaux, courts,
directs, se révèlent enfin beaux, captivants et poignants,
même si l’originalité n’est pas tellement au rendez-vous.
If Thousands jouent sur les infimes variations de lumières, sur l’absence apparente de contrastes ; I Have Nothing est sombre, voire lugubre. Il n’y a pas réellement de silences : de manière quasi omniprésente, une nappe de claviers, grave, obscurcit encore le tableau.
Sur "Walking Otis", on glisse de notes en notes, porté par des sons enregistrés : des bruissements de vêtements, une cuillère qui tinte, des pas dans la neige, et des rafales de vent qui permettent un enchaînement tout en douceur avec "Caterwaul", morceau moins opaque, avec sa guitare délayée, balbutiante. "Children with horns", invitant un cor somptueux (superbe aussi sur 2i.gst) à nous émouvoir, complète ce triptyque grandiose, à faire pâlir de jalousie les Stars of the Lid, Dead Texans et consorts.
I Have Nothing n’est pas un disque de tous les instants, et il n’en a pas la prétention. C’est un disque qu’on écoute quand on sent que le moment est venu, un disque que l’on garde pour plus tard, au chaud. Mais une fois qu’on l’écoute il reste en tête longtemps, jusqu’à ce qu’on décide de le réinsérer dans la platine. Le bref final "Stella and I", sorte de ballade nostalgique et instrumentale presque country clôture l’album idéalement, de manière apaisée et apaisante.
~ Quentin Deve, Soit Dit en Passant
Deux sorties simultanées
sur Silber Records (le label de Lycia) et très ressemblantes l'une
de l'autre dans un genre atmosphérique expérimental. Kobi
est un collectif norvégien d'une quinzaine de musiciens qui jouent
avec les bruits des machines et ceux d'instruments réels (guitare,
percussions...). Neuf de ces musiciens et deux années de labeur
ont pu donner naissance à ce deuxième opus (deuxième
album en effet pour Kobi mais loin d'une récente mise à l'épreuve
pour les musiciens qui composent le collectif !). Très sombre, presque
dérangeant, Dronesyndrome est à écouter
d'une traite, à haut volume et à plusieurs reprises pour
en saisir tout l'intérêt. Le titre "Anchored to a Central
Core of Saturated Intensity" (oui tous les noms de l'album sont aussi longs
!) est particulièrement angoissant et l'on entend nettement l'apport
qualitatif des deux types d'instrumentation. On sent tout de même
un travail de recherche artistique tellement professionnel qu'il s'adressera
davantage aux connaisseurs. De son côté, If Thousand, duo
américain à l'origine mais complété pour cet
album par d'autres instrumentistes (un rapprochement vers le collectif
également donc), semble appréhender la chose de manière
plus abordable même par le plus novice d'entre nous en matière
d'expérimentations sonores. Leur I Have Nothing est
proche de Dronesyndrome de Kobi en cela qu'il apporte au
moulin de nos torpeurs de l'eau viciée et bel et bien vibrante.
Mais leur mélange pluri-instrumental à eux donne un résultat
plus mélodique, planant et touchant, moins sombre en tous cas et
orienté davantage vers des contrées indiennes que nordiques.
~ Dawn, From Dusk till Dawn
Une photo en noir et blanc.
Quelque chose comme une zone marécageuse, prise pas la glace et
recouverte d’une couche de neige, dont n’émergent que ça
et là des tiges de graminées, plus loin le paysage se perd
dans le flou d’un brouillard hivernal, de ceux qui décident de rester
accrochés au sol des jours durant. Puis la musique, des dronescapes,
comme l’annonce le label, mais agrémentés ça et là
de banjo, de guitare réverbérée et de cor.
On oscille entre contemplation de paysages inhospitaliers tels celui en couverture et quelques instants de rédemption où l’on croise sur le sol les traces d’un petit mammifère ou d’un oiseau, ou lorsque déjà sur un buisson rabougri et catatonique se dessinent parfois prise dans la glace les formes arrondies de bourgeons déjà dans le compte à rebours du printemps à venir.
If Thousands est un duo formé par Aaron Molina et Christian McShane. I have nothing est leur sixième album, on ne s’étonnera pas que le groupe montre une certaine compétence qui les inscrit dans la lignée d’un Stars of The Lid de retour sur le plancher des vaches et arpentant, songeur et emmitouflé, quoique pas loin de grelotter, les immensités hivernales.
~ Didier Goudeseune, Derives
Docela by m? zajímalo,
co p?im?lo ost?ílené hudebníky po t?icítce,
aby si sedli do zkušebny, položili p?ed sebe nástroje, na které
neumí hrát a založili improviza?ní duo. Aaron Molina
je basák-punker, zatímco Christian McShane oproti tomu profesionáln?
školený zp?vák a hrá? na cello, odkojený americkým
folkem a vážnou hudbou. V roce 2000 tedy vzešla na hudebním
nebi domovského minnesotského zapadákova, které
se honosí jménem Duluth, improviza?ní jednotka jménem
If Thousands. Prvotní zadání zn?lo "poj?me vytvá?et
zvuky na nástroje, na n?ž neumíme a ani nechceme um?t klasicky
hrát" a na tomto dodnes nezm?n?ném základ? b?hem p?ti
let zplodili ?ty?i alba a další t?i EP?ka. Naposledy se takto sebrali
b?hem lo?ského roku, do studia Crazy Beast si pozvali jako hosty
banjistu Paula Metzgera (jinak TVBC) a big band GST & 2i a za dva dny
byly základy alba I Have Nothing na sv?t?.
Aaron a Christian si na p?edchozích deskách ov??ili, že jsou schopni improvizovat se svojí hlukov? kytarov? atmosférickou hudbou dlouhé minuty a nová deska byla pokusem, zda jejich improvizace bude fungovat i na ploše mnohem kratší, s klasickou písni?kovou stopáží. Navíc do svého arzenálu p?izvali zvuk velebných hammondek, které smy?kují stejným zp?sobem jako kytaru, cello nebo jiné nástroje. A výsledek? Velmi barevná skládanka, složená protentokrát z drobn?jších kaménk?, funguje stejn? dob?e jako na rozlehlých plochách p?edchozích alb. P?íbuzné hledejme ve Stars Of The Lid, A Small Good Thing (hlavn? alba Slim Westerns) nebo t?eba v Ry Cooderovi a jeho soundtracku k filmu Paris, Texas a nakonec taky ve velkém vzoru Brianu Enovi, jehož album On Land je možná ?ast?jším spoušt?cím mechanismem tvorby mnoha dnešních alternativc? než oslavované Music For Airport. Poslech nosi?e m? p?enáší do uvoln?né atmosféry líného ned?lního odpoledne v tiché, dob?e vyh?áté zkušebn?. A k této tv?r?í atmosfé?e se múzy slétají samy.
~ Pavel Zelinka, FreeMusic.cz
“I Have Nothing” è
il miglior disco degli If Thousand, due musicisti di Duluth, Minnesota,
innamorati di quelle atmosfere speciali che si respirano nel mezzo di lunghe
nottate passate a ricalibrare i sensi disorientati. Con il nuovo disco
la musica di Aaron Molina e Christian Mcshane perde alcuni dei connotati
industrial che avevano caratterizzato i loro precedenti tre album e si
avvicina ad una forma di ambient alla Stars Of The Lid (o alla Aarktica
per rimanere in casa Silber). Le quindici composizioni di “I Have Nothing”
sono variazioni sul tema dell’impalpabilità: Providence è
un drone costruito sul feedback di una chitarra elettrica che sfuma all’orizzonte;
Marianas sono bagliori persi nella nebbia; Walking Otis rimane sospesa
sul nulla per tutta la sua durata; Children With Horns azzarda un lieve
crescendo a suo modo entusiasmante. Se oggi i Labradford si riformassero
~ Roberto Mandolini, Losing Today
A quanto pare, oltre che
per Bob Dylan e i Low, a Duluth nel Minnesota c’è spazio anche per
gli scenari siderali evocati da Christian McShane e Aaron Molina, più
noti come If Thousands. Il loro quarto album, registrato in appena due
giorni di sessions, allarga i confini infiniti del drone intrecciando suoni
raga (“Push”) e bluegrass (“Trout”, “Stella and me”) alle fini tessiture
ambientali che caratterizzavano le loro prove precedenti. “Cymbol” e “Caterwaul”
navigano leggere nell’oscurità seguendo la scia di stelle oscure
come Flying Saucer Attack e Stars Of The Lid, le solenni “Children with
horns” e “Walking otis” emergono da abissi imperscrutabili come oscuri
presagi, memori dei Main e della tensione latente nei primi Labradford.
~ Raffaele Zappala, Rockerilla