Thuja’s slow rumble of improvisation and scattered elements of folk is something akin to being lost in the forest after an ether binge. Disorienting, entrancing, and spotted with elements of transcendence, this band’s music offers organic respite in a digital age.
Thuja and its myriad spin-off bands (Blithe Sons, Id Battery, Knit Separates) are all part of the Jewelled Antler Collective, a CD-R label run by bandmember Loren Chasse, whose like-minded, desolate, and fragmented releases are starting to find a home in the music collections of those who value this kind of economical psychedelia. Emperor Jones has seen fit to pick up this band, giving it some wider distribution and thus providing perma-dazed happiness to all parties involved.
Thuja sprung up from the San Francisco-based Mirza, whose feedback drones were more akin to Bardo Pond and the Blissed-Out crowd. It’s managed to keep that same mentality of beauty through repetition, but now the noises that creep out of speakers are plucked acoustic guitars, bottles rolling across the floor, and what sounds like Jacob Marley creeping up on old Ebenezer. It’s like a milder version of the ethno-drones of the No Neck Blues Band crossed with the (relatively) more song-based Six Organs of Admittance. But the ambiance of the record is what really singles it out; it’s a wide-open yet echoing sound. There are melodies lurking within the tracks, but more often the listener is guided through by simple, impressionistic snippets that spiral off into more full-grown, although still fumbling, fragments.
Some tracks come off as field recordings from a more melodic existence. The sounds presented are heavy and organic (a thuja is a kind of tree, remember). But instead of taking the traditional folk route, wherein one is made to be comfortable amidst the trees, Thuja creates a deeper folk that seems to emit from the trees. Heavy stuff, man.