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Thork - 2007 - "Nula Jedan"

(66:05, 'Thork')


TRACK LIST:                                 

1.  Ex-Slave 12:47
2.  Ici 5:36
3.  La Lumiere 9:10
4.  J'aurais Pu 4:37
5.  Danse des Airs 6:20
6.  Au Ciel 7:09
7.  Revoir 7:51
8.  01 8:13
9.  Ces Reves-la 4:22


Sebastien Fillion  vocals; guitars, bass; keyboards; whistles; percussion
Claire Northey  violin
Arnaud Fillion  cello
Philippe Maullet  drums (1, 8)
Jerome Blanc  trombone (6, 8) 
Hugo Quillet  trumpet, flugelhorn (6, 8)
Violette Corroyer  backing vocals (1, 3, 8)

Prolusion. 1998 saw the formation of French outfit THORK. Their chosen field was folk-influenced progressive rock and their first two productions, released in 2000 and 2004, got positive receptions. However, since the release of their second album the band has fallen pretty much apart. As of 2007 Sebastien Fillion is the only original member left of this outfit which pretty much has turned into a vessel for his creative outings. Existing fans will obviously wonder how this has affected the style explored by this band, that is, how much different this third release will be compared to past productions by them.

Analysis. First and foremost; "Nula Jedan" is a fine release. Sheer quality shines through from start to finish, in terms of songwriting, performance, production and mix: there aren't any obvious weak points to be found. I'm not very familiar with the band's prior releases; but I understand that they are seen as progressive folk more than progressive rock. For this latest release I'd guess that it's more accurate to call the output progressive rock rather than folk, so one may assume that this, most recent, effort explores a somewhat different musical vein than the past creations of this outfit. When that is said, there is a fair deal of folk influence on this production, as well as some jazz-tinged elements, so the change in direction here shouldn't be a dramatic one. One facet of the compositions on this album that will intrigue many listeners is that there's no real dominant instrument here. There's a plethora of instruments used, some more than others, but it's impossible to point out a single one more dominating than others; there's no general tendency to let any specific instrument form the foundation for the composition as such. However, keyboards and synthesizers are vital to all songs here, albeit not always in major roles. The piano delivers the main melody in quite a few compositions, floating layers of keyboards and synths add textures and flesh out soundscapes and will in quite a few segments form a foundation for melodic overlays or soloing by other instruments - when not providing those themselves. The guitars have an unusually laid-back role, providing acoustic licks and dampened chords and riffs, at times underscoring or partially forming the main melody line, but there are also many segments where there's hardly any input from this classic rock instrument. Drums and other percussion will arguably be more vital actually, especially as the percussion work really adds quite a lot of nuance and tension to the songs, whereas the drums to a somewhat larger degree have a more basic function. The stars of the show on this creation are the compositions themselves. Lots of intriguing tempo and mood changes, and well-planned and utilized insertion of additional elements: Soaring violins in solo segments or dramatic bursts, at times mixed with soul-tinged or funky horns; the addition of world music-influenced percussion, or the addition of a jazz-tinged dominating bass line to a song or a segment. Tablas, tin whistles, Rhodes, glockenspiel and electronic noises are all additional elements used more or less briefly which, in addition to the relatively complex structures of the compositions in total, contribute to creating captivating sonic experiences. The vocals, either regular, layered or by vocoder, further enhance this. There are a few compositions that I do find to be somewhat inferior to the others, hence one mark off the top rating for this one, but still this is a fine and remarkable release well worth investigating.

Conclusion. "Nula Jedan" is an adventurous and captivating production by the French act Thork. Mostly atmospheric and with a dedication to beautiful, stunning and even surprising developments, this album is a joy to get acquainted with, and should be of interest to followers of folk-influenced progressive rock.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 26, 2008
The Rating Room

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