CD, Brume Records/Thisco, 2007
Thermidor is the solo project of the mysterious Portuguese artist known only as ‘J.’. Taking his project beyond the realms of just music, J. has created a whole new identity and enigma around it. Appearing in the artwork and promotional material in a Wild West barman style waistcoat and bowler hat with a gas mask to hide his identity, “1929” has been skilfully promoted through a newspaper style one-sheet containing a collection of news stories along with snippets of information about the project and the album itself. Released in a numbered edition of just 500 copies in a slim DVD case, “1929” also includes reinterpretations of two album tracks by Empusae and Flint Glass.
Consisting of generally quite long tracks of over minutes each, “1929” offers a combination of retro-futuristic sound effects matched with otherworldly moans and atmospheric drifting ambience. The result is a heady mix of tense building tones, ghostly voices, space-age effects and occasional ecclesiastical influences. Never still for any length of time, J.’s music is constantly evolving and changing. Switching from dark ambience to monk-like chanting and on to a mechanical throb in the space of seconds, “1929” maintains a fairly subdued tone but is heavy with tension, feeling and atmosphere. “Sub Levare” for example opens with a confusing swirl of dark tones, industrial clatters and chanting but in no time features the noise of a train along with electronically created ambience that gives way to an undulating drone and gentle music box chimes, all in the space of the opening two minutes! This then leads into a rocket launch sequence enhanced with distorted drones and drifting organ-like tones. “Plenum Aquae” is perhaps more conventional in style, maintaining a tense cinematic air of ambience enhanced early on with chanting masses, sampled speeches and later by dripping water, all combining to create a dark air of foreboding for what is to come. Closing the album are a brace of remixes from Empusae and Flint Glass, both of which skilfully switch the emphasis of the original pieces and subtly alter the mood of each entirely. Empusae’s rework of “Oceanus” sees the original ambience enhanced with even more ominous drifting tones, an ominous cinematic air and an undeniable edgy tension turning into panic. For “Plenum Aquae”, Flint Glass reinterprets the dark windswept ambience of the original by adding storm level effects to the existing howling winds, turning up the atmospheric qualities a few notches with melancholic ambient tones, the sound of high voltage electrical sparks and by introducing rhythms that sit somewhere between tribal and militaristic. The result is to inject a dose of adrenaline into the mood, increasing its intensity and creating an air of nervy energy whilst maintaining the drifting ambient undertones found throughout the original.
J. somehow manages to combine atmospheric ambience, religious chanting, simplistic melodies, otherworldly groans and 1950’s space-age sound effects to create an original mix of sounds that is ever-evolving. Although no one track appears to have a specific theme as such, each one has a story of its own that is told in colourful detail by J.’s twisting, turning and mutating style. “1929” is a multi-faceted album of hidden depth that leaves plenty to discover on future listens.
— Paul Lloyd