Thelma’s “Hearing the Light” is one of several albums DJ Anomaly threw at me for Christmas. I knew nothing of the record or the artist going into it so I had no expectations short of it likely not sucking. He has impeccable taste.
Thelema have been making music since the mid 90’s in Austria and their name may have been taken from a philosophical law developed in the early 1900s by Aleister Crowley. The law of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.” They make no claim to such, but getting a proper biography of the group was next to impossible.
On a first pass of this record evokes a very slowed down take on John Zorn’s Filmworks XVIII (The Treatment) with a slightly more extended range of instruments. Where that album clung to a trio and occasional quartet, sans drums, this album uses a much broader pallet, yet still has the same level of simple consistency that Zorn’s record does.
The opening track “Close your eyes and see” begins with flourishes of bowed strings run through massive delay and reverb. Slowly a very low organ tone begins a very methodical bassline. Eventually the higher registers of the organ are brought into play with very subtle brushed drumming. Equal parts avant-garde noise dancing across a very slow jazz like piece, this sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The next track “Ljos” introduces the use of vibraphones and our first vocal. Used mostly for effect rather than trying to tell a story it sounds like a slavic language run backwards. It’s very haunting and one of two tracks that make use of male vocals on the record. The rest of the vocals being female vocals all of which are used as another instrument rather than a force of language just as they are on this track.
One of the stand out tracks for me is the title track “Hearing the Light”. I’m a huge fan of vibraphones under any circumstance and a huge fan of organ when it’s applied correctly. This track makes great use of both, adding a loan violin to handle the melody.
Sonically the recording and mix is very well done. Case in point the guitar pass off on “Heading Forward”. Two distinct guitars come together, tonally different yet complimentary. The first guitar sets up the melody and the second doubles it in a higher register. Shortly after the first guitar drops out letting the other carry it on to the end.
This sets up my favorite track very nicely. “Grey Evening” would feel right at home on the Psychomania soundtrack or “A Fist Full of Dollars”. The organ and drums holding down the rhythm while electric guitar takes the melodic spotlight, occasionally dueling with itself to great effect.
The album as a whole is very cohesive and doesn’t stray to far from it’s base European soundtrack like formula. This is a good thing. A great thing actually. I find that I can listen to it in it’s entirety without feeling the need to skip anything. It’s also light enough that it works equally well as background music.