Album review: THUDWAIL – Ignition

Thudwail - Ignition

Self release [Release date 30.10.20]

‘Ignition’ is a reflective, ambient, acoustic album full of subtle moods, textures and grooves that drip with feel.

It’s acoustic guitar driven music with a meditative and contemplative feel that is predicated on intricate dynamics, with resonant guitar tones and subtle intervals that build and finally resolve a tension.

It’s also music that demands patience, focus and attention, but is richly rewarding as it slowly evolves to reveal moments of real beauty and musical inspiration.

Thudwail comprises Will Pike and Paul Cruikshank-Inns on acoustic guitars and EBow effects, with additional help from Martin Finlayson on 5 or 6 string bass and a belated contribution by Danny Tongeman on didgeridoo.

The album title might suggest combustion, but its actually a far more subtle musical journey that celebrates the art of improvisation and rich band interplay.

Tracks like ‘Hollow’ showcases the integrity and minutiae of precisely crafted resonant notes, as they hover and float before being repeated and then left to decay naturally.

On ‘Cascade’ they cleverly add an extra texture with a choral finish, before the very last note again floats into the ether.

And it’s that dynamic intimacy that lies at the heart of an engaging album.

Thudwail has paid lip service to the influence of Jonas Hellborg and the late Shawn Lane’s ‘Zenhouse’ album, but they shape their own musical oeuvre with nuanced textures born of exhilarating interplay.

The band’s name suggests contrast – a cause and effect perhaps of something hitting the ground (a thud) and a subsequent reaction (a wail) – which in musical terms means filling a silent landscape with a linear series of both planned and improvised pieces.

The lovely bass and guitar interplay of ‘Tagma’ for example, reflects the ‘ordered or arranged’ meaning of the song title, while the closing extended improvisation of ‘Digiwobble’ is the polar opposite.

The intricately interwoven guitar and bass of the former track could have been plucked from one of those atmospheric John Abercrombie albums on ECM with additional Ralph Towner like atmospherics and bassist Finlayson’s Eberhart Weber style tone colourations.

The whole piece is shot through with occasional ethereal drones that owe much to David Sylvian and Eno and act as a template for the album as a whole.

‘Ignition’ is an innovative musical journey that subtly glues together intricate acoustic guitar explorations within shifting sonic soundscapes. The latter may evolve independently, but they come together to make a coherent memorable whole.

It’s music that seeks to take you another place, whether it’s on the  Robert Fripp and Andy Summers influenced ‘Heights’, with its repeated interwoven lines, or the gentle echo laden EBow arcs  of ‘Frequency’.

But it’s the acoustic guitars that ultimately hold sway here, with the  title track being a beautifully sculpted piece on a perfect meeting of acoustic guitar and EBow’s and a distant reminder of Jonas Hellborg’s echoplex adventures.

The album celebrates tranquillity and draws on both the past and present without the pretensions of new age music.

Listen to the beautifully constructed ‘Dragon Fly’ for example, on which the pulsing bass notes, ethereal EBow effects and echoey guitar strings tap into the subconscious past, on a piece with a filmic quality.

Everything flows naturally into the closing ‘Digiwobble’ which builds from the Tongeman’s didgeridoo vibrations and Finlayson bass, via gently plucked acoustic strings into an outer worldly drone.

‘Digiwobble’ is a unique soundscape that is peppered with repeated guitar parts, portentous effects and stretched to over 8 minutes, but one that feels like the natural end to a captivating musical journey.

It’s almost as if the tracks leading into this finale were fragments of a bigger picture which is finally revealed on a magnificent track.

When it all quietly drops to silence at the end, it leaves us with the kind of void that only music with real emotional depth can fill.

So reach for your headphones, pour yourself a favourite tipple, press repeat play and head for the stars. ****

Review Pete Feenstra

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