Andrew Thomas
Fearsome Jewel
Kompakt
2003
C



let’s start from the ending and work backwards. The last track of Andrew Thomas’ debut entry on the Kompakt label is a beautiful 73 second piece, replete with a subtle piano melody, sweeping strings, an enormous bass and tinkling synth harps. The track’s distinct narrative flow is an anomaly compared to the rest of the album, but the song’s elements are the entire basis for each production that has come before it. Thomas, in the other nine tracks here, has deconstructed the short coda to the album in a variety of ways creating a work that culls over thirty five minutes of music out of little more than one.

Per each solo artist release on the Kompakt label there are no song titles. The first track gives extra credence to the bass, lending the piece an ebbing quality as each melodic element does it work in accordance with the set rhythm. The piano and harp are cut up digitally into short pieces, floating in the ether of the bass bedding, while the strings float in the background haze with the bass.

The second track could be labeled the most hardcore of the album. The bass here has a droning quality and hits irregularly, giving the listener a sense of queasiness. The piano echoes between each channel of stereo, while the smoldering forward momentum of the string stabs is constantly undercut by the irregular beating of the overpowering bass.

But, as much as each track can be talked about for the subtle differences it provides, there is little difference in the overall structure of each production. In each instance the listener can pinpoint the particular elements that make up the simple piece, quite easily- especially the very obvious piano melody. Thomas is gifted enough to be able to produce nine differing pieces that each evoke a certain feeling or emotion to go along with each one, but his inability to look past the concept of the album and to broadening the constraints of the project is, times, infuriating.

What, perhaps, would have been far more interesting is to place one of these tracks on one of the label’s Pop Ambient compilations and to have released further tracks on a 12”. After the draining quality of listening to these elements for more than half an hour they become less interesting and lose some of their relative luster.

Thus, as formalist exercises go, Fearsome Jewel is successful- but the constraints of the exercise end up giving the work a feeling of too much cohesion. If, however, you are a fan of the Pop Ambient series that Kompakt has produced, the album is a nice- but inessential- addition to that portion of the label’s catalogue.
Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-10-15
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