The Colossal Ithaca Trio: New Music From The Delta Quadrant

Were one to not know otherwise, one might mistake New Music From The Delta Quadrant as a Múm product, given the presence of child-like vocal murmurs that introduce it. But the album isn't a production by the Icelandic group but instead the work of Leeds, UK-based Oliver Thurley, a Cambridge-born composer who's currently a PhD candidate in Music Composition at the University of Leeds (and that voice on “Fluidic Space,” by the way, belongs to Mila Dores). Any similarities between the two outfits quickly diminish, however, over the course of the opening piece, as Thurley, operating under the name The Colossal Ithaca Trio, weaves multiple layers of Dores' voice into an opaque, celestial mass that has more in common with ambient-dronescaping than Múm's customary songcraft.

According to Thurley, the stylistic focus of The Colossal Ithaca Trio extends from soundscape works and drone-based ambient electronics to jazz, free-improvisation, and noise. Even so, though the material is characterized by a free-flowing spontaneity at various moments, the album emphasizes ambient-drone settings above all else. But Thurley also ensures that variety is present in the varying touches he adds to the individual tracks, such as the pastoral acoustic picking, raw bowed strings, and cymbals that grace the Pelt-like, primitive-folk setting “Wolf 359” and the vocal, acoustic guitar, and piano treatments that appear elsewhere.

“My Mind To Your Mind” shifts the focus from vocals to piano, with the keyboard's patterns wrapped in a thick ambient gauze and accompanied by the clatter of field recordings. Changes are effected so slowly and subtly that the listener hardly notices that the piano gradually recedes from view to cede the spotlight to the other elements. The longest piece at fifteen minutes, “Regeneration” opts for a more abstract-electronic style in having various elements, such as acoustic guitar and outdoors field recordings, submerged within a droning bath of hiss and crackle. As the album proceeds, certain analogues to the project suggest themselves. “My Mind To Your Mind (Reprise),” for example, could just as easily be a Celer creation as one by The Colossal Ithaca Trio.

Interestingly, New Music From The Delta Quadrant originally appeared in 2010 but in a ridiculously small edition of ten, yes ten, hand-made copies. In its second iteration, the collection has been supplemented with more material and the tracks reworked by Thurley and remastered by Lawrence English. All praise to Hibernate, then, for playing a part in the recording's second life.

December 2012