reviewed by Michael Thomas
Art is always thought of as a conversation. Intertextuality says everything in a creative work is a response to, or is building off of, something else. In the case of Elisa Thorn’s Painting Project, the conversation is one-to-one. Her father, Bruce, is an abstract painter, and the songs of Hue are based on some of his paintings.
Thorn herself plays harp, with James Meger on drums and Justin Devries on bass, and together the three create jazzy, experimental music that twinkles, creaks and saunters. It’s a good fit for Bruce Thorn’s paintings, which vibrate with colour. Staring into an abstract painting is like looking at a Rorschach test, and you won’t really know what to expect from each song based on its source material.
Speaking of which, this is a good album to listen to actively, not passively. On her website, Thorn has all the art that inspired the music, from the flurry of activity of “Night Song” and the flowing energies of “Escaping Genie.” A dozen different musicians could each create something vastly different, and the harp/bass/drums trio makes for a thrilling interpretation, given the paucity of harp players, and especially in improvisational music.
One on end of the spectrum, a song like “She Was Always Late” shows off the band’s eerie side. Though Meger’s bass playing is mostly steady and sure, here he makes the instrument chatter, and Thorn’s interplay on the harp comes in to bring a sense of dread. “Reds,” on the other hand, starts off with a sense of urgency right away, but allows itself to get a bit more dreamy as it goes on.
“Angels” has quite a story to it: it features guest vocals from Britt Macleod and is based on poetry written by Thorn’s grandmother. The song’s pulsing, twinkling harp truly makes this song heavenly.
Each five-plus-minute song gives plenty of room for transformation and subtle shifts in atmosphere. Look at art while you listen to art.
Top Track: “Angels”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)