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Thinking Plague - In Extremis CD (album) cover

IN EXTREMIS

Thinking Plague

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.30 | 116 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Being one of the maximum forces of avantgarde rock nowadays, American ensemble Thinking Plague has been publicly praised by RIO pioneer Chris Cutler himself. Originated in the early 80s by initiative of guitarist-composer Mike Johnson, the band had already released a bunch of LPs and cassettes before getting to this 1998 release "In Extremis". The recodring and producing process was so long and tortuous that many line-up changes occurred in the meantime. Additionally, this band had a privileged seventh member in its line-up at the time: Bob Drake, one of the most notable experimental multi-intrsimnetalists in the current North American scene. Henry Cow and Art Bears are the most recurrent points of reference when describing the influences that esentially helped to shape the nuclear style of Thinking Plague, but you can also notice traces of Zappa (his mots ambitious opuses) and early 80s Univers Zero. Anyway, the HC thing is the most obvious source regarding the intense dynamics of massiev dissonances, extravagant ceaseless turning points for rhythms and motifs, anti-melodic walls of sound and bizarre ornaments: as a sort of contrast and complementation simultaneously, Deborah Perry's singing is very delightful and enchanting, just like teh sound of a mischievous nymph who doesn't totally give up on her internal sense of innocence. The first two songs, which are not too long (they last 4 - 4 ½ minutes), are perfect examples of this weird yet effective mixture of crazy musicianship and angelic singing. Yes, Thinking Plague can manage to create a (relatively) accesible vibe within the unscrutable standards of RIO at its most Dadaist. 'This Weird Mind' lasts 8 minutes and contains more consistent motifs, combining country-like bucolic sections with other creepier passages. 'Les Etudes d'Organism' is an intrumental voyage (including some female humming) that sets an epic course for a succession of aggressive, mysterious, frivolous and free-jazzy passages. This procession of ordained anarchy ultimately leads to a ceremonious ending theme solidly protrayed by guitar textures, brass adornements and synth phrases. The next two songs return to the shorter format: 'Maelstrom' kicks off in an eerie mood that hints to the aquatic substance, while the interlude bear a stormy wall of sound, actually depicting a sort of Maelstrom. 'The Aesthete' is obvioulsy more vivacious, with a predominant air of jazzy colors painted in an unconventional strategy. 'Kingdom Come' occupies the album's final 13 ¾ minutes, with the band determined to explore their vision's darker side like they haven't been in any other previous place of the album. Despite the presence of some playful motifs and the stylish keyboard layers that emerge here and there, the somber passages are the ones that take center stage and define the whole track's unitary essence. The limboesque chorale delivered on mellotron while the rhythm section marriages the battle between sax and guitar at the ending section perfectly portrays the darkness of non-being after the end of time. This is definitely not a celebration of the Apocalypse, but a manifesto of visceral fear for the unknown realms of humankind's unearthly future. No better ending could have made justice to such an intense album as "In Extremis": Thinking Plague is one of the definitive champions of current RIO, no doubt about it. A fellow reviewer started his effort with "Wow!" - I will end it similarly... "Wow!"
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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