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Thinking Plague - Decline And Fall CD (album) cover


Thinking Plague



3.43 | 62 ratings

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3 stars This music is so difficult that any hint of sloppiness would put every rhythm and note in doubt, so it's great to hear such masterful performances. (And if they're not performances, but sequenced synths, they're masterfully programmed, so kudos either way.) Dave Willey (bass), Mark Harris (woodwinds), and Mike Johnson (guitars) are the foundation of the band, effortlessly navigating the very difficult rhythms laid down by Kimara Sajn on drums and keyboards. Elaine di Falco manages to reproduce both the accuracy and the unwavering pitch of ex-vocalist Deborah Perry.

However, I'm not sure whether to praise Johnson for dedication to a unified style, or chastise him for raiding his musical scraps cupboard too frequently. Anyone who has listened to previous Thinking Plague albums will recognize jagged sawtoothed sequences, interwoven and juxtaposed in a style not so much contrapuntal as merely simultaneous. if one is familiar with previous albums one is constantly reminded of previous work - turn of phrase, rhythm, instrumentation, etc. One might almost characterize the first part of "A Virtuous Man" as a cover of the middle section of "Lux Lucet" (from A History of Madness), they're so similar in sound.

The lyrics are environmentally oriented and unstintingly pessimistic. This is an album that one should listen to only if one is not already in a state of grieving for the dying world, because that's how you'll end up, having had what little hope you might have possessed mercilessly eroded away. Well, not entirely eroded. By the end of the album one is given some hope (in "Climbing the Mountain") that when humans are gone the forests will finally embrace the oceans again, but that seems a Pyrrhic victory. On the other hand, since a "Thinking Plague" is exactly what humans have become, and the album title is "Decline and Fall", surely this should be no surprise. What it does, it does well.

The bits of this album that will stick in one's brain after listening are those with either a strong bass or strong rhythm (such as the opening piece, "Malthusian Dances"). Without either of those one is left with music reminiscent of the sort of stuff students write to prove to their composition profs that they support the emancipation of dissonance.

Perhaps after twenty or so listenings I'll appreciate these pieces more, but I'm not getting that instant rush of dopamine that I got from, say, hearing "The Maelstrom" (from In Extremis) for the first time, or working out the rhythms in the first part of "Dead Silence". "Decline and Fall" is competent, consistent, but disappointingly unremarkable for Thinking Plague.

SteveHS | 3/5 |


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