A Trip Through Soundscapes with Thor & Friends at Austin Psych Fest 2024

A Trip Through Soundscapes with Thor & Friends at Austin Psych Fest 2024

April 28, 2024 in Concert Reviews

by dj lemonhead

Thirteen-piece collective Thor & Friends is appropriately named because their whimsical music sounds like the score of a Scandinavian fairytale.

The band just managed to fit on Austin Psych Fest’s Janis stage to open up Saturday’s bill.

Pieced together by multi-percussionist Thor Harris, the eclectic group was practically a miniature orchestra; a bass clarinet, Bb clarinet, accordion, steel guitar, electric bass, cello, violin, trombone, marimba, melodica, xylophone, vibraphone, two french horns and a range of other percussion instruments all took the stage at some point.

Other than Harris, Peggy Ghorbani and Sarah “Goat” Gautier are the core members of the group. Each other instrumentalist is not a permanent staple, making an elaborate performance like this one both impressive and truly unique.

Dina Zeid- Thor & Friends-1.jpeg

Photo by Dina Zeid.

Thor & Friends’ set, accented by the dozen house plants framing the stage and psychedelic visuals playing behind them, looked and sounded like a trip through an enchanted forest.

The ensemble played in perfect syncretism, working collectively to build and release musical tension.

Throughout the 30 minute set, the marimba never stopped, providing the basic rhythm for the rest of the band to flourish off of. The bass clarinet, placed at the front of the stage, acted as a grounding force that pulled each piece together with its low notes. Each instrumentalist contributed their unique style, with the steel guitarist using at least four different modes of playing: dragging a bow across the strings, sliding a steel down the instrument, hitting strings with a mallet and fingerpicking individual strings. The violinist and cellist also plucked their strings at various points to add beautiful chaos to the pieces.

Dina Zeid- Thor & Friends-2.jpeg

Photo by Dina Zeid.

While having so many instruments on stage may put bands at risk of sounding clunky and overwhelming, every instrument at this set felt essential to the mood of the piece.

As their first piece slowed to an end, the xylophone changed tempos and tapped out a new high-pitched rhythm to set the mood for the new song. Soon the marimba joined in on the percussion, and every other instrument followed one by one. Each musician built on top of the other to create a sonic painting, ultimately achieving an eerie but fantastical tune.

At the end of their set, the strings and french horns began playing notes in a jerky way, intensifying in sound as the band came to a collective crescendo.

At this point, the steel guitarist hopped on top of his amp and energetically conducted the other 12 musicians, prodding them along to steadily increase in intensity until he jumped off the amp, effectively punctuating both the piece and the set.

All photos thanks to KVRX's Dina Zeid.

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