Thursday splitting an LP with Envy is both confounding and sensible in a number of ways, but the "why"s we can let be determined by others. The fact of the matter is, the opportunity to hear new material from either band is one to relish, especially given Thursday's newfound independence and Envy's increasingly progressive idea of the places both post-rock and traditional screamo can go.
Thursday's side spreads out a conceptual idea over four tracks. One attentive glance of the titles and a full sentence is revealed: "As He Climbed the Dark Mountain" "In Silence" "An Absurd and Unrealistic Dream of Peace" "Appeared and Was Gone". The first of these is one of the split's best tracks, if not its best. "Mountain" is relatively in line with the new songs that appeared on last year's Kill the House Lights compilation; it opens with four seconds of off-time drum slams and quasi-octave riffs, then offsets Geoff Rickly's pained singing with intermittent frantic yells and screams. Rickly's slight increase in pitch for the anguished line of "as he climbed the highest peak of the dark mountain" matches the imagery perfectly, and also makes for a wonderful high point, no pun intended. The appropriately titled "In Silence" is a full instrumental track in the vein of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai, and wastes no time ushering in climactic waves of both shimmering and distorted guitars. The pictures painted in "Dream of Peace" oddly evoke memories of Full Collapse with the band's newer lyrical path; "From the fields of the burning wheat / to the corners of the black arcades. / We hold our hopes with cigarettes / then we leave them dying in the grass." The melodies in here are a little off-kilter to work their full potential, but the song's rather dark strokes are brushed wonderfully, and rarely has keyboardist Andrew Everding given a song such a perfectly fitted touch. "Appeared and Was Gone" is merely a remix of "In Silence" done by Mercury Rev's Anthony Molina, but he does so much with the song that it's transformed into another whole beast, with greater flourishes of electronic blips that are never overbearing, and rather accentuate its direction well. He throws in creepy, indecipherable whispering and giggling towards the end, too. In other words, Thursday's side here is pretty great.
Envy's 2006 album Insomniac Doze found the band putting a much greater emphasis on filling their lengthy passages with restraint and atmosphere. It made perfect sense when one met their new roommates at Temporary Residence (namely, Mono and Explosions in the Sky). But then, the more recent Abyssal EP seemed to harken back to 2003's more intense A Dead Sinking Story, only brighter, more melodic and with better production. What may have confused fans even more was their most recent release: a split with Jesu, where (in this reviewer's opinion) they produced some of their best material to date in the form of absolutely devastating, comparatively compact and surprisingly varied moments that explored their incredible lows and highs better than they have in some time. So where does this particular release find Envy? Stylistically, somewhere between Insomniac Doze and that Jesu split (but not necessarily Abyssal); these songs only average out to a little over five minutes apiece (Doze ran a little over eight per track), so they've definitely got the economical factor going for them once again. But at times they express dark, restrained moods in a much quieter and minimal fashion than the Jesu split, and their aggressive fits come much more immediately. "An Umbrella Fallen Into Fiction" opens their side as quietly as possible, with gentle riffs, frugal electronic sequencing and simple spoken word making up its first four minutes. Then the payoff comes, with clenched-eye, lower-end screams on Tetsuya Fukagawa's part and guitars crashing into the foreground. The programming at the end resembles calculated drips from a faucet. A more energetic motive comes at the start of "Isolation of a Light Source," and you can tell things will be less subtle here; the band consistently offer a bold thrust of choking sound, but Fukagawa alternates between lashing growls and muffled speech. Closer "Pure Birth and Loneliness" is a spiraling, dainty composition cribbing EITS's sparkliness a bit, but quickly favors Envy's own semi-famous juxtaposition of beauty and desperation in one of its more becoming examples. Overall, Envy's side here is very good -- maybe slightly above Insomniac Doze, but not necessarily as good as Abyssal and certainly nowhere near the Jesu split or A Dead Sinking Story.
The pairing of such talented and respected bands has resulted in something that, while clearly accomplished, certainly cohesive and an impressive listen overall, perhaps falls a little short of its potential. But the package that's presented provides an essential experience for fans and enough reason to pull in those on the fringe.
Thursday / Envy split