Magma’s Christian Vander once said in the 2012 documentary Romantic Warriors II: A Progressive Music Saga About Rock In Opposition, “The Music was born in the night. There are many kinds of music in the world, but to discover the inner cosmos.” It help define to show a darker and inner complexity of the genre of what is known as the RIO movement. And one of those bands that have taken me to gigantic lengths thanks to the 2012 documentary, a band from Denver, Colorado named Thinking Plague.
Since their formation in 1982 by Mike Johnson and the legendary Bob Drake, they have released six studio albums and following in the footsteps of Present, Henry Cow, Art Zoyd, Alban Berg, and Italian progressive group, Pierrot Lunaire, they have released their seventh album this year on the Cuneiform label entitled, Hoping Against Hope. It is their follow up to their 2012 album, Decline and Fall. It is for me, one of the most terrifying and scariest albums I’ve ever listened to.
With their new album according to Johnson himself, the band’s music needed a theme that was something hopeful, real, and organic. With the combinations between Neo-Classical Music, Avant-Rock, and of course Rock In Opposition, it is a grim, sinister wonder with a terrifying force that you can imagine of what we are going through the political movement and what is happening right now this year.
The concept here on this album, is stronger and compelling than ever. Alongside Mike Johnson, Mark Harris on Reeds, Dave Wiley on Bass, Robin Chestnut on Drums, Bill Pohl on Guitar, and Elaine di Falco on Accordion and Lead Vocals, they entered the new year with an eruptive bang by making it set in a fictional dystopian world that it’s living in and there’s no turning back now.
It’s not only a dark album, but it is a critical constructive viewpoint of what is happening in the world that we are facing in. The alarming intro from the accordion and the ominous reeds, piano chords, and dynamic guitars, knows that we are in a ride of something dangerous landing between us on the opener, The Echoes of their Cries. It has some intense riffs between the bass and guitar and Harris’ reeds give the image or the allusions that it is delivering a big wake-up call.
Commuting to Murder deals with the capitalist economics and militarism’s congruities. You have the sounds of the toy piano, hay wiring effects, guitars sending Morse code and Elaine’s vocals gives you the chilling backgrounds. I have to love her essence throughout the midsection, the homage to which I call the Northette’s vocals in the styles of the Canterbury scene for a brief second. But it’s the guitar that comes to essence of Richard Pinhas, Robert Fripp, and Roger Trigaux that just send the arm hairs of mine, going up.
The styles of Present, fills up the whole space with this dooming rhythm that something is crawling underneath your skin. It’s evidential on The Great Leap Backwards. I could tell that Thinking Plague have done their homework very well carrying the RIO movement torch and never letting it burn out. Near the end section of the last 38 seconds of the piece, everything goes chaotic thanks to the drums, guitar, and reed instruments going into a nightmarish tone and ending abruptly.
Mind you, this is not an easy album to listen to from start to finish, but I admire this very much. I have to admit, I’m not a big Thinking Plague fan, but I do respect what is on here and the band as well. They recently decided to do a crowd-funding campaign for the album on Kickstarter in which they raised $8,634 to work on the album and they succeeded to reach their goal.
I have listened to this four times now and they made me open my eyes even more to discover more of their music and since I’ve mentioned this earlier, I hope they continue to wave the Rock In Opposition flag and never letting it drop. A scary, ominous, yet powerful release this year from the good people from Cuneiform Records.