Year Of The Thistle consists of three very high tensed tracks which - if you are sensitive to it - can easily get you in a real adrenaline rush. For the ultimate thrill ride I suggest you sit back near your media player, turn up the volume of your sound system or headphones and take off with Blue And Green (Are Melting Down In A New Seed). This 5:05 lasting song slowly pulls you up to the top of a musical rollercoaster.
At first you feel comfortable, listening to the slightly distorted synth pad, synth drums and the apparantly tranquil singing of Grègoire Fray. It feels like if you're just enjoying your view from above the park. But after a few moments you realise that you're heading to a very high top of a track that you've never been on before. While climbing further and further a piano counts down the final distance to the beginning of the end.
Moved Hills starts at a point where every movement and every sound stops for a brief moment. You know what's coming up next and there's no turning back (as if you would ever want that). The song opens with what sounds like an Islamic Adhan (call to prayer), but is actually an Mongolian song. Further in the song a Saz Guitar, played by Cumali Bulduk continues the exotic atmosphere. But what fascinates the most is the both heavy and fast rhythm of drums and guitars against the sultry singing, that is constantly alternating between introvert reflection and extrovert expression. In 3:30 minutes you speed up from zero to infinite. Audible g-forces emotionally bends and shapes your mind and you love every second of it. But you still have to go through all the curves and loops.
You soon find that the most exciting part of your 13 minutes of controlled danger are in the last song. Take A Bow And Run has an ingenious construction with some exciting rhythm changes that can make your heart skip a beat or two. Halfway the song you find yourself catapulted into a long and weightless loop, long enough to wonder what on mother earth you got yourself into. But before you've figured that out, the song accelerates to full speed again and then stops very abrupt. It stops so all over sudden, that your soul slings out of your body and then right back in.
When you've come to your senses, the first thing you probably want to do, is cue up for another ride. Or else eagerly wait for the full album that's on its way.
Thot's front man, the fore mentioned Frenchman Grègoire Fray, calls Thot's music Vegetal Noise to emphasize on the organic nature of his music. The natural environment is an important source of inspiration to him, especially the natural world of his childhood: "As I grew up in the country, I was surrounded by fields, hills, trees, and silence. It was my playground, my world and changing seasons gave the rhythm. It is what inspires me for the music I am doing with Thot. The smell of the rain, the colors of the wind and the sound of summer’s heat…. This is echoing in me."
Although Grègoire is a very engaged person (he actively supports Avaaz - an International organization that tries to give voice to people in global political debates - and is also a Red Cross volunteer), Thots' music is not just about the environment. It's an ode to every aspect of the natural world, including the hideous, the violence and the deterioration: "These aspects of the natural world are mirrors of our own moods."
Besides songwriter Grègoire, who sings, plays guitar and designs soundscapes and loops, the band also consists of drummer Gil de Chevigné, keyboard player Hugues Peeters and video artist Arielle Moens. They all are exceptional performers in their own discipline. Arrielle performs also with Belgian indie electro-pop soloist Nicola Testa and participates in Montreal based international cinematographic association KINO. Hugues is also a band member to Belgian two basses rock band Mom's Belly and Gil also plays drums in Belgian hard rock band Amadeus.
Thot's lyrics are in English and not in French as you may have expected. Grègoire gives three reasons for that: "First reason is because it’s very difficult to write good lyrics in French. French is a very poetic language but so hard to tame. Second reason is, most of my first influences were from American rock music. I also wanted to be understood by everyone, even if my English accent is not perfect."
Grègoire feels most inspired when visiting his family in France: "First feelings, first ideas, first words are always coming when I go back to my family’s country. I dive into silence, into memories and I take time to analyze what happened in my life recently: moods, relationships, world’s actuality - everything will reflect in my universe. The contrasts between the place where I live (a big town as Brussels) and my small village are also fertile compost for ideas."
The Hills Mover and The Feather Juggler
Grègoire extends his artistic exploration beyond Thot through his solo acoustic songs, which he performs under the name The Hills Mover. Last June he went on a Virtual Summer Tour. For that he visited different public locations, mainly in Brussels, and let himself and his audience videotape, while singing and playing guitar: "The Hills Mover is not a ‘side project’. It is more like the acoustic side of Thot’s musical universe, and this is now the name I use when I play acoustic songs. But these songs are inspired by the same things as Thot".
A binding element between Thot and The Hills Mover might be the mysterious figure The Feather Juggler: "She’s one of the main characters of the story hidden in Thot’s next album. And one of The Hills Mover’ song is also called “The Feather Juggler”. On stage, we have video projections and she appears in it, trying to separate the sky from the earth for example. I create the Feather Juggler as an allegory of Mother Nature and her feather is something she must not to let fall, or …"
Grégoire uses different Internet platforms for Thot, The Hills Mover and even The Feather Juggler. He also created several identities for himself, depending on the media he uses. When on Last.fm you might know him as Eolienn, but when on Youtube he calls himself WhiteIris. This is not whiteout reason: "I want to make people going further than the music and find some hidden keys".
When Thot finishes its new album, Grègoire will try to find labels, concert promoters and the likes: "I hope to plant electrical thistle everywhere. And I am eager to."
This story is also available at Evonity.org