To emerge from a global pandemic with a renewed sense of situational awareness, hard won insight, and a new album is the kind of move we’ve come to expect from Thrice over the last twenty years. With Horizons/East, Dustin Kensrue and his bandmates address, with candor and courage, the fragile and awkward arrangements that pass for civilization, while inviting us to dwell more knowingly within our own lives. Without surrendering any of the energy and hard edge of their previous albums, they’ve given us a profoundly meditative work which serves as a musical summons to everyday attentiveness.
Since forming Thrice with guitarist Teppei Teranishi, bassist Eddie Breckenridge, and drummer Riley Breckenridge in 1998, Kensrue has never been one to back down from a mental fight. This mood is set by the opening synth-driven number “Color of the Sky,” which sounds well-suited to accompany the closing credits of the Stranger Things season finale. Think Flying Lotus giving way to Elbow and setting the listener down in a new dimension. A self-recorded effort, Horizons/East conveys a palpable sense of danger, determination, and possibility. Scott Evans (Sleep, Kowloon Walled City, Yautja, Town Portal) is on mixing duties, conjuring a landscape of gloom, glow, and glory.
On “Buried in the Sun,” which had the working title of “D.C. Bass,” the band’s fondness for bands like Fugazi and Frodus comes to the fore. In it we learn that there’s a military-industrial complex, a vast apparatus of legal bullying, to take on (I saw the fire on the television/the DoD or the CIA), but the threat to our mental health in acknowledging our own country’s participation in the terror trade is both immersive and interior. The psychic struggle will often come down to what we’re doing with our tools, how we hold what passes before our minds in dreams and on screens. There’s a lot to take in and a lot to be mad about, but Horizons/East invites us to slow tape and see.
Kensrue doesn’t believe, for instance, that Twitter can be blamed for what we bring to it: “It amplifies things. It can exacerbate things. But it isn’t creating anything on its own.” The task, it seems, is to follow the creative impulse into every corner, to hold reality at a better, more righteous angle, lest we misinterpret or project our own chaos on all incoming data. This is where the songs on Horizons/East function as epiphanies through which listeners are invited and equipped to conjure our own. An especially powerful example of this is “Summer Set Fire To Rain.”
“Summer Set Fire to the Rain” is the title, and repeated mantra, of the record’s fifth track. It’s something that popped out as the band was writing one day. “I sang it,” Kensrue recalls, “and thought…Well, that’s beautiful. I’m gonna keep that line.” From there, he applied it to the everyday-somewhere occurrence of getting stuck in the rain as sun shines. “The rain’s coming down and it actually can be beautiful, all these raindrops just lit up by the sun but….if you interpret it a certain way, you’re suffering now…You could miss that moment by worrying about getting wet.” Later, over the already interlacing melodies of guitar, bass and vocals, in the final chorus the band threads a new melody in the mix as Kensrue sings “Don’t you see everything’s interweaving?” It’s a lyrical question that proffers a mystic assertion.
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