If Thousands: i have nothing (Silber Records, 2005)

by Jason

If thousands I Have NothingIf Thousands comes from the snowy world of Duluth, Minnesota and is the project of both Christian McShane and Aaron Molina. I Have Nothing is their fourth release and is a return to their more experimental style established on their earliest releases. They use instruments in their recordings that they have little or no training on to make ambient, subtle music. They combine Indian textures with ambient soundscapes, among other things. Channeling the landscape where they live, If Thousands brings to the table a mix of interesting sounds that really communicate their environment.

“Push” begins this experimental exercise with Indian inspired textures floating upon slow drones sprinkled with other contrasting sounds. An accordion seems to breath in and out and the soundscape begins to stretch out for the listener. “Wisconsin Bomb” has a very lo-fi feel with stringed instruments and maybe a harpsichord or something that sounds similar. Pictured in my mind is the quietness of slow falling snow that wisps in the wind. It’s elegant even though it seems clunky at that same time. “Providence” flows out of this elegance with a loud, distorted drone. It’s almost angry as it travels along a bed of soft, quiet ambience.

“Marianas” begins in a more serene mood. Small, subtle ripples of sound wash over the listener while small layers of sound can be found midst the beautiful textures. This turns into a more chaotic rumble and includes some spacey sounds. “Cymbol” is a much darker piece with a more chaotic beginning. There are layers and layers of different sounds that eventually swim in a lighter toned chorus of ambience. This flows into “Walking Otis” with the chaos dropping out and a peaceful ambient piece starting. Keys rattle and a door opens, giving this peace a story telling feel. A bird chirps in the background as footsteps indicate someone, probably Otis, walking and going about his business.

“Caterwaul” has a beautiful, listful beginning with soft wind like sound and a glimmering drone that is almost playful. Quiet sliding guitar comes into the mix and adds a bit of a folk feel to the track. “Children With Horns” is a track that displays If Thousand’s abilities to play with volume. They are able to take you through a gamut of emotions and feelings with this track. “Trout” is a short track showcasing some guitar work mixed with miscellaneous sounds. This probably displays their experimental side the most.

“Shaitan” is also a very short track with a lo-fi style drone that whispers to the listener in tones like a whale. “Eventide” has a low rumble that fades in and out of the speakers. This is a very patient track that seems almost like something one could call ambient slocore. “2i.gst” plays off of “Eventide’s” sounds and mixes horn sounds to create a very deep and layered affect. “Crispin Glover” has more of a song structure with organ and some strange sounds keeping tempo. The track almost has a spooky, hypnotic feel. “Alpha” has a low drone with a high-pitched layer to it. The movement in the song has tension and beauty and really comes of the speakers as a dramatic piece. “Stella and Me” begins with Sufjan Stevens style banjo and has what sounds like the accordion. This folksy track finishes out the album on a light note and is quite apropos for the feel of the disc.

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