Review: Gareth JS Thomas – Cruising Hits

Gareth JS Thomas - Cruising Hits - ArtworkEverything fits. Roughly. The collages of Gareth JS Thomas are like a jigsaw built from all the wrong pieces, with brute force used to compensate for the violation of correct placement. Instead of crushed cardboard edges, we have techno pulses strung into an irregular heartbeat stammer; voices channelled down tubes of metal piping; cymbals skewed into slurps of reverse; drones singing like obnoxious hum of unmaintained central heating; birdsong subdividing like regenerative skin cells. And because the pieces all derive from the same picture, there is some sense of thematic cohesion – a common air of industry, nausea and biomechanical neglect, all wedged together in some sort of contorted, Giger-esque knot of human bough, gurgling circuitry and clotted orifice.

Yet I don’t want to be pitching Cruising Hits as a 31-minute ode to the M.O of “whatever goes”, because there’s ample evidence of meticulous deliberation here. “Skin Test” applies a very measured bout of microtonal pressure, aligning the drones so that they rub against eachother without stifling any of the hum. Equally, the vocal melody that arcs over “I Drove All Night” – the album’s delightful swerve into a woozy, over-charged version of Animal Collective pop – is beautifully done, put forth like an arboreal chant of peaceful intent toward all woodland creatures. In fact, these little gems of concentration only bring more purpose to the moments of letting go, reframing them as a gracious faith in the ability of pulling back, permitting music to cohere and find harmony (albeit crooked, uncomfortable forms) of its own accord.