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Thumbscrew: Convalleria

To record their sophomore Thumbscrew album, guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara took part in a two-week residency in Pittsburgh, which allowed them to compose individually but work up the music as a unit. The extended stay proved to be fruitful. What began as a compatible, somewhat understated trio on their eponymous 2014 debut has evolved into a group where their strong personalities intertwine and create something greater.

All three musicians are known for pushing the envelope, but “Screaming Piha” journeys even further out. Following a brief, snaky theme, the music morphs into a psychedelic morass that’s one-part Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music and one-part full-blown free improv. The way the trio controls and shapes the soundscape makes the performance unique-and the centerpiece of the whole album. The rest of Convallaria feels more grounded but no less exciting. “Sampsonian Rhythms” builds on a groove that Formanek uses as a springboard for some of his liveliest playing. Throughout the album his lithe touch allows him to act more often as a lead voice than as an anchor.

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