What is a masterpiece? Way back in the day, the days of peasants, nobles and pantaloons there were organizations called guilds. The Guild was a collective of highly skilled artisans called masters. In order to join the guild an artisan had to prove that he was a master. To do this the artisan had to submit a masterpiece: the best work they could possibly make to impress a board of existing masters. If the masters agreed that the artisan was indeed talented enough he (sorry ladies it was a male dominated world back then) was accepted into the guild. This is what Adrian Orange of Thanksgiving has done on his latest release, Thanksgiving. This album is Adrian's masterpiece, not in the sense that is a great work in the field of music, but this is a presentation and demonstration of his craft.
A lot of work was put in to Thanksgiving. It was recorded over a full year, from April 2004 to April 2005. The record is released as a triple vinyl in three tasty colors (red, white and blue!) as well as with a CD of the album so you can rip it onto your computer or take it on the go (I'm still working on my portable turntable). The album is divided into three parts or themes: Part One - Fuck The World, Part Two - I am Yours, and Part Three - Welcome Home Human.
Thanksgiving was definitely not made in a hurry, but it did not take alot of effort to make. I am not knocking Adrian in any way. What I mean is that the album is so natural and organic; it wasn't created, it was born. Thanksgiving is the epitome of honesty and simplicity, just like a newborn. The music is mostly just acoustic guitar with Adrian's monotone vocals often falling slightly flat. The elementary rhymes and monosyllabic emotions of Thanksgiving annoyed me on previous albums, but on the self-titled I am brought into Adrian's world and childlike candid music. Sometimes the song feels so personal, you wonder if you should even be listening.
In "Black Paintings" Adrian sings "The moments of my life are the songs that I write / I've tried to hold them but I can't." These musing got away from Adrian and somehow found their way to our ears to give us new perspective. Music isn't supposed to be this simple and easy, but for Adrian, on this album, it works. Who ever thought off-rhythm hand claps could be so beautiful (such as on "What do you want now human") or that you could find yourself in total agreement with the line from "Fuck the World": "fuck the world / when the sun sets its beautiful".
What is a bit putting off is that much of this album is very similar to Mount Eerie's No Flashlight . Though it's hard to say who influenced who. Phil Elverum (of Mount Eerie) and Adrian are friends and collaborators; Phil appears on Thanksgiving even. It is just a bit disconcerting when two artists so closely related begin to sound so similar only their vocals are interchangeable, and there are a few songs on Thanksgiving that could easily be Mount Eerie songs.
This self-titled triple vinyl is where Adrian bears his soul and really shows us the full extent of his abilities. If you have not heard Thanksgiving yet check out the self-titled and get a feel for what the music is all about. Has Adrian reached master status yet? For the lo-fi Pacific Northwest guild I would easily say that, yes, he has proven himself a master.