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Review: ther’s Intimate Epic - "a horrid whisper echoes in a palace of endless joy"

Written by Brandon George

The latest record from Heather Jones’ Pennsylvania alt-folk project ther, a horrid whisper echoes in a palace of endless joy, is a folkloric mini-epic, driven equally by its confessional moments and its explosive finales.

From the sparse opener “1 kid’s” marriage of Jones’ gentle vocals and guitar the record establishes its feel of an oral retelling of a deeply personal fable. There is “love is always’” unison vocal and guitar sections and lazy lilt to its speed, the ragged breaths that precede a lush arpeggiated guitar on “impossible things” and its slightly detuned piano that sounds like a mournful celebration, and the back-and-forth singsong nature of the beginning of “a brief moment.”

Even in the moments where an electric guitar and steel pedal rage there is this sense of communal intimacy. As though the entire band is sitting around a single microphone relying on one another to relay this story. Even the tempo, rather than adhering to a strict definition, is defined more by feel, with instruments both preceding and proceeding vocals in moments. The aforementioned piano on “impossible things” is hesitant and sparse, the confident crashes of electric guitar on “with you” wait hypnotically. It compounds the feelings of sincerity already achieved by the composition.

Jones’ lyrics, too, feel exposed and real, and are supported by the backing vocals and collective nature of the composition to feel like words spoken by someone with reassuring hands on their shoulders instead of someone lost and alone. They play between the space of storyteller and mourner, going in “a brief moment” from the Aesopian, “Like a bear in a trap, or a moon in its waning, I’ve got my doubts–but I sure ain’t faking” to the raw declaration, “I can’t believe the things that you say when I’m not around.”

By the time the record reaches “with you,” a simmering penultimate track preceded by the mourning guitar swells and scratchy violin of the instrumental “a whisper,” Jones’ opening words of “when misery turns to loss” hit like cracks in the ice. The electric guitar and pedal steel come in like a herald of the catharsis to come on the closer, “2 holidays”—itself a microcosm for the album’s slow-burn meditation on just how long tension can last before catharsis breaks through, ending with the fading refrain, “There’s a whisper in my hear/It only speaks to me of fear/But I won’t pay it no mind.”

ther’s a horrid whisper echoes in a palace of endless joy is available now and you can find their Bandcamp and social media on their Carrd here. Let us know what you think of the album @lgndsoftmrw.


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