If Thousands

I Have Nothing

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Beginning with a half-dreamy, half-discordant piece called "Push," at once serenely contemplative and suddenly jarring (the latter due to the rough, up-front guitar notes played by one member), I Have Nothing makes for an unexpected, intriguing listen. If Thousands could easily be lumped in with the large numbers of meditative, instrumental guitar/ambient groups of recent years, and there's no question that songs like "Children with Horns," "Eventide," and the beautiful "Walking Otis" call to mind the work of bands like Dissolve or Stars of the Lid, among many others. But there's something fragmented and ragged about the duo's work that lends a unique flavor to the sound, a sense that things are crumbling about the edges or winding down morosely. The songs aren't long epics, either -- quick without being punky thrashes (anything but), they feel like chopped-up bits of communication, guitar as muffled speaker. Pitching the volume low on "Marianas" -- a telling name given the reference to the deepest ocean-floor trench on Earth -- literally makes the song sound like it's drowning slowly. Feedback drones are spiked with other noises along the way; a song like "Caterwaul" sounds like it was recorded in the Carlsbad Caverns. Add to that a glowering, doom-laden edge on many pieces -- "Providence" in particular feels like a black wave looming above a bottomless abyss -- and one could assume I Have Nothing to be a total dark night of the soul. This isn't to say that there aren't moments of aspiration and hope, but they often feel compromised or hesitant -- "Cymbol"'s gentle core tones rise above a half-heard static scrabble, while hearing the acoustic start of "Trout" is almost a shock, though again buried noise sets an uncertain, unstable tone. Meanwhile, there's also the out-of-nowhere moment of music-box-melody weirdness that sounds like a demented kid's toy -- which makes its title of "Crispin Glover" that much more perfect.

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