Thot are a four piece band from Brussels who bring the world a distinctive brand of industrial rock. With their fourth studio album they present the listener with an extended lyrical and sonic metaphor that touches upon the subject of rivers. Each of the album’s nine songs is named for a specific river on the European mainland, and together they comprise—in the band’s own words—“a luminous ode to the European continent.”
RELEASE DATE: 20 October 2017 LABEL: Weyrd Son Records
The album title Fleuve is a French word which denotes “river” or “stream”, and it is reflectant of the lyrical subject matter. The album art, which portrays the line art of a veiled nude superimposed on a black-and-white photograph of a river, foreshadows the dualistic richness of the metaphor—a promise of an eclectic experience.
The use of archaic river names for song titles prompts one to do some research on his own, which is a nice way of engaging the listener and providing them with some extra geographical knowledge. On the other hand, these rivers are undeniably linked to band leader Grégoire Fray’s emotions at the time of visiting their banks, as becomes clear from the opening lines to RHONE: “I sat down by the lake // For once I’m on my own (…) But now I’m ready // I’m ready to drown myself into its stream”.
Mirroring the album’s distinct psychological heaviness we find FLEUVE to possess a stormy sonic palette. With the dense mixture of synthesisers, distorted guitars and shouting vocals, it is definitely an album that needs to be digested. It takes repetitive listening to dig through the abject overflow of noisy synthesisers in order to come to a full understanding of what FLEUVE wants to say. From the recognisable drum intro of ODRA to the prolonged and pensive BOSPHORE, Thot have created an intense journey going through rough waters and quiet streams.
Like the flowing tide at the end of a river’s course, the band effortlessly resonates between the lighter moods of the post-punk revivalists and the darker atmospheres of artists such as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, and the Black Heart Rebellion. In spite of the clear portrayal of influences, there are certain striking choices in instrumentation that set Thot aside from their contemporaries. The major roles for the clarinet (RHONE, RHEIN) and for Bulgarian-style choirs (VOLGA, SAMARA, ODRA) gives the album a distinct face and definitely spice things up a little. In fact, it could be stated that knowledge of the aforementioned choirs, such as Le Mystery des Voix Bulgares, is essential in comprehending the work of Fray and his consorts.
Upon close inspection of the more traditional side of the instrumentation, it becomes apparent that the production and execution of the more abrasive parts of the songs are a little rough around the edges. This might sound like an established fact, but it might not be to every listener’s tastes. While breaking out of their constraints, synths and guitars are enveloped in a gritty overdrive, and a passionate vocal delivery often forces Fray towards the edge of his abilities. At the end of the day it is noisy music that is the hardest to produce well, and FLEUVE itself testifies to the fact that both Fray and his female counterpart Arielle Moens are both at their most convincing during the album’s quiet parts.
The bonus track, which is a meritorious cover of Fever Ray’s Now’s The Only Time I Know presents the listener with an alien atmosphere, creating the effect of a lighthearted credits soundtrack of a solemn movie. This serves as a last reminder that FLEUVE is a coherent and deliberate effort. An impressive work of art, no matter the listener’s taste in sound.
WATCH | THOT – ODRA [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
FLEUVE is available from the Thot Bandcamp-page as a name-your-price download. Head over to Weyrd Son Records’ Bandcamp for physical copies, which are available in CD format or as a vinyl version in different colours.
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