The Subversive Nature of Kindness is the sophomore effort from Thor & Friends, the avant-chamber ensemble formed by its namesake, polymath percussionist Thor Harris. The album was recorded in Albuquerque, NM, produced by Jeremy Barnes from A Hawk & A Hacksaw and engineered by Barnes and Deerhoof's John Dietrich. It is hoped that the melodic meditations offered up will ease some of the terror of living in these uncertain times. The three primary members of the band are Peggy Ghorbani on marimba, Sarah "Goat" Gautier on marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, organ, voice, mellotron and piano, and Harris on sundry percussion and wind instruments, including some of his own devising.
The band has toured extensively over the past year and have performed live with many guest musicians. All these players have influenced the way the group hears its music and this had a significant impact on this new album. On this recording voice plays a more prominent role with the core trio being joined by several guest singers who provide wordless vocals: Stine Janvin Motland, an opera singer from Oslo, Norway; Michael Gira from Swans; Enrique Soriah, a throat singer from Oregon. It features more fully developed string arrangements by Barnes and Heather Trost. There are also contributions from similarly adventurous musicians including Jhno Delicateer on Armenian Duduk, violin improvisationist Aisha Burn, and Adam Torres, who provides finger-picked guitar.
The band draws on classic Minimalist composers including Terry Riley and Steve Reich, but also amalgamateS such diverse influences as Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Moondog and The Necks. They embody utopian optimism by rooting their art and operation in both improvisation and the involvement of neighbors and friends in their process, making use of what and who is around at any given moment.