The Hill In Mind – Thimble EP

And now for something completely different. To say that The Hill In Mind brings adventurous excursions in music to the local scene is an understatement. I have mentioned their charming weirdness before and now upon the release of their second EP Thimble, I will say it again. First of all, it’s clever that they found a word that begins with an acronym for the band name, I don’t dare ask what “BLE” stands for, if anything, but it’s a brilliant use of “THIM”. Secondly, this is not the EP that you would expect to follow up their debut, not in the least. The latter has to do with the fact that this is but one third of a project that will be released as a complete album of three EPs next Spring. The album is called Thimble, Needle and Thread and it will consist of three separate parts each with different instruments, themes, and recording styles. So, it’s going to get weirder. At this point, this is the only EP planned to be released in full before the album, while singles will be release from the two remaining EPs. It’s an exciting project an I’m eagerly anticipating hearing the results of it in Spring 2015. Until then we have this four song dandy, which is quite a departure from their debut.

Do you remember what music sounded like in the 17th to 19th century? Probably not, because none of us were alive, but back then, they wrote that shit down. Luckily all the musicians in The Hill In Mind are University trained and they are quite familiar with this material, they have taken that influence and modernized it only slightly with some slight indie pop enhancements. They then take that and run it all through Nick Drake’s soul to produce the music found on Thimble.  I can’t think of a better touchstone than Drake to compare this to, though I know there have been other artists throughout the years to embrace classical, baroque and chamber influences to present their vision. Using acoustic guitar, an assortment of woodwinds, pedal steel, and cello their brushtrokes reveal a painting of orchestral delight. I’m fairly confident that music like this has not been produced since the late 60s to early 70s and it’s damn refreshing and damn different. I suppose some of this could evoke the softer treatments of The Moody Blues, the more accomplished works of Donovan and of course, Drake. I am very curious how this will contrast to the proposed Needle and Thread EPs.

Showing off the best use of pedal steel so far this year, “Seedy” begins the entire journey, with a wistful tone, which is only complimented by the cello. Here Joshua Hill sounds like a bard or minstrel from a few centuries back or at least 40 plus years ago, when singers remembered what bards and minstrels were. This song is just pure luxury to the ears. I remember discussing their last EP with Bob Hoag at a show and he was exuberant about how much he loved it, he is producing all their new material as well and I can only imagine he is just as proud about these recording. Lyrically, it is a song of love, of torment of entanglement and eternity. No one talks like this, except for Hill, and I’m thankful for that. “The Cave” takes the literary classic by Plato and makes it into a dizzying song, that is soft and beautiful. The first minute and a half is purely instrumental and somehow perfectly expresses the song before even a lyric is sung. They carry off the parable perfectly, we are at times, all prisoners in the cave, watching the shadows on the wall, rather than seeing true reality in the light. It ends of course, with one of the prisoners being released who is finally shocked to see the sun, but here dares not return to the cave to tell them what he has seen.

The best, or rather, the closest that The Hill In Mind comes to honing in on Nick Drake is the amazing “Dual Case.” The spare arrangement recalls the beauty of Pink Moon, but here Joshua Hill, pushed himself vocally far further than Drake was willing to ever go. This is my favorite track on the EP, as it seems so concise and focused, consisting little more of vocals, acoustic guitar and I believe, a flute. It is a showcase for Hill’s voice and it lacks any percussive adornments. It is a love song, but once more a song of torment and it is one of the most lyrically compelling found on the EP.  The finale to this release is a cover, and it works perfectly with the rest of the material found here. The main reason it works so well? “When I’m Laid in Earth” was written in the 1600′s by English Baroque composer Henry Purcell. The song is from the opera Dido and Aeneas and it uses only the Aria portion of what is often referred to as “Dido’s Lament.” I could think of no finer finale to a fantastic EP that coalesces the sounds of several centuries gone by, no better tribute to the music that has clearly inspired this work of art. I urge you to listen below to Thimble by The Hill In Mind and then join me in the sheer anticipation of the forthcoming album Thimble, Needle and Thread.