Bear with me here, because Thot are quite a bit out of my usual listening comfort zone and I’m not sure I have the adequate terms and points of reference to accurately describe what we’re getting into here. I’m sure there’s probably a word for what the Belgian act do—although, then again, maybe not, since they like to describe themselves as “Vegetal Noise Music”. However, that self-prclaimed moniker seems more accurately applied to something like Botanist or The Body, which is way of the mark. Instead the eclectic collective practice a brand of industrialised (or at least heavily electrified) progressive/alternative/post rock that is to weird, darkly ambient European metal as Enter Shikari are to British metalcore and indie. if than makes any kind of sense?
The project began in 2005 as the brainchild of composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Grégoire Fray, although drummer Gil Chevigné has appeared on all of their major releases since 2009 (which is essentially everything except their debut album The Huffed Hue (2005)). Their 2011 record Obscured by the Wind proved a surprise highlight of that year, with its compelling brand of high-octane elctro-rock, and it was recently re-released as a special 5-year anniversary “Burn Edition” featuring an expanded and rearranged track list, which is well worth checking out. Their following two records took completely different turns, however. The Fall of the Water Towers (2012) went all in on the post-rock side of things, while The City that Disappears (2014) came off as some kind of dystopian sci-fi soundtrack (think some kind of gritty Dark City (1998) reboot). Now, on their freshly-released record, it appears the band have taken the best aspects of these three previous approaches and rolled them into a singular complete package.
FLEUVE, whose name means a river that exits into the sea, is intended as an “a luminous ode … to nature’s immuable inspiration, to women and transcendance”, with each of its nine original compositions refers to a river on the European continent (and one sea channel). Like their previous effort, it was produced by Cult of Luna’s Magnis Lindberg and also features a bonus cover of Fever Ray’s “Now’s the Only Time” for good measure. The album is a much more restrained effort than Obscured by the Wind, though it is also less oppressive than Thot’s previous two outings in almost equal measure. While it doesn’t draw from the same dark romantic aesthetic, FLEUVE would not sound at all out of place alongside Ulver’s most recent offering and Fray’s soaring, expressive and often-wobbly vocal style regularly brings to mind the similar inflections of Leprous’s Einar Solberg (to my ear anyway).
Thot are an eclectic act to say the least, and there’s sure to be something tucked away within their surprisingly extensive back catalogue to please most people. Everything they’ve put out is available for “pay what you want” on their bandcamp page, besides The Huffed Hue (which also appears to be “unavailable” on Spotify, despite being listed there?). Although you can listen to a couple of fantastic re-recorded tracks from that debut in the form of the #XVNM EP.