THERMAL began as a trio in 2001.
Taking the sonic possibilities of their respective instruments (electric guitar, tenor and soprano saxophones and EMS synthesizer) through surprising and playful avenues, this is an exquisite example of the meeting of three experienced improvisers, each bringing to this exchange the perspective of their mixed musical backrounds.
The trio of John Butcher, Andy Moor and Thomas Lehn have played concerts all over Europe at major jazz and improvisation festivals and released their debut CD Thermal on the Unsounds label in 2003 which was selected by the Wire as one of the best Cds of that year.
© Joe Strobel
Thermal | Ice In A Hot World
THERMAL - Thermal
released 2003 on dutch label unsounds
www.unsounds.com | 04U | reviews | bandcamp
01. Thermal (5:00)
02. Once Gravity Strikes For Real (6:56)
03. Miss Universal Happiness (0:26)
04. Weak Alarm (1:47)
05. Tongue (1:48)
06. Broken Fighter Plane (8:09)
07. Pan Asian Love Buds (3:28)
08. Gongs Not Bombs (4:33)
09. Cat Funeral (1:49)
10. Quarry Traffic (1:48)
11. Imperfect Vehicle (4:31)
12. Graphite (1:21)
13. Teeth (6:41)
14. Thomas Builds A Shelter (2:06)
Recorded in 2001 by Zlaya Sagovic at Studio One at OT301, Amsterdam.
Mixed and mastered by Andy Moor and John Butcher. Cover artwork by Isabelle Vigier.
THERMAL - Ice In A Hot World
released March 2023 on dutch label unsounds
www.unsounds.com | 78U | reviews
01. Dreams Are Fraying (12:56)
02. Autumn Fireflies (17:34)
03. Echoes of a Clucking Tongue (15:12)
04. Back to Vapour (3:46)
05. Ice in a Hot World (6:06)
All compositions by John Butcher (PRS), Andy Moor (PRS) and Thomas Lehn (GEMA).
All tracks recorded by Bruno Levée on 8th February 2020 at AJMI, Avignon, France.
Mixed by Thomas Lehn, mastered by Andy Moor.
Cover photo by Andy Moor, design by Isabelle Vigier.
Production Unsounds 2023. Album release March 2023..
visit Thermal on John Butcher's website
homepage John Butcher
wikipedia page Andy Moor
© Barka Fabiánová
audio / video
listen to the CD Thermal on bandcamp
watch video of the concert at festival ArtActs 2016 in St. Johann/Austria
watch video of concert at Area Sismica in Forli/Italy in January 2017
watch video by Barka Fabianová of the concert Prague in March 2016
© Barka Fabiánová
Thermal | Ice In A Hot World | concerts
reviews of CD Thermal
Thermal meshes horizons and welds disparate trajectories. It’s a highly persuasive point of access to the work of all three musicians. … One of the most thrilling improv outings released this year so far.
Julian Cowley | The Wire
… it looks like the trio was created by a computer, such is the perfect disposition of sounds, minds and absolute respect for one another… Andy Moor has his strings going from a rusty scrape to an ethereal drone of adjacent tones, while Lehn gets incredibly various manifestations from his analogue EMS synthesizer, resulting maybe in the most creative synthetist in recent and not so recent years; Thomas literally puts to shame the ones who use Oberheims and Wavestations for a single low note… . But something must be said for many sax players, because after they'll experience John Butcher's talent, his multiphonic control, his dynamics domination, the beauty of his 'regular' (??) tone – well, they won't be missed when they'll finally put their instrument away, together with their dusty Real Books.
Massimo Ricci | Touching Extremes
Saxophonist John Butcher is often frustratingly associated with the so-called micro-improv end of the spectrum, but there's nothing he likes nor does better than getting caught up in a bout of hard blowing; he's just as adept at screeching upper registers as he is at squeezing out delicate multiphonics, and this outing on guitarist Andy Moor's label Unsounds gives him plenty of opportunity to do both. Moor, who started out in Dog Faced Hermans before joining Dutch punk group The Ex nine years ago and relocating to Amsterdam, reveals himself as an improv guitarist to watch; his background in rock means he has no qualms about laying down the odd motoric riff ("Once Gravity Strikes For Real"), coming at the instrument from a different angle from the "usual" post-jazz techniques of Messrs Bailey, Russell et al. Thomas Lehn is in his element, conjuring forth a veritable electrical storm of blurts, zaps and fizzes from his analogue synthesizer, and giving it a good pounding to boot (dig the spring reverb), but "Thermal" is no mere brutal slugfest - far from it - behind the grit and the sweat there's a cunning sense of complicity and cogent sense of structure. A trio of tiny tracks ("Miss Universal Happiness", "Weak Alarm" and "Tongue") reveal that the trio is perfectly able to handle small forms too. Only complaint: the cover photo, which I imagine is supposed to represent a cloud, or a puff of smoke (but in fact somewhat resembles a map of France) - surely not the appropriate image for music as strong and sinewy as this.
Dan Warburton | Paris Transatlantic
reviews of CD Ice In A Hot World
Thermal is the free improvisation trio of idiosyncratic sax player John Butcher, The Ex’ guitarist Andy Moor (and the head of the Unsounds label) and vintage analog synth wizard Thomas Lehn. Thermal was formed in 2001 as these three imaginative musicians who come from different musical backgrounds wanted to evolve along their personal routes to meet in free improvisations. The trio released its debut, self-titled album in 2003, and twenty years later its follow-up, Ice In A Hot World, that was recorded at AJMI in Avignon, France, in February 2020.
The dynamics of Thermal focus on spontaneous risk-taking and intuition and offers urgent, subtle and explosive sonic collisions of the distinct voices that betray all expectations. The tenor and soprano saxes with Butcher’s extended breathing techniques and his playing with feedback and extreme acoustics often transform these instruments into wind machines. The highly inventive usage of the vintage analog synth that often sounds like an unworldly noise machine and the jangled guitar lines of Moor. Twenty years of working together, and in other formats, turned Thermal into a powerful and intrepid unit, always searching for uncompromising, mysterious and unchartered sonic frontiers. Quite often it is difficult to know who produces which sounds, as most of Thermal’s sounds are unconventional and arresting and the trio weaves them into haunting textures, developed with their own accord and their own inner logic. But sometimes it surprises with a fleeting, lyrical but distorted melody like the one Butcher articulates in «Autumn Fireflies». The last, title piece even takes Thermal into a twisted dervish dance before taking its interplay into a magnificent meltdown. Hopefully, we will not have to age in another twenty years before we may enjoy the third album of this great trio.
Eyal Hareuveni | salt peanuts
... The three complement each other quite exquisitely, which can be heard best on Autumn Fireflies, the second and longest track on Ice in a Hot World. The piece is divided into several parts, at the beginning Lehn’s synthesizer bleeps through the room as if he was lost in thought, while Moor works the corpus of his guitar and sounds like a gloomy bell. Butcher contributes click sounds very sparingly. Part two is a solo by Moor, atonal but airy, as if he was listening intensely into the depths of his instrument. After 5:20 minutes there is a break and Butcher takes over, also for a solo. Structurally, one can definitely detect a closeness to Evan Parker, the free-jazz-Butcher shows off in all his beauty for two minutes. It seems that the sounds are thrown back at the musicians in long echoes. Actually however, the room is not especially reverberant - but Lehn’s synth has a built-in mechanical spring echo which makes the music sound more reverberant overall. Here, it’s a feast for the sonic explorers in the musicians. Additonally, what seems like an incoherent jigsaw first, flows together very delicately and cautiously in the end. Everything is relaxed but also very intense, concentrated and focused. The further the piece progresses, the more condensed the sounds become, the tempo is increased, and it gets apparent how much the three musicians are also at home in improvised music. It sounds as if your ear is in a beehive. And at the end, the music gently floats out. Even formally it’s a perfectly rounded track - it seems that it follows a song-like structure... . Ice in a Hot World is a very beautiful album, it shows real masters at work. Listeners who like to discover small, fine details, can’t go wrong here.
Martin Schray | The Free Jazz Collective www.freejazzblog.org
Dreams are fraying ? Ich hab's nicht mit Träumen. Es sind die Erinnerungen, die ausfransen, die Welt selbst, die aus den Nähten, den Fugen geht. Autumn fireflies ? Glühwürmchen gibt's vielleicht noch in Korea, aber nicht mehr am Main. Alles verdampft - Back to vapour. Und die Irren denken bei Ice in a hot world an 4 Kugeln im Becher, statt an die schwindenden Gletscher, das Pol- und das Grönland-Eis. John Butcher, der Tenor- & Sopranosaxer in London, ist mit Andy Moor, dem mit The Ex, Lean Left, Anne-James Cha-ton geschätzten, zuletzt mit Christine Abdelnour zu hörenden Unsounds-Gitarristen in Amsterdam, nicht nur vertraut durch etwa Experiments With A Lear (2013). Mit Thomas Lehn, dem Synthieschrauber im ensemble]h[iatus, bei Speak Easy, Shift, The Five etc., formt er sogar ein Duo. Seit 2001 zusammen, tauchen die Thermals hier ein in den rotglühenden Korridor eines infernalischen Hotels, unheimlich wie Lynchs Red Room. Entsprechend zögerlich gehen sie vor, indem der eine vorsichtig an den Saiten plonkt, plinkt, harkt, schraubt, schnarrt, der andere ins Horn haucht und schnaubt, und der dritte Geräusche macht, für die es keine Wörter gibt. Wie das dann doch auch couragiert aufflammt und sich spaltet in lyrische, elektroliquide und ruppig rumorende Spuren, frage nicht. Jeder ist da an sich schon ein Klang- und Stimmungswandler: Ein undichtes Ventil, ein singender, schmatzender, stöhnender Reedvirtuose mit rissiger Röhre. Ein Dingdong, drahtiges Federn, turbulentes Beben, dunkles Murmeln. Eine Black Box, aus der sich kuriose, meistenteils unbeschreibliche Impulse in Wellen, schillernden Fransen und als glitschige Tropfen fingern lassen. Die Stimmung wird brütend, die Klänge infizieren sich mit der Unheimlichkeit zu kleinlautem Zwitschern, bedrückter Monotonie, aber das lädt sich auf zu keckem Getriller, ostinatem Kneten und manischem Schrappen. Und kippt wieder ins saitig Fragile, versponnen und dunstig. Doch das Finale konterkariert das nochmal, zugleich quecksilbrig und furios röhrend, während Moor trollig stompt und so die Gitarre drischt, dass sie sich in einer Endlosrille verhakt. Uuuooahahaha!
Rigobert Dittmann | Bad Alchemy #119 | June 2023
attempted english translation of Rigobert Dittmann Bad Alchemy review:
Dreams are fraying ? I don't have it with dreams. It's the memories that are fraying, the world itself that's unravelling, cominging apart at the seams. Autumn fireflies ? Fireflies may still exist in Korea, but no longer on the Main river. Everything evaporates - Back to vapour. And the lunatics think of Ice in a hot world as 4 scoops in a cup, instead of the dwindling glaciers, the polar ice and the Greenland ice. John Butcher, the tenor & soprano sax player in London, is familiar with Andy Moor, the Unsounds guitarist esteemed with The Ex, Lean Left, Anne-James Cha-ton, most recently heard with Christine Abdelnour in Amsterdam, not only through, say, Experiments With A Lear (2013). With Thomas Lehn, the synth wrench in ensemble]h[iatus, with Speak Easy, Shift, The Five etc., he even forms a duo. Together since 2001, the Thermals dive here into the red-hot corridor of an infernal hotel, eerily like Lynch's Red Room. They proceed accordingly hesitantly, as one carefully plonks, plinks, rakes, screws, snares on the strings, the other breathes and snorts into the horn, and the third makes noises for which there are no words. How this then also flares up courageously and splits into lyrical, electroliquid and gruffly rumbling tracks, don't ask. Each one is in itself a sound and mood shifter: a leaky valve, a singing, smacking, moaning reed virtuoso with a cracked tube. A dingdong, wiry feathering, turbulent quivering, dark murmuring. A black box from which curious, mostly indescribable impulses can be fingered in waves, iridescent fringes and as slippery drops. The mood becomes brooding, the sounds infect themselves with the uncanniness to small-loud chirping, depressed monotony, but that charges up to perky warbling, ostinato kneading and manic scraping. And tilts back into stringy fragility, spun and hazy. But the finale counteracts this again, at the same time mercurial and furiously roaring, while Moor trollishly stomps and threshes the guitar so that it gets caught in an endless groove. Uuuooahaha!
Seit 2001 bewegt sich Thermal zwischen Improvisation und Komposition, musikalisch angesiedelt in den Spannungsfeldern von elektroakustischen Experimenten, Noise und Contemporary Jazz. Mit Thermal bespielen Butcher, Moor & Lehn ihr breites Spektrum, in welchem sie ihrer jeweils eigenständigsten Ausdruckskraft viel Platz und Raum lassen und natürlich auch geben. Das macht dieses Release spannend und aufregend, es versprüht unterschiedliche Stimmungen in einer starken Soundästhetik, die auch in ihren anderen Bands bzw. Projekten erklingen: The Ex, David Sylvian, Otomo Yoshihide, Alva Noto, Anne-James Chaton, Thurston Moore, um nur ein paar zu nennen. Dennoch, den Ton auf Ice In A Hot World geben die feinen, ruhigen Sound-Experimente an. Laute Ausuferungen gibt es wenige. Moor schrammelt und feedbackt oder schlägt seine Melodien an, oft in einer Monotonie, durch die sich erst all diese Feinheiten erkennen lassen. Butcher entlockt seinem Saxofon eine ganze Bandbreite an Klängen und Melodien, die sich ebenso in den Sound einweben, wie auch Thomas Lehn's Klänge von feinem Rauschen über Sub-Bass-Terror bis zu einer Soundästhetik von Delia Derbyshire, die er möglicherweise referenziert, aber zumindest in diese Richtung geht. Gerade diese unterschiedlichen Klangspektren und Geschichten vereinen die drei zu einer kompakten Masse, die nicht zähflüssig daherkommt, sondern in permanent fein veränderter Struktur immer wieder Neues hervorbringt.
Richard Herbst | Freistil #108 | June 2023
english translation of Richie Herbst Freistil review:
Since 2001 Thermal has been moving between improvisation and composition, musically situated in the fields of electroacoustic experiments, noise and contemporary jazz. With Thermal, Butcher, Moor & Lehn explore their broad spectrum, in which they leave and give a lot of space and room to their own individual expressions. That's what makes this release exciting and thrilling, spraying different moods in a strong sound aesthetic that can also be heard in their other bands or projects: The Ex, David Sylvian, Otomo Yoshihide, Alva Noto, Anne-James Chaton, Thurston Moore, to name a few. Still, the tone on Ice In A Hot World is set by the subtle, quiet sound experiments. Loud excesses are few. Moor strums and feedbacks, or strikes his melodies, often in a monotony through which only all these subtleties can be discerned. Butcher elicits a whole range of sounds and melodies from his saxophone that weave their way into the sound, as do Thomas Lehn's sounds ranging from subtle noise and sub-bass terror to a Delia Derbyshire sound aesthetic that he may be referencing, but is at least heading in that direction. It is especially these different sound spectrums and narratives that unite the three into a compact mass that doesn't come across as viscous, but in a permanently finely altered structure always brings forth something new.
… While the local improv snobs muttered tetchily at the bar - yes, dangerous music like this is far removed from the ideological purity favoured by several locals - the group lurched forward, frequently ending up in some pretty wild territory (especially for Butcher, who seemed nevertheless to be enjoying his experiments with howling feedback), but always managed to step back from the edge of all-out Borbetomagus madness. Ex guitarist Moor was quite restrained by his standards, but Lehn was in his element, his synth crackling merrily away, spitting out molten shards of metallic percussiveness. Not unsurprisingly perhaps, the overall result was less polished than the album, but in terms of sheer risk - the trio managed to box themselves into some scary corners on a number of occasions, and had to come out fighting - it certainly made a welcome change from the rather predictable fare sometimes dished up here, where gigs are so thin on the ground that improvising musicians are compelled to club together into a kind of mutual admiration society, rarely if ever doing anything that's likely to capsize the boat.
Dan Warburton | Paris Transatlantic
photo © Ariele Monti
photo © Andy Moor
Fri. 9 June 2023, London @ Cafe Oto
Fri. 31 March 2023, Saarbruecken @ FreeJazzFestival Saarbrücken
Thu. 30 March 2023, Stuttgart @ stromraum
Wed. 29 March 2023, Koeln @ Stadtgarten
Sun. 9 February 2020, Bonn @ Dialograum Kreuzung an St. Helena / in situ
Sat. 8 February 2020, Avignon @ AJMI
Sun. 15 January 2017, Forli @ Area Sisimica
Fri. 13 January 2017, Huesca @ Centro Cultural del Matadero
Thu. 12 January 2017, Barcelona @ Teatre Del CCCB / L’auditori Sampler Series
Sat. 12 March 2016, St. Johann i. T. @ ArtActs Festival
Fri. 11 March 2016, Pardubice @ Divadlo 29
Thu. 10 March 2016, Prag @ Vila Stvanice
Wed. 9 March 2016, Wien @ Porgy & Bess
Sat. 17 November 2007, Graz @ Stockwerk
Fri. 16 November 2007, Innsbruck @ Bierstindl
Sun. 12 November 2006, Wels @ music unlimited Festival
Sat. 27 August 2005, Mulhouse @ Jazz à Mulhouse Festival
Sat. 17 July 2004, Parthenay @ Festival Musiques Inclassables
Thu. 27 May 2004, Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy @ Festival Musique Action
Wed. 19 May 2004, Toronto @ Goethe Institute Toronto
Sat. 24 May 2003, Montreuil @ Instants Chavires
Fri. 23 May 2003, Nantes @ Pannonica
Thu. 22 May 2003, Lille @ Le Malterie
Wed. 21 May 2003, Bruessel @ Cafe Central
Fri. 16 November 2001, Amsterdam @ STEIM
Thu. 13 July 2000, Amsterdam @ Overtoom 301
Thu. 13 July 2000, Amsterdam @ Overtoom 301
Sun. 9 April 2000, Bruessel @ Recyclart
updated on June 22, 2023