Thomas Self-Help

With a breathless, melismatic delivery that recalls Prince, Kate Bush and Mark Hollis (of later period Talk Talk), Thom Gill, vocalist/guitarist of his eponymous band Thomas, injects a mannered sensuousness into what would otherwise be a rather cerebral affair. Each track is like a day-glo pop slalom with unexpected turns everywhere. But while replete with complexities these tunes are far from dour math rock etudes. Buoyant, playful and downright catchy, a more apt comparison is the synth-laced prog soul of mid-'70s Todd Rundgren. Culling choice elements of jazz-fusion, new wave, '80s funk and smooth soul, and prog rock, but marring these elements with crunchy guitars, bizarre samples and treatments, as well as other sundry sonic treats, Thomas offers an outlandishly vast palette. Refreshingly, despite outré inspirations, the record steers well clear of ironic posturing, instead gleefully reshaping those elements into a sleek yet completely personal and utterly compelling sound. The album's two ballads highlight this welcome earnestness, serving as a showcase for Gill's soulfully idiosyncratic vocals. Some listeners might find the density of music to be overwhelming, at times, but if you're prepared, it can provide a sense of wonderment. (Collection Plate)