Sitting towards the back of Moose and Sadie’s, West Thordson, dark-haired with an affable smile, slowly sips his coffee. He explains the theory behind his dark and dynamic piano and strings-based project, A Whisper in the Noise.
“There is this bombardment of everything going on right now, and so many people just shout over the top of it,” he says. “I think if you bring people in and speak to them softly, they’ll understand better than yelling over the top.”
Thordson’s brand of thoughtful subtlety is what drives A Whisper in the Noise’s ambitious, Steve Albini-produced debut, Through the Ides of March. From the contemplative, unassuming opener “The Wall of You” to mournful “In the Dark,” Thordson’s fragile piano and cooing vocals dominate each track. Nick Connor’s stark drums alternate from hiding beneath the mix to serving as a rock-solid backbone to the moaning, tormented strings.
Thordson says he conceptualized the idea for A Whisper in the Noise about a year and half ago. Originally the band was intended to be a traditional guitar-rock trio. Then he realized a rich orchestral sound would match the music’s flowing and moody vibe better than a six-string.
“Having at least a drummer is good, but having an orchestra creates presence,” Thordson says. “Plus you’re able to communicate better with strings [than with guitar].”
While writing violin, cello and french horn parts and working out the kinks in the Whisper songs, Thordson was asked to contribute segue music for local rockers Trend 86’s album they were recording in Chicago with über-producer Albini (Pixies, PJ Harvey). Thordson says during the Trend 86 sessions he asked Albini to produce A Whisper in the Noise.
“He was the guy I wanted to work with just because of his use of ambient microphone,” Thordson says.
Albini obliged, but due to budgetary reasons Through the Ides of March was recorded and mastered in only three days. The result is essentially a live album that doesn’t sound live, save for Albini’s signature raw drum sound.
“I always wanted that John Bonham, huge, earthy, organic drum sound,” Thordson says.
“I think there’s a certain charm [to the record], even Steve says that,” Thordson continues. “The strings aren’t always in tune, and the drums aren’t perfectly on, but so many albums right now lack that personable, human quality.”
Thordson showcased Through the Ides of March’s warm, sprawling songs at the band’s first official show last month at the Turf Club. Although he insists he enjoys performing live, Thordson seems to understand that he’s better suited to quietly penning songs than thoroughly rocking a crowd.
“I’m more of one of those guys that just stays in his apartment writing music and conceptualizing more than I’m a performer,” he says.
A Whisper in the Noise plays with Happy Apple on Friday, June 28 at the Cedar-Riverside Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls. 8 p.m. $12/$10 in advance, $8 student rush. (612) 338-3674.