Andrew Thomas






After his highly successful ten-track album Fearsome Jewel of 2003 that is actually anything but a gorgeously superb remix collection of a mellowness- and mystique-encapsulating piano motif, New Zealand’s Andrew Thomas returned to the Cologne label Kompakt in 2004 with his 12-inch release Hushhh. On this EP of four tracks, Thomas tried once again to augment his synthscapes with the help of his piano, but actually accomplishes two even more important stylistic particularities. Firstly, the Fearsome Jewel theme is clearly audible on two tracks, propitiating fans of the album with this EP, because secondly, Thomas comes up with – back then unexpectedly – heavy and gloomy compositions that range from melancholia to utter sadness. While Fearsome Jewel featured related moods and motifs occasionally, and then scattered throughout the release, Hushhh puts its emphasis on these moods, so be prepared for a saddening, much more serious EP which even moves to cavernous darkness at one point. As usual, the advertisement texts Kompakt comes up with aren’t entirely fitting: "Bright light lightens up the room and scans us tenderly. […] New Zealand's jewel thief Andrew Thomas once again warps the time and takes us to his sonic paradise." While I won’t object entirely to these thought bubbles, they only refer to maybe a third of the EP. See below why this is the case.


Flying Towards You is a surprisingly melancholic and mysterious piece if you only happen to know Andrew Thomas’ entries on Kompakt’s Pop Ambient compilation and his debut Fearsome Jewel – what additional material could contemporary listeners of 2004 have known back then? So the surprise was huge: dark reverberated acoustic guitar loops are presented whose long sustain glitters in the fragile space. Bright hazy drones and popping clicks are just as unsuspected. In short, it’s an underwhelming, strictly reduced setting, and while the guitar loop is warm and mellow, its permanent downfall into a fade-out lets the coldness of the space enter. Luckily, there is something else going on, as this guitar-driven ambience was just the opening part of the track! After a short pause, gorgeously thick synth washes float over the listener, each layer of these multitextured figments is brighter, more positive and eupeptic than the other. Hell, Thomas even hides the Fearsome Jewel motif in there, with its typical scintillating piano droplets allotted all over the cherubic thicket of sounds. Depending on your speaker or headphone setup or the location you’re consuming this song, you will also notice abyssal bass pulses deeply encapsulated in the track. This – now utterly – beautiful and happiness-evoking track has more layers and textures than Thomas' debut. Whether or not you like the blatant addition of the Fearsome Jewel motif is up to you. I cannot even decide for myself and have to make this decision time and again, depending on the artist, song and context. I for one think of it as a nice gesture, even more so since it became clear on this EP that Thomas broadens the scope of his take on Ambient music; Soft Bullets is a good indicator of this fact. Also included on Pop Ambient 2005 but introduced first on the Hushhh EP, its base frame is made of an echoey six-note piano melody, a permanent veil of soft pink noise and a gleaming synth string, showing the continuation of Thomas’ new-found love of reduced Ambient settings where the interplay between sound and space is more important than bolstered synths. The only additional devices that are interwoven later are clanging wind chimes. It’s a pristine track and the first complete realization of his new formula.


Talking about new formulae: the title track Hushhh doesn’t want to be pestered with such thoughts. It’s vintage Andrew Thomas material that harks back one last time to Fearsome Jewel. Blurred, fuzzy synth gusts are traversed with scintillating remnants of the well-known piano motif. Again, the use of it is more than welcome, for its bright dots glint iridescently in-between the auroral drones. I believe I spot a dark violin string, but this could also be a sophisticated synthetic version of it. The mood isn’t as euphoric as before. It’s hard to describe, for it isn’t melancholic either. It’s just totally mesmerizing and entrancing, potentially crystalline and clear, but never glacial or frosty. A superb synth-driven offering and a Thomas track by the numbers, which is a good sign. The final Lucas Whisper / Failing Light moves into grotesque Silent Hill territory for a short time, but otherwise revisits the already featured material of this EP by starting with quickly trembling, monotonous filtered drones that oscillate between blurriness and clarity, white noise and field recordings of wind bursts that waft against a microphone. However, the drones become more and more overdriven, crackling and obscure. It’s like a scenery of the aforementioned video game series: as the haze grows thicker and the static noise larger, the listener hears scattered piano notes, a creaking children’s swing and the thematized whisper of boy Lucas whose message is totally incomprehensible due to the static noise melodrama. However, these dark figments wane all of a sudden, leaving the sophisticated, utterly sad and melancholic piano melody as the only remnant that is now accompanied and accentuated by high-pitched Casio keyboard-like square lead sparkles and mellow synth eruptions. It’s the saddest track Andrew Thomas has ever created, a mood that couldn’t be connected to his name until this very track – and his second full-length release of 2010, Between Buildings And Trees.


The synth-overfoaming compositions are gone. Not entirely, as they are resurrected for a short moment or two in Flying Towards You and the title track, but all in all, fans of Andrew Thomas’ Fearsome Jewel had to cope with a new situation in 2004, for this EP, as small and short it may be, put the focus into a more cinematic, melancholic and darker direction. In order to not alienate everyone, a few clear-cut droplets of the Fearsome Jewel theme are interspersed throughout two tracks. I find these remnants refreshing and surprising at the same time, but other people may dislike these obvious references to older material. Apart from these additions, Hushhh is definitely bathing in melancholia. The synth structures are reduced in favor of pulsating intersections. Fearsome Jewel had these as well, but here, the interplay between space and sound, the oscillation between pops, pianos and strings is more carved out, allowing more than a few glimpses at the milliseconds-long spaces between them. Due to the heaviness of this EP, I cannot recommend it to everyone. You definitely have to be in the mood for it, as the orange front cover doesn’t tell the whole story of the EP as a whole. Obvious favorites of mine are Flying Towards You with its cherubic synth washes and entirely good mood, and the title track Hushhh with its indefinite but terrifically mellow superstructure. Both tracks coincidentally contain the references to Fearsome Jewel, but even without them, the tracks would suit my needs. However, on the title track, the motif works best due to its crystalline vividness being a great counterpart to the blurry synths. The album is still available on vinyl and incessantly on Beatport, but not on iTunes at the time of writing.




Further listening:

Listen to the digital version of Andrew Thomas’ Hushhh EP for free on




Ambient Review 081: Andrew Thomas – Hushhh (2004). Originally published on Jun. 13, 2012 at