"Thinking Out Loud" is an amazing record, and Pamelia Kurstin is a true virtuoso. Although this record is focused on, and centers around her primary instrument, the theremin, she also seamlessly weaves in the textures of the guitar and piano. A true piece of art without the pretention that usually accompanies "art", not to mention a great bit of music and a nice listen.
This album has it all: melodies that bounce around your head long after the album is over, songs that are experimental in nature, and songs that are on the level with any great classical music. Sounds that range from a pure and clean sounding solo piano, to smeared distorted washes of layered theremin and guitar that would make Kevin Shields wet his pants. From short tantalizing pieces (Copingheaven - 1:57), to sprawling hypnotic epic pieces (Tonic - 16:20), and everything in between.
To many people, if they are even familiar at all with the theremin, they might just associate it with classic Sci-Fi (the Day The Earth Stood Still - composed by Bernard Herrmann, played by Dr. Samuel Hoffman) or horror films, which wrongfully limits the instrument and its potential. On this record, Pamelia liberates the theremin. Her playing of the instrument itself is on the true virtuoso level - she plays the theremin on the level that Jimi Hendrix played the guitar. Of course that's a very bold statement, but her control of the instrument is outstanding. Clara Rockmore fascinated people when she played classical music on the theremin, Pamelia takes a similar control and attention to minute detail, and uses it in a much more modern sense. That's not to say that the entire record is avant garde and experimental in nature, moreover, it's as though she's already DONE all of her experimenting, and now, on this album, she applies what she's learned.
The composition, performing and production of the record are all seamlessly interwoven. The 7 songs are sequenced in such a way that it almost appears as though it's just one piece divided into sections, yet each song stands on its own. There are sparse moments with just one or two layers of sound, then there are moments where it's hard to determine how many layers of sound there are. Her use of delay and synth pedals with the theremin, make perfect sense in the context of the songs. You get to hear the theremin distorted and tweaked beyond what most people have ever heard - not necessarily new to guitar processing, but just as with the guitar, it's very easy to overdo effects and use of layers, and none of it would be of any interest if the SONGS weren't there... the songs ARE there, the melodies are strong, and none of the effects or layering seems to be overdone, but more perfectly placed and constructed.
One of the most impressive things about this record to me, was the instantaneous sense of NON-pretentiousness! With all that I've said about the qualities of the sound, the composition and production of this album, it would be really easy to assume that this might come off as pretentious, but again, much like Jimi Hendrix, her sense of humor and playfulness is immediately apparent. There IS true "art" here, including the main cover photograph, which is of her, contemplatively playing the theremin. her image repeated by use of two mirrors facing each other, and then you open the booklet up, and you see a very dark, silvery low-light-like image of her, again playing the theremin, but facing the viewer, but when you open up the booklet fully, you see a very funny photo of her making a snarling face at a (presumably stuffed) coyote or fox (who appears to be snarling at her); you can't help but laugh. The back of the cd has a photo of her behind the theremin, with one hand on her hip, the other up to her ear, listening, and lastly, the cd (new) comes with a paper slip (an "obi") that has a very funny photo of her making a crazy wide-eyed expression.
In the end, I feel that her one statement on the cd booklet that faces the inside, sums it all up: "Why not be vulnerable and go for it?" - to my ears and eyes, she does exactly that, she completely opens herself up, takes the listener to other worlds and makes you laugh along the way. A truly outstanding piece of work by any measure, and makes one instantly wonder why there haven't already been tons of records like this one....but there IS this one.