Those who know the work of Jonathan Merenivitch are familiar with his intricate songwriting and refined style. In post-punk trio Shepherds, Merenivitch has tackled the complexities of white supremacy and the dead-end nature of the music industry while weaving technical guitar riffs into what is essentially modern soul. But with his first solo release as Thalmus Rasulala, the local mainstay inverts everything he’s ever done, shedding the spiky pop of Shepherds in favor of washed-out cell phone recordings that ache and clip beneath the weight of every sound.
Thalmus Rasulala shows often appear as stripped down Shepherds sets simply because of Merenivitch’s unique vocal delivery, but on Thoughtless his voice is distant and troubled as opposed to his often ecstatic style. He refers to the EP as an “exorcism,” further explaining that he was “really interested in making something that was almost totally lacking in premeditation.” Written spontaneously and released without editing, the results sound as if he is communicating from beyond the pale — a concept as jarring as it is intimate. Without the boundaries of traditional songwriting or the express intent to experiment, the album settles somewhat uncomfortably between the realm of drone folk and Grotesque era Fall.
The third track and midpoint of the EP, “Thoughtless in Memory,” ensnares the listener, leaving the outside world to recede into the distance. From here on out everything is filtered through Merenivitch’s mind while our own interpretations fall by the wayside. Synapses glitter and buzz around us, traveling on indecipherable courses, yet they manage to communicate critical emotions which must be felt rather than intellectualized.
When I asked Merenivitch about the extremely personal nature of the record and why he believed these songs needed to be exposed to the public, he explained, “I think anything I release now is gonna be extremely personal. That’s just how I write at this point in my life. What I’m most interested in is creating a large body of work.” It’s an interesting sentiment from an artist who has demonstrated a strong affinity for polished artwork in the past, and it’s evidence that even though Merenivitch has been writing and recording for a relatively long time, he continues to evolve as an artist and musician.
Thoughtless proves the value in traversing the rocky outcroppings of consciousness, even if reaching the final destination only provokes more questions. If Merenivitch is willing to pull back the curtain on a small part of his creative process, even if it is difficult to translate, we would be wise to listen and take note.
Thalmus Rasulala will celebrate the release of Thoughtless tonight at 529 when he performs alongside Simon Joyner & the Ghosts, the David Nance Group, Jesse Nighswonger, Cuntry, and Sounds for Harm Reduction. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $10. 21+ to enter.