March 6, 2019 | doors at 8:30pm
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Triple Ds and Dude City Productions present:
Arbor Labor Union | Malevich
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The first time I saw Thou play live, it was an earlier incarnation of the band opening for Sunn 0))) at Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church. Shaggy locks of hair obscured most of their faces, and their skinny arms were clad in flannel and neutral t-shirts. There was nothing outwardly “metal” about their presentation, as long as one ignored the ominous stacks of amplifiers looming behind them on the low chapel stage. They were unassuming, and it was all very unremarkable, until the first note rang out and the rafters shook and the stained glass rattled as Thou proceeded to browbeat the audience with their apocalyptic doom. The band has toured the world and racked up stacks of accolades since then, but you’d never know it from speaking to any of its members.

Within a genre that prides itself on theatricality, Thou’s lack of pretension and their commitment to the DIY world from where they came is refreshing. The band refuses to hide behind elaborate stage shows or tour laminates, releases boatloads of new material every year, and still prefers to pile into their beat-up red van and play all-ages DIY spaces. They hail from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but could seemingly care less about fulfilling anyone else’s “Southern sludge” stereotypes. Basically, Thou have always been Thou, and their stellar new album, Heathen is a portrait of a band that is in complete harmony with itself, if not the world it inhabits.

It’s also their first full-length since 2010’s also stunning Summit, though the band have released a cavalcade of splits, EPs, and covers since then. They’re nothing if not prolific, and luckily, everything they’ve released since their first 2005 demo easily stands up to the most rigorous standards (especially their penchant for recording brutalizing Nirvana covers). This album is no exception. Though Heathen stretches well past the hour mark, the album must be digested as a whole.

The bruising power these songs wield is great and terrible. This fourth full-length is undeniably the band’s most punishing work, and yet is also their most beautiful. Thou explore their melodic potential to an almost startling extent, and devote more than a few moments of the sprawling collection to gentle, uplifting harmonies. The rivers of oppressive sludge are broken up by three short, quiet instrumentals, written around pastoral acoustic guitars that occasionally echo Earth’s dreamy recent output. For the first time, they’ve allowed a faint glimmer of light to shine through the overbearing gloom.

Not only that, but for the first time, the album also includes clean vocals courtesy of close band ally Emily McWilliams. Her warm, clear tones lighten up the darkness, and add an almost joyful element to Heathen’s shuddering dirges. McWilliams also played puppetmaster for all the strings and horns that pepper the album and add splashes of color to Thou’s usual dark sonic palette.

The album’s first track, “Free Will”, is ominous and somber, building in intensity over the course of nearly 15 minutes and neatly exemplifying what’s so compelling about Thou’s trance-inducing chords and tense, ultimately cathartic crescendos. Vocalist Bryan Funck’s near-feral howl commands and chastises, laying out the album’s themes of power, despair, defiance, and free will. His delivery may verge upon black metal in its throat-scraping mania, but the words he speaks are grounded in crushing reality, not fantasy. The demons he confronts are real.

The aforementioned first track, “Into the Marshlands”, and “Immortality Dictates” stand out as album highlights, with the latter sneaking up out of the gloam. In direct contrast to its stark title, the third and longest interlude “Take Off Your Skin and Dance in Your Bones” follows one bright, rippling melody before sinking deep into the mire with the next track’s explosive bait and switch. “Immortality Dictates” underscores McWilliams’ wispy vocals with a ghostly choir, then plunges straight into a caustic dull roar. Other songs like “At the Foot of Mount Driskill” and mournful closer “Ode to Physical Pain” are more inclusive, weaving strains of melody over and under abrasive, fuzz-drenched doom riffs in more traditional Thou style.

They may have lightened up a bit, but Thou have definitely not lost their ability to shock and awe. Those who appreciate the electric frisson of the band’s lumbering doom riffs and Funck’s acerbic snarl will find much to appreciate here, and it’s hard to see even a casual listener taking issue with the more experimental bent of the LP, especially when it works so well. Consumed by struggle and steeped in agony, Thou have truly reached a summit. - Kim Kelly (Pitchfork review)
Arbor Labor Union
4 Years ago, in the Peach state of Georgia, there was a mighty green Conifer tree whose limbs were wider than the smile on the sun. From this tree hung many a seed. The tree was home to so many creatures big and small. The most fun of them all was perhaps MR. BIRDSONG. Mr. Birdsong was a single white dove known for his beautiful voice and powerful wings. Sometimes, Mr. Birdsong would be so lost in song and dancing that his wings would knock loose one of the Pinecones! The armored seed would then whoosh toward the ground and sometimes break open on the forest floor below. But you see, it’s very dangerous when this happens. For inside each pine cone on the mighty green tree lies all of the possible decisions a living person can make! And, luckily, in these seeds on that particular day was the possibility that 4 lifelong friends would decide to form an eternal union founded in sound. Arbor Labor Union was born! Their roots immediately began to burrow deep into the earth (some say towards the ear of Pythagoras!). Most trees in the forest try to grow fast. Many trees’s desire is to race one another to the clouds and back. These four trees, however, are growing slowly together. They know beyond every cloud is a radiant, true blue sky and they aim for no less than the cosmos! No one knows which one of the four spoke first. Mr. Birdsong was there and he swears that they all spoke in unison. He sings about it like this:

“Listen now!
O! dear listener
For what I sing is True
Out from the sound of song forest
4 trees sang I AM YOU”

The trees are still singing in unison today. Most recently the song they could be heard singing has been said to sound like this: “IHer Yu! Ihear u! Iher YOU!”

New Initiate, you must be ready to find these young trees! For those of you who have received this message in full I have included a map below:

In the case that your map gets stolen, I am sorry. It looks as though you will have to hear your way there. Remember these instructions- if you press your ear to the ground you will find that it too has a sound… and it sings:

Past the Palace of Sleeping Songs
And the meditating toad
It is there that you might find
Four trees singing so divine
And together we shall shine!”

The bond of music is resounding. And to add more lava to the volcano of song should be sin. For it is known the world could use some silence. But the Arbor Labor Union is still growing in agreeable song. Toward the planets. Toward the Polestars. And toward the People. We are adding bricks to our Tower of BABEL. We are building our song up to Heaven. For belief in an honest sound is BELIEF’d among us. Take the SILENT OATH. Look no further. You have arrived for you have been here all along.

We are your banner men. The image on your flag is written in our hearts. It shall be done, for it is already accomplished.


Together we are:

Captain Brain Atoms Starship IHU Mind Leader/Omega Kindess One
Captain Ryan Evers Starship IHU Extratonal Grin Generator
Captain Bo Orr Starship IHU Jester Shaman/ Headless Guru
Captain Ben Salie Starship IHU Weathervane Mystic/ Love Ambassador


Jonah Vark


“Music is a Language. What do Musicians have to Say? What do They have to Say to People? What do They have to Say Now?”
—Herman Blount

Place Your Forehead to the Digital Communication Device screen (Cellular Phone, Computer, Television) before You Close Your Eyes. Do this Completely and Absolutely. It is Important that the Reader Now empty Their Mind to the best of Known Ability. Chant the following Haiku until Your Mouth no longer Tastes like the Alphabet;

“Come Within to Now
Naked before The Mirror
And sing I AM HERE”


“Hello & Welcome to the Thousand Eyed Present (to Understand this, it is Important to Know that there are Others reading this Transmission alongside You in Time. And it is Important to Know that They can be located).”

The World is dying.
It has been.
It can be seen.
And it can be felt.


However, oftentimes, this dying World is seen and felt WITHIN an individual, which begs this question: is the World dying WITHIN? What WITHIN the World is dying? What is this dying World WITHIN? More simply, what is the World WITHIN?

The World WITHIN is the Sum Total of an individual, Experiencing the World WITHOUT through the many Senses. It is the Holy of Holies. Every individual is Holy and has something WITHIN that is so incredibly special and significant to Give to, and be Experienced by, the World WITHOUT. But WITHIN must be cared for, as One tends to a Garden. WITHIN must be Alive. If it is not cared for, if it is not Alive, what can be Alive WITHOUT You? You must make the effort to Form a Living Union WITHIN. And then, You must make the Effort to Unionize Your Labor WITHOUT.

The Arbor Labor Union is just such an Effort. It is four individuals WITHIN the WITHOUT, and the Past, Present, and Future crew of the Planetary Defender, Starship IHU.

The Starship IHU seeks the Necessity of All. It is a Music-Generating Machine created by, and giving birth to, the Arbor Labor Union. Its Labor begins with the Sense of SOUND, for All is Senseless WITHOUT SOUND. That is, WITHOUT SOUNDNESS, which is the SOUNDNESS WITHIN. The Music its crew generates is about Music. It is about Hearing the Music. And It is about Hearing the Other. And That is All. In doing so, the Music asks the Listener: do You Hear It? does It Hear You? is Your Self Being Heard?

If You Hear the Music, then You will Hear what is SOUND. There is a Place for Your Self Being WITHIN the IHU, a Place that will reveal that which is WITHOUT You, a Place which longs for the Experience of Your Sum Total.

You are on a planet which is the World. And There is a Labor to be Done. What Labor must You Do? What is the Great Labor that calls to You?

There is always a Labor to be Done, but it does not have to be Done Alone. There are Others, even Now. Know Your Self Being. Then Know the Others. Then Unionize Your Labor.

As is Said:

Dear Reader Listener Initiate:
You have found Us.
For You have been with Us All along.
I Hear You.
As Do We.
We are Your Banner Men.
The Image on Your Flag is stamped upon Our Hearts.
The Labor shall be Done.
For It is already Accomplished.

Together, We, the Arbor Labor Union, are:
Captain Brain Atoms Starship IHU Bright Light Being/ Island Singer
Captain Ryan Evers Starship IHU Fraternity Facilitator/Euphoria Conjurer
Captain Bo Orr Starship IHU Laughing Dog/ Numberless In Command
Captain Ben Salie Starship IHU Commissioner of Kind Sound

NOTE ON MAP OF PREVIOUS TRANSMISSION: It dates back to a Time when the World did not wish to die. WITHIN nor WITHOUT. It directs a Way to be Alive. It is complex in its simplicity and must be understood as such.