Kyle Morton sings the first line of Typhoon’s Hunger & Thirst, “I’ve started a new beginning… suspiciously like the old one, only this time, I’m ready”, with the bravery and trepidation of someone who is staring down a familiar path, with all its known challenges and potential pitfalls, surrounded by his dearest longtime friends.
The seven core members of Typhoon (17 total contributors sing, play upright bass, toy piano, real piano, and a crumpled plastic bag for texture on Hunger & Thirst) have all known each other since high school or before, are aged 21.8 years on average, and either live together or within walking distance of one another. When playing unannounced house parties in their native Portland, Oregon, it is not uncommon for word to rapidly spread like wildfire online and over the phone, resulting in upwards of 400 people flocking to the scene within an hour of any announcement. There is a reason for this, and it’s not that anyone is mistaking Typhoon for a feel-good-fun-time-youthful-lots-of-members-and-instruments-party-band. It’s that Typhoon is magnetic, stunning, hypnotic, subdued in their visceral grandeur. People who know Typhoon – a dedicated population – have been waiting for this record for five years. The catharsis is palpable for them, and for the band.
When Morton and the other members of Typhoon (a force involving two drummers, multiple guitars, a horn section and group singing) play for a crowd at one of these houses or at a legitimate venue, it is blaringly evident that they are seasoned beyond their young age. Watching such a group edit, control and restrain themselves, fully aware of the beautiful tension of space between a whispered vocal and an explosive payoff, is an exercise in watching the kind of nonverbal communication that is only possible through deep, almost familial, connection. Fittingly, producer Paul Laxer recorded Hunger & Thirst in Morton and his bandmates’ beloved old Victorian rental house. The lease was about to be up; the landlady was about to be back from Korea – everyone knew their time there was limited, that they were crafting an aural snapshot using room mics and dining rooms. That house can be heard all over the record if you’re listening for it, spaciously framing Typhoon’s lush, well-edited orchestration, its wood floors perfectly warming Morton’s empowered, concerned, delicate vocals in a way that any studio environment would be hard-pressed to capture.
These are songs about striving for what you want, then realizing that once you have it, you don’t want it anymore; that maybe that elusive “thing” was never really the issue anyway. Morton sings about the searches, in all their permutations, the bruises healed by those important to you, impermanence, joy, and finding peace within the incessant desire that has always been man’s burden. He sings with strength and hope about renewal (“Starting Over”), with the entire band in gospel-chorus about confronting and progressing (the .47 second “The Mouth of the Cave”) and with brutal honesty about struggling with a lifelong illness (“The Sickness Unto Death”). Everyone has their own unique path to follow, and Hunger & Thirst is a record that should remind us of the preciousness of exploration, the value of those we meet along the way, and the power within that sustains us on our quests.