By Invention Of Hands
The first thing I noticed was the high standard of the artwork & packaging, which would not look at all out of place in the racks at HMV; however, the CD itself is plain and detracts from the overall appearance. The audio level is high and has obviously been professionally mastered. An avant-garde front cover shows row after row of head & shoulder hairdresser dummies, all identical except for the addition of cosmetic details - rather like a Saturday night at Creation.
First track, "(eventually)", starts with Aphex Twin-like (Selected Ambient Works 2 era) wash of a lush choir pad and in the opening two minutes this track would sound beautiful with the right vocal. Unfortunately, the only vocal that appears is a rather pointless distorted spoken sample, which does not gel with its surroundings. An impossibly slow drumbeat brings with it a sense of claustrophobia, quickly passing when one climatises to the sullen and moody soundscape. While the gentle guitar riffs compliment the initial temper of the track, it soon becomes brash and a little clumsy in the latter half and is too loud within the mix. Thankfully, the melody is passed to a soft piano close.
"Telangiectasia" is led by a nicely reverbed flute riff, but I remain unconvinced after repeated listening that it is flattered by the counter melodies of the guitar and bass. The drums fall out of time at the start and end of a rather unnecessary and ineffective tempo shift climaxing the song.
Third track, "Stem", has a lovely walking bass line, with the amiable guitar and synth perfectly attuned to one another. The clean rhythm guitar sound is a little awkward, but rescues itself with a well-timed jump into distortion. Unexpectedly on first hearing, a quite wonderful female vocal arrives for the closing minute, heavily doused in ghostly reverb; giving it an ethereal quality, sounding like the more subtle of St.Etienne's samples.
A low, repetitive, panned piano starts the final track of this EP. "Lost in the Brightness" is the strongest in terms of melody and a wise choice to finish with. More focused and less meandering lead guitar work helps to create a real feel-good, thought provoking track. With the initial repetitive, hypnotic chord stabbing of the piano re-introducing itself to the foreground at the end of the CD, the mood is both relaxed and serene. That is, until an irrelevant synth squiggle briefly shudders across the speakers! Last minute studio "inspiration", by any chance?
While The Invention of Hand's debut can sound somewhat directionless at times, you would be hard pressed (and have to be a right miserable sod) not to like it. I would be most surprised if these guys did not smoke more than a little weed and would imagine that they would be best received in the late evening of an open air summer festival, after borrowing a little of their stash. Incidentally, I took a look at their website and think they are doing themselves a disservice by promoting The Invention of Hands as merchants of doom and gloom. Their debut left me feeling anything but isolated or depressed - you are not Radiohead, so stop trying to be!
With time, maturity and greater emphasis on structure, The Invention of Hands could be great. "Consider Yourself Denied" (£3 from the website address at the top of the page) is an enjoyable and interesting voyage.