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These Hidden Hands
Vicarious Memories Bob Cluness , August 17th, 2016 13:34

When they released their eponymous album in 2013, These Hidden Hands, the collaborative project between producers Tommy Four Seven and Alain Paul, were a superior example of a trend in “techno” music that sought to break out of the club confines and into the surrounding landscapes and beyond. Unlike most of what was classed as industrial techno at that time – which often consisted of a dull wash of white noise over substandard 4/4 beats –These Hidden Hands, alongside the likes of Lakker, SHXCXCHCXSH and Kangding Ray, blended a crushing maximalism and meticulous expanse in their sound design alongside primitivistic rhythms that sounded as if they were sampled blocks of wood, stone and metal being bashed together with maximum violence. When These Hidden Hands resurfaced this year with the These Moments Dismantled EP, their brutalist industrial sound achieved its near final form, being accompanied with videos of nature and flesh in the raw, with cascading waterfalls, twisted rock and ice structures, alien landscapes mixing alongside strobing fetish and BDSM imagery.

After such a short, sharp, shock of an EP These Hidden hands have quickly followed this up with their 2nd album, Vicarious Memories. Many of the same elements that appeared in These Hidden Handsare still there – there is still the unmistakable gnarled and twisted sounds forged in a foundry gone rogue. Add to this a spectacularly bilious and bubbling electronic palate such as the heaving sounds on ‘Dendera Light’ that leave you feeling particular queasy. But for many sections of Vicarious Memories, they’ve taken a side swerve from the industrial to the overtly gothic. The opening track ‘Glasir’ for example, slams down hard with the sound of grinding guttural organ drones and Gregorian chants. As the organ develops into a melody line that wouldn´t go amiss from a ‘70s Krautrock soundtrack, you can taste the sulphur and smoke by candlelight. On ‘Grelles Licht’ meanwhile, a lurching, crepuscular bass drone is infused with the babble of ghostly female glossia.

Alongside such mantras are vocals from Julie Kotowski and Ale Hope that punctuate the mainly instrumental album. On ‘The Telepath’, Kotowski offers a destitute, elegantly wasted cadence that sits atop a punch-drunk bassline, fidgety samples and tweaking guitar lines. ‘Lima 3AM’, with the vocals of Peruvian Musician Ale Hop, is a different beast altogether – her vocals sound cracked and wounded, a malevolent spirit inside a shambling skeletal pile of trip hop sample muck and noir guitar lines that recall Forest Swords, or Tricky at his most ephemeral.

Alongside the brimstone and grit on Vicarious Memories, These Hidden Hands apply a more prominent melodic flavour in place. The track ‘Angor’ for example mixes some chewy synth lines with atmospheric guitar notes. But the highlight of the album is ‘Socotra’. Continuing with the earlier motif of organ drone half heard whispers, they utilise synth sounds and gossamer arpeggios that swoop and dive with a semi-tribal rhythm that create an aching effect of sadness and longing.

Much of These Hidden Hands’ output until now has been one of sound designs that resemble solid forms or modernity – steel, concrete, glass – that carry the definite mark of subduing and imposing upon you with its force and heft. Even the dirt and distortion is hoovered and scrubbed. But on Vicarious Memories the duo adds increasingly organic elements into their meticulous setup. Creeping vegetation, decay, the stain and haunting of barren places and contamination from the slur and memory of humanity. The closing track, ‘Hoh Xil’, goes full widescreen desertscape, with big room reverb guitar twangs and an increasing crescendo of atmospheric electronics provide a bruising climax to an album that is These Hidden Hands’ most thought through and vital effort so far.

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