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Melting Hand
Faces Of Earth Noel Gardner , September 13th, 2018 07:22

Children of the soil – rejoice!

For a band whose first album didn’t sound like it was scrimping, sonically speaking, on pretty much anything, Melting Hand’s second album is remarkable for packing in more of everything. More members, for one thing, and more vocals from more heads who dropped in for useful guest spots; more speed (as in velocity), at times, but also more apparent consideration in these five songs’ arrangements, rather than smokebelching free-associative heavy-psych jam sessions all in the red all the time and get knotted if you don’t like, alright?

Which is not to suggest that Faces Of Earth isn’t the verdant jungle of wailing out-rock abandon that its personnel should amount to. Indeed, it stacks up ably next to many of that personnel’s other bands, as contemporary underground British psychedelia goes. If you like guitarist Mike Vest in Blown Out, Haikai No Ku or 11 Paranoias, it’s hard to see why you’d not like him here; ditto bassist Gordon Watson in Terminal Cheesecake or Luminous Bodies, or drummer Tom Fugelsang in Luminous Bodies. Second guitarist Marion Andrau (a replacement for Russ Smith, on account of the latter’s limited availability while living in France) doesn’t sound a whole lot like The Wharves, her folk-edged postpunkish band presently in hibernation, but she’s a sterling anchor to Vest’s more bombastic, exploratory style. Finally, Wayne Adams – also found marrying breakcore, metal and noiserock in Big Lad and Petbrick; he and Watson are two of the people behind Hominid Sounds, the label releasing Faces Of Earth – weighs in on synth.

These blowouts sound like they’ve been going on for years, or could do. One could infer a spiritual bent: High Collider, Melting Hand’s 2016 debut, might not have been a drug-themed concept LP, but its song titles float that possibility. This time round, we have ‘Dust’, ‘Earth’, ‘Terra’, ‘Gaia’ and ‘Dirt’: nature’s debris, measured out in molecules. Maybe. Faces Of Earth is one to project your own meaning onto as you descend to its centre, rather than fussing about what was going through the musicians’ minds.

‘Dust’ alone is more of a showcase for Fugelsang’s drumming than the whole of High Collider, where more abstract playing kind of, well, melted him into the morass (in a lovely way, but still). His shuffling Liebezeit funk moves spar with yawning arcs of guitar, like Loop out to lunch all day; for the first two-thirds of ‘Gaia’, where matters are more delicately wah-pedalled and supplemented with spacerock synth twinkle, percussion is again given big billing. I mention the two-thirds, because the remainder morphs into a hard, blazing psych-punk race to the line which could give Phoenix wreckers Destruction Unit a run for their money – and if that pricks up yer ears, then you’ll like ‘Terra’, the number before it, as it’s like that all the way.

You suppose, though, that Faces Of Earth’s showpieces ought to be the two (relative) epics. ‘Dirt’, the ten-and-a-half-minute closing flourish, is perhaps its most High Collider-like moment, and driven by some gloriously textbook Vest guitar pyro. More audacious is ‘Earth’, originally recorded in the 1970s by jazz saxophonist Joe Henderson with a band including Alice Coltrane and repurposed in rock form here. This could have been a bad and hubristic move, but it’s both respectful and innovative – never more than when a greasy-teen proto-metal guitar solo precedes Sinead Young (Glaswegian vocalist of Lower Slaughter) intoning “Children of the soil – rejoice!” like a creepy pagan in some lost Britsploitation movie. As a slogan, it just about nails this album.

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