Cut Hands

Festival Of The Dead

William Bennett’s Cut Hands project carries more than a cursory whiff of industrial grade theatrical grease paint. During belting live excursions, Bennett has been responsible for sets that are, by turns, manically powerful, fruity camp and brutally cacophonous; a celebration of power drums that display a single-minded devotion to ever increasing circles of thwacking galumph.

Afro-centric rhythmic power, Haitian voudou imagery and a command of electronic tweaking that can test the biggest of stacks; up until now Cut Hands has often seemed a project not just at home in the live arena, but tied to it to a limiting degree. An audio-visual beasting that–once seen–is all but impossible to remove from the memory, the visuals (sometimes beautiful but often disturbing tribal and colonial imagery) are such a pivotal part of the experience that they invade the cranium when removed from the arena. As a result, the Cut Hands LPs released thus far have been somewhat too one dimensional to work as fully immersive home listening records (this was music well suited to the loudly mastered 12" and taken in short medicinal bursts).

Festival Of The Dead changes this somewhat. It broadens both the Cut Hands sound and tempo range, making for a surprisingly nuanced LP. Boasting a sonic clarity and power as well–developed as one would expect from Bennett, there is also a new-found focus away from the previously scattershot rhythms that, in feel and tone, shared more sonic ground with the obsessively spliced drum funk of devoted amen splicers such as Equinox or Paradox. The tracks on Festival Of The Dead introduce both plaintive passages and bone solid rhythmic kinks that are more disciplined and techno compatible.

‘The Claw’ is a masterful slice of ping-pong percussive welter, cavernous subs offset against masterfully satisfying kicks and snares. There is a metronome symmetry at play that makes for a brutally teutonic feel, crushing yet infinitely more DJ friendly than before. ‘Damballah 58’, meanwhile, is pure Cut Hands – a drum ring at full pelt in some crumbling ice rink in an outer borough of the Bronx, battery acid snares offset against industrial clang; the Warriors and Baseball Furies regrouping in the bleachers. ‘Parataxic Distortion’ is a brooding excursion into rotten pastures, sour blood oranges full of (actual) clotted blood.

This album brings home a new-found rhythmic solidity to fine effect, a pounding track that will sit perfectly in the mix amongst any number of austere techno workouts. ‘Belladonna Theme’ (used in the recent Vice documentary on the legendary adult actor/director) hinges on strange drum processing and haunting Coil-esque synth work, while ‘Vaudau Take Me High’ squeezes grainy abrasive texture from strict layered drum tracks. ‘Inlightenment’ signals a short breather of heat haze pads. ‘None Of Your Bones Are Broken’ utilises what sounds like (but almost certainly isn’t) a queasy pitched up banjo to disquieting effect in a hellish hoe down, plastic cups of bad whisky in 90-degree heat at the ready.

In Cut Hands, William Bennett has created one of the most instantly recognisable audio trademarks in electronic music – Festival Of The Dead signals the moment that it makes perfect and glorious sense outside of the sweat box back rooms, a feast for the winter season’s edge.

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