It’s dark outside; so grab your sunglasses, ‘cos we’re going deep under the wires into the world of Sextile and their rather wonderful debut album ‘A Thousand Hands’.
Like many of you, I’ve been a follower / collector / fanatic – call it what you will – of what could broadly be called alternative music for many, many years. Over that time I’ve amassed, what I think, is a rather splendid collection of some of the best music ever committed to vinyl – Velvet Underground, The Stooges, The Cramps, Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Psychic TV etc.etc.etc… Now just imagine if that (or your) entire collection was dropped from a great height, and shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. Devastating, right? Now imagine you could salvage some those tiny little pieces and somehow manage to piece them back together to create one album that contained all the best bits. That’s right, just the best bits. What would that album sound like? Quite possibly it would end up a lot like ‘A Thousand Hands’.
Opening number, and title track from the album immediately sets the scene. Dark yet inviting, it lures you in with ease. Apparently the inspiration for the title and the album as a whole came from keyboardist, Wuebben’s vision of thousands of hands reaching out for him whilst indulging in a spot of open eye meditation as part of a spirit-channeling experiment.
‘Flesh’, ‘I Can’t Stand It’ and ‘Smoke In The Eye’ weigh in heavy with an awesome mix of doom laden, surf inspired punk, peppered with some rather exquisite Gothic touches, that make it too tough for anything Tarrantino could handle, but make it a clarion call for those missing the decadence of The Cramps at their finest.
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But it’s not all reverb heavy bass lead tunes, right in the centre of it all is ‘Romance’, a mysterious, deep and intriguing soundscape. No vocals, just a short repeated set of chimes over brooding base tracks. Is it a lost beacon from the far reaches of the universe? Or some other subliminal signal? Interpret it as you will. The piece ends abruptly and signifies a change in delivery for the remaining tracks.A more electronic, industrial feel pervades from here to the end.
A mixture of beautifully pompous militaristic drum beats accompany the clash and fuzz of the industrial effects.Mix that with the gentle rattle of zil’s, warping synth and haunting female vocals and you get an intoxicating mix. Think Human League Travelogue era (remember we’re only dealing with the best bits), a dash of Joy Division, only amp it up a bit and add a deeper more tortured vocal. In an earlier interview, I asked the band to describe their sound and tell us about their influences… “Dark post punk. Rozz Williams fronting a new band with William Reid, Genesis P Orridge and John Balance.” – And which bands would you say are your main influences? – “The 39 Clocks for their minimal dark psychedelia. Death in June for marching heavy tom drums. Spacemen 3 for their drugged out two chord beautiful drone. Daniel Ash for everything that he has done. Throbbing Gristle for keeping it the weirdest and influencing weirdos to make art even weirder. Brian Eno, for being a mutant.”
Penultimate track, ‘Visions of You’, – I’m not sure if it’s a true stand out track, because that would imply that the other 10 are slightly less appealing, which is simply not the case. But it does contain all the right attributes – embraces all of the bands influences, including vocals that successfully channel a depth, and emotion equal to anything Ian Curtis conjured up, and manifests itself as a track that in years to come could quite easily be hailed as a classic, not only of a specific genre, but of alternative music full stop.
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So, what are the low points of this album? Two things. 1. If you get the vinyl copy, you have to break it’s flow by getting up and turning over the disc. 2. It doesn’t last for ever. I seriously cannot find fault with any element of this long player. Each track is more than capable of standing on it’s own. I’ve hit shuffle and played it on random – still works great. It is genuinely one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. I thought long and hard to remember other albums that had the same effect on me as A Thousand Hands – lets just say I’m filing my copy on the top shelf between Unknown Pleasures, and Off The Bone. You know where I mean; the right hand side where you’ll find pristine copies of Funhouse, Psychocandy, In The Flat Field…
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A definite 10 out of 10. You NEED this album in your collection.
‘A Thousand Hands’ is released by Felte on the 21st August. You will not be disappointed.
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08.27 Los Angeles, CA @ Non Plus Ultra w/ Terminal A, Big Debbie
09.22 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echoplex w/ Chameleons Vox
Can we have some in the UK soon, please!
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