Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Hundred In The Hands - Red Night

 

You can see the rising inclusion of synthesizers and effects into modern-age rock as either a good thing or a bad one in equal measure. It's safe to say that the classic tradition of primarily guitar-driven drum-accompanying three/four-minute songs, is gone. History. And while the instruments of choice remain just-as-lively and just-as-active, the rising popularity and usage of the synthesizer and other such related electronic equipment has evolved the original palette of 'rock' into this wide-spanning umbrella of sounds and diverse directions in composition. Electronic-rock - which thirty, forty years ago would have been far-fetch even for the B&W sci-fi films of that period - has stapled itself to the culture of music, for better or for worse. The Hundred In The Hands are one of many bands that follow in this lining establishment of synths and strings; beats and blips, and while their debut was more a gentle reassurance into fitting this sound to their own stylish pop set-up, 'Red Night' sees the Brooklyn duo take on a more enveloping and absorbently darker sound.

'Empty Stations' opens the album with what is, surprisingly, an unnerving murmur of violins and low-pitch strings. It feels quite foreign and could be mistaken for completely new and bold territory altogether. But gradually, the synths kick in - humming buzzes lead a rattling drum rhythm as vocalist Eleanore Evadell begins with the song's tag-line words: 'I listen to empty stations', the track thereafter thundering its way almost barbarically forth. Ming in Evadell's faint echoey voice, Hundred's other-half - Jason Friedman; guitars and programming - is left to pull the rush of panicking drumbeats and wavered synthesizers into a somewhat anxious upbeat tempo, and it only intensifies the mood that has already swallowed the track whole. 'Recognize' the following track, integrates Friedman's wavey electric guitars more closely, but the chasmic drum hits and deep bass-like hollows that surround the track remain as clear and, more importantly, niggling as was on the previous track. Evadell's lyrics, however, are more earthly and gracious in their direction this time and the accompanying harmony that calls out from this supposedly hollow background still clings to that deep cavernous consuming sound. But the way the ambience of these background vibes seem to meld and slither against one another is what makes this track memorable. The continuing instrumentation and clashing synthetics only emphasize how important the atmosphere is.

There's certainly a lot more personal and enclosed sound present here than what was on their debut. Gone is the traditional femininity of typical electronic pop music, and while Evadell still shows her human side through what is considered, in most parts, simple and easy-to-grip lyrics, the passiveness in the way they're fed across to us adds more and more dimension to her voice and begins to feel more closer to that of an actual effect or accompaniment to the music than just a mere addition of words and pitch. 'Come With Me' while showcases the band's more nostalgic rock edge, still has a somewhat gaseous weight to it. More-so in the actual lyrics - Evadell singing no less about the romanticism and risk of sticking together, yet the way the track is layered gives it a very 80s continental drive to it to the point that the actual concept itself loses any risk of coming across as too generalized or centralized in regards to the entirety of the song.

The more I listen to this record, the more I find myself drawing comparisons with the later work and methodology of Depeche Mode and how the more darker New Wave reinvention of synthesizer usage could help to both develop and envelop a region of sound rather than seeing machines being used simply as substitutes for keeping rhythm or timing. While Evadell's vocals remain instead, a lot more fresh and open to class this as subterranean as late 80s synth music was in parts, there's a definite suggestiveness about the band's sounds that gives the impression it's close to this same underground exertion as previous bands. 'Keep It Low' draws in a very tense auspiciousness about its synth usage. The way the electronics sound and feel as if having been waken and then been allowed to lively build upon itself gives a much more meaningful perspective on the way the album has progressed up until this point. The vocals here aren't as stand-out and crucial to the vibes formed, than they are on previous tracks, but where Evadell's voice falters, the erratic continuing of the drumbeats fill in what is already a clustered layering of synthetics and organics alike. It's here then that I must flag up what will certainly be, to most people, a cautionary sign for openness regarding this album's sound and deliverance. This is certainly not the most well-executed piece production-wise, and while the first-half of the album was certainly rudimentary and clear to spot where the highlighted instruments lay, there are parts in the latter half that don't necessarily share the same sense of clarity. 'Faded' could be seen as a case where the right elements are, unfortunately, dropped in the wrong places, Evadell's lyrics becoming lost at times behind the build and eventual streaming of bass and distortion that makes up a large portion of the audio.

Following on from this position, the album appears to delve more into less-spacious grounds, instead favoring what some might consider a more shoegaze-like piling of layers and mixed sounds into something more cloudy and fogged over. While this isn't necessarily a full-blown negative on this occasion, the diversity and intricacy demonstrated so well on earlier parts of this record feels departed and withdrawn on tracks like 'Tunnels' which incorporate a more dense and progressive means to their song structure. 'Stay The Night' the penultimate six-minute composite, presents itself as the duo's most effortful attempt at incorporating more experimental progression in their dark-dreamy sound. It's the faint harmonics of Evadell's vocals that receive most of the treatment here, and through it, Evadell becomes almost transcendent against the backdrop of wavering pianos and enclosed guitars. But the concern here is whether the vocals are meant to stand against the music or become a part of - the melting texture of the distortion does bring about some intriguing results, but the deliverance and mechanism for how these sounds come across is, at the very least, lost amidst the effect-laiden processes taking place.

There are some interesting ideas here, and further to that, some interesting ways the duo go about exploring the electronic side of their music. 'Red Nights' is without a doubt more in-depth, more analytical and certainly more tantalizing than their debut. But where the album succeeds in establishing this presetting of more secluded, confined sound, there's a clear and present visibility in where it falters; here, making sure it runs through from beginning to end in a consistent manner. Give these guys time and I'm sure they'll grow into something much more promising. So if 'Red Nights' can be seen as a sort of kick-start to what this New York duo can muster, then the second album from this Brooklyn male-and-female partnership will no doubt catch a fair few people's attention. And if they can improve on this interesting little pile of ideas, then that certain 'few' will undoubtedly build in number.
~Jordan

7.3

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