Available on: Ecstatic Peace LP
“Don’t expect to read about this in the NME,” said the record shop blurb accompanying Sunburned Hand of the Man’s Trickle Down Theory Of Lord Knows What a few years ago. True, Sunburned won’t be signing to XL Recordings and re-mixing Fuck Buttons anytime soon (one hopes) but this collective’s canny contribution to the previous decade’s alternative scene can not be overstated.
When music journalist Ben Graham reminisced about his tenure as an NYU student in the early 90s, he noted that “as a punk-informed English indie kid my American equivalents were still listening to the Grateful Dead”. For most of the 00s, the Dead’s ecologically aware, commune-dwelling, sprawling acid blues has impacted upon – or arguably never left – U.S. underground music’s socio-political ideology. It’s like punk rock, in its most base, hippy-bashing circa Nevermind incarnation, never made it to certain parts of Boston, M.A. as exemplified by New Wyrd Americana. Even Thurston Moore admits this. He’s paid for the record.
I digress. This isn’t strictly a Sunburned album after all. A is part two in a match/mash-up betwixt the aforementioned Massachusetts mong-out maestros and our very own Kieran Hebden. Whilst ostensibly a Sunburned offering, Hebden’s role as editor, mixer and producer is far more pronounced than it was on previous outing, Fire Escape, manifesting itself in the percussive scrapes and drones that abound as well as the queasy, lysergic grooves of tracks such as the drolly titled ‘Now Lift the Outer Finger’ (For Newcastle) or ‘Action Figure’. The latter especially is a joy to behold with its scooped, tough bass throb evoking kosmische delirium far more beautifully than the woeful attempts by certain fashion-plate bands last year. Hebden’s real success here is his understanding of Sunburned’s spiritual essence, corresponding with the producer’s professed love for the likes of Joe Henderson and Alice Coltrane. ‘Alpha, Beta, Adam’, for example, is simply sublime and wouldn’t sound out of place on Coltrane’s Universal Consciousness.
A satisfies in a way Hebden’s other collaborations with Steve Reid never have. Perhaps his earlier days as part of Fridge and their own suburban take on Can’s cluttered cosmic-rock has informed this rewarding collaboration. He doesn’t necessarily temper Sunburned’s sound, merely gives is a different, equally awesome and no less righteous, sonic form.