Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Sunburned Hand of the Man - Sugar Mongolia / Process of Weed(ing Out) (Manhand CS)
Went to another show Monday night, this time up in Albany. Jack (of Burnt Hills) hosted, and he somehow managed to rally Zac Davis (of Lambsbread and Maim & Disfigure), Dolphins into the Future and The Skaters to play in his basement. Needless to say, I picked up some serious merch, but I figured I'd get the Sunburned cassette I got on Saturday in before it gets buried beneath everything else I've accumulated.
Actually, this tape is the only thing I picked up from them the other night, which was a real shocker. Maybe it's that new cassette deck I got, but somehow that cheapo ($5) tape with the skull on it had my attention more than anything else (well, except for the four cassette Loft Sessions--Moloney wouldn't sell it to me since it was missing its insert... blast). But enough of my blubbering, your here to hear, right?
The cassette is essentially just a single tape: one side has the 6 minute-ish "Sugar Mongolia" and the other has the 7ish "Process of Weed(ing Out)." The opener starts off in surprising fashion indeed. We're talking about a straight up duel guitar, drums, bass, and electric keyboard jam sesh, no frills attached. Sure, it's got that signature Sunburned psych sound--lay some effects over this, some weird vocal outbursts or something, and you've pretty much got a sound not far from Jaybird--but this could also be the practice session of some mid-70s instrumental smooth funk outfit. The piece starts to meander at a certain point, loosening up into something resembling Can territory. All deep, in-the-pocket bass lines and minimalist work by all. Pretty much the closest thing to an unabashed instrumental jam I've heard from them, complete with slow, steady break down, organ fills etc. before the guitar lick kicks back in sounding like a cross between Uncle Meat era Zappa and Amon Duul II. If anything, the tape does groove, and in a weird way it displays the group's strengths as a rock outfit in their own right. The guys can really play, and this is a cohesive instrumental jam that relies on no trickery whatsoever to do what it needs to.
"Process of Weed(ing Out)"--killer title, no?--is a different story completely. Moloney's drums start out right anxious, all skittery jazzish stuff while strange rhythms bounce in the background like floats hitting each other in the ocean. Guitar makes its way in and out with harsh No Wave style shards, though its quiet enough that it becomes more of an atmospheric touch than anything. The name of the game here is definitely rhythm, though I confess that isn't saying anything much regarding Sunburned. Part of what has always made the group work is their percussive qualities. I once read an interview where they said something along the lines of everyone in the band being a percussionist in some way, and it's true. Guess that's how come they can switch from the aimless free weirdness of the beginning to, two minutes later, a virtual punk throttle ahead driver. Guitar's louder now, really wailin, and it's all kind a big speeding train looking for a crash site. Like Iron Maiden covering DNA in Pere Ubu's basement. Deconstructivist stuff. Again though, the track strangely puts the group on display as a working unit--they really do know how to improvise together.
This might be the first time I've witnessed Sunburned in this kind of setting. They don't seem to have any of their electronic weird-makers, bells, or any of the things that I typically expect from this crew. Instead, it's a stripped-down look at how tight a unit this group can be in vastly different contexts. A cool little curio for all you non-believers. Actually, some people nay-say the Burned ones for this very reason; you know, "they're really just a psychedelic JAM band" material. That may be the case, but if you're making that comparison than Muddy Waters and Phish fall in the same category. Shit, guess that means I have to stop listening to Phish... yuk yuk.