“The Phenomenal Handclap Band” – ‘The Phenomenal Handclap Band’
I must admit, it has been a long while since any of my reviews featured on Highly Evolved at all during these past few months. In all honesty, although the blog perseveres on without us, I feel that the initial spark it began with and the unnatural fervour with which we approached it, may be lost in the following months – and years, perhaps [we hope] – to come. Highly Evolved began as one of my best friend’s ideas back on MySpace; mind you, without much publicity, feedback or acknowledgement. And as a result: he moved out here to WordPress, where we have been assured now – at least – that a hundred eyes read our work daily.
For better or worse, we’re now left with the aftermath of the fruits of our labour. All in all, I think it’s been worth it. And my partner would admit that despite the finish of High School life, the time that’s been left on our hands will be put to musical use one way or another; blog or otherwise. We’re in that never ending spiral called adulthood, we’re stuck trying to find something in this near-hell limbo-space between High-School-closure and University/TAFE-invite. And during these weeks, or months [for time remains elusive] I’ve tried to get back in that same head space I was when I began – joyfully looking for albums and artists that deserved some recognition with an open mind and willing ears. My fingers have been eager to tap out some constructive criticism, and although my search for albums has been full of many uneventful tracks, ordinary lyrics, and only mildly tasteful bands, ‘The Phenomenal Handclap Band’ are a group which I’ve been trying to get my hands [no pun intended] on since their release early-to-mid this year. So, without a second more of your time well-spent, wasted:
This self-titled debut brings together luminaries from the growing New York, Brooklyn scene quickly taking shape over in the good-ol’ US-of-A. For those Highly Evolved regulars, you’ll remember a distinctive band called ‘The Bavarian Druglords’, which debuted earlier this year with their smash-hit “205”, hailing from Brooklyn also; among others. So, for review details on those legends, click [here]. Distracted much – for you see, my head is swimming in unnecessary details – I’ll dig a little deeper into ‘… Handclap Band’, and some member-specifics. Centering the band are ‘Daniel Collás’ – also known as ‘The Witch Doctor’ – and ‘Sean Marquand’ – also known as ‘The Medicine Man’ – the original conspirators for the‘… Handclap Band’, who :
“… after years of searching and contemplation, through live performance and the manipulation of recorded music, have finally succeeded in the personification of their holy vision…” – Last.fm Summary
Together with these visionaries, members: ‘Patrick Wood’, ‘Nicholas Movshon’, ‘Luke O’Malley’, ‘Laura Marin’, ‘Quinn Luke’ and ‘Joan Tick’, further aided by the talents of ‘Aurelio Valle‘, ‘Carol C’, ‘Jaleel Bunton’, ‘Bart Davenport’, ‘Jon Spencer‘, and ‘Lady Tigra’, among others. This carefully constructed ensemble of characters, further enhancing the distinct and memorable aspects of the ‘… Handclap Band’, define the lengths and effort that this band includes within their music, compounding its musical qualities into some wierd and wonderful celestial being. Perhaps I’m a little over-exuberant, but it’s like reading a list full of potential crusaders who march under the banner of the almighty and omnipotent Handclap.
At around ninety-minutes in total length, “… Handclap Band” is more like a full-length feature film than an actual album, with tracks averaging out at around the six-to-seven-minute mark, with nothing under five. In this respect, some listeners might find that tracks become mired in overly drawn solos and repetitive choruses, but I was surprised to find that these tracks manage to shake it up enough to keep things interesting. Tracks are fresh, no-one is ever truly alike; all in all, the album shifts between the elements of psychedelica, electronica, rock and I can’t believe I’m writing this, but for some unknown reason, some aspects of “… Handclap Band” are nostalgically disco. I know, I know, what on Earth am I saying?
It’s the truth, I can’t help but feel drawn to this misunderstood genre, still lost somewhere in the underworld. Although occasionally withdrawn, its presence lingers in and out of the shadows. So, if this is a put-off, all I can suggest is: BE PATIENT. There’s enough psychedelica, rock, and electronica to keep that elephant in the room subdued with cattle prods and the likes. By all means:
“The Phenomenal Handclap Band” truly exploit each and every aspect of musical composition, instrumentation and vocalisation, to the degree where individual instrument recognition becomes easily blurred in a myriad of bluesy, often jazzy, layers of brass, percussion, or otherwise. Conversely, there can be just as much use of electronic apparatus as there can be acoustic, either solely, or a mixture. Of course, featuring predominantly in “… Handclap Band” are the consistencies we would expect from any emerging group present in the Naughties: electric guitar, or guitar instrumentation of some kind, and vocal/lyrical tandem. In this regard, you might already know what to expect from ‘… Handclap Band’, but I’ll dash those theories from your mind by saying that vocalisation of any chorus and affiliate lyrics are comfortably shared between multiple singers, with varying degrees of intimacy, strength, appeal, and listener satisfaction. So, expect both male and female vocals, from at least five or more different vocalists.
Although length-wise, I’ve only skimmed the surface of “… Handclap Band’s” tracks, it’s extraordinarily difficult to set some sort of summary-statement that represents them in some overall way. Suffice to say, I will go into a somewhat in-depth discussion on a small handful, but on the whole, leave a majority up to the listener’s discretion.
“The Journey To Serra da Estrel” is the opening legacy for “The Phenomenal Handclap Band”, and overall, it’s some instrumental-stimulus lacking lyrics, vocalisation, and chorus. Nearly eight-minutes of mind-bending material, you’ll find a mixture of typical electronica synth, elec. guitar, acou. percussion, and wavy, ambient-like layers as a wind blows in between the silence. Overall, it’s an interesting introduction to the album. It’s much like the warm-up an orchestra might utilise before the main feature, although this one is much more coordinated than simple tune-checking. Unlike a majority of the album, which predominantly contains lyrics and vocalisation of some kind, “The Journey To Serra da Estrel” is an odd-ball I can’t quite place my finger on. Not to say that I dislike this odd-ball, it is exceptionally strung – in album-context, it becomes fully appreciated: separately, it’s completely useless to interpret. So, accept that this eight-minute journey puts you on the multi-coloured-brick-road, rather, than thrusting you into a time-warping rollercoaster of unexpected bliss.
Following, and onto one of my personal favourites for the album, “All Of The Above”, which really contextualise the opener; here, we have reminiscent composition, backing guitar and percussion, and the all-powerful helicopter-synth – less emphatic, less beat orientated, more like eighties keyboard or disco lead. Complementing top-hat and percussion, together with lead-stealing elec. guitar helps drive the song into its chorus at 1:20, with the very disco-esque vocalisation and lyrics:
“You’ve been through a lot these days, I can tell by the look in your eyes…*”
[Oh, the irony!]
If at all, you’ll remember the sensual, thought-provocative promiscuity of:
“… A… B… C… D…”
Flitting between the stereo channels, left and right; just when you thought the first four letters of the alphabet couldn’t get any sexier – think again! Sesame Street, eat your heart out.
I’ll jump straight to the middle of this delectable album, because I bet all those Australian readers have been wondering who does the backing-track to that lingerie add for Target* [or was it Bonds*?]. Yes, the one with the girls in roller blades and bikinis. No, I’m not the only one who remembers that random, obscure advertisement. I’m sure the lyrics:
“five, ten, to fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty…”
Will spark that memory of yours? Together with an emphatic beat, this has to be the least ‘… Handclap Band’ orientated track to date. Out of album context, this track is definitely – if not already – mainstream making, and as a result, I would have never guessed it to belong to such a band with such a unique and definitive style. Nevertheless, here it is; the world is now smaller as a result.
“The Martyr” is probably the most nostalgic track that ‘The Phenomenal Handclap Band’ can deliver, and that’s because it brings with it the uncanny use of keyboard synth, high-pitched vocals, and laid-back elec. guitar. Somewhat lyric-orientated, despite some crazy – somewhat psychedelic – solos, it’s a fine track nonetheless.
Just like my review, the album’s lengthy – so it deserves a few playthroughs before any final, hasty judgements: it’s not something that will blow you away completely, but you’ll thoroughly enjoy “The Phenomenal Handclap Band” if you put your hands together long enough [pun intended]. It’s a fantastic album for my return to music reviewing on Highly Evolved, and although our Joint Reviews seem to be in a bit of jeopardy, I’m sure this will kick-start some action back into the blog. Just the same, some killer-potential happening here. I know it was a while back, and I apologise for reviewing it so late in the year.
Stand-out Tracks: “The Journey To Serra da Estrel”, “All Of The Above”, “15 to 20”, “The Martyr”, “Baby”
The Enantiomorphic God