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Sunburned Hand Of The Man - A

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 29 / 1 / 2010

Sunburned Hand Of The Man - A
Label: Ecstatic Peace
Format: LP


Engrossing vinyl only latest album from Boston-based act Sunburned Hand of the Man, which released under the moniker of Sunburned, proves remarkably comprehensive despite the band releasing another twelve albums last year

The Sunburned Hand of the Man are not the kind of band who espouse brevity in their recorded outfit. One glance at their MySpace blog tells you that they have released somewhere in the region of a hundred albums, a colossal, bewildering amount mostly on small labels in obscure CD-R or LP packaging, as well as material on cassette-only labels such as Fuck It Tapes. Nor are they are a band particularly concerned about penetrating the Billboard Top 40, with albums released entitled 'Live in Shit', 'The Trickle Down Theory of Lord Knows What', 'When The Shit Hits the Jazz', 'Fuckethead' and (as their previous incarnation, the Shit-Spangled Banner) 'Inflated With Self-Hatred', a title that would give GG Allin a run for his money if he were still alive. This sprawling embarrassment of riches doesn’t even include various Sunburned spin-offs such as Sunburned Circle (a collaboration with Finnish psych-rockers Circle), United Light (members of Sunburned, Vibracathedral Orchestra and Jackie-O Motherfucker), and God knows what else; then there’s the fact that their MySpace lists an unbelievable twelve albums that have came out in 2009 alone – not including this release on Ecstatic Peace! Records. With any band that releases such a phenomenal output – Acid Mothers Temple possibly also come to mind – it’s fair to say that the issue of ‘quality control’ can rear it’s head; that somewhat inevitably there are pearls and then there is swine. For every 'Fire Escape', 'Jaybird', 'Wild Animal' and 'Headdress' (and it’s wonderful opening track 'Shitless'), there is also 'The Book of Pressure' and 'Piff’s Clicks' – the former albums containing mind-bending trance-rock funk that bends together funk, noise, free jazz, taped collages and all sorts of music expression at it’s will in a breathtakingly original mix; the latter albums taking the phrase ‘stoned self-indulgence’ to radical new heights, and making the Grateful Dead sound like the Ramones in comparison. So it is with slight trepidation bordering on excitement that any reviewer vaguely aware of Sunburned’s vast oeuvre treats yet another album by the band. Thankfully, the minimally titled 'A' doesn’t disappoint. The second Sunburned album produced by Keiran ‘Four Tet’ Hebden, 'A' takes off where Fire Escape – the previous album in which Hebden was involved – finished. ‘Loft at Sea’ continues the sound of that album, a bizarre synthesis of Broadcast (think ‘The Future Crayon’), Silver Apples, Ash Ra Temple, Can, and even Autechre in places, while all kinds of obscure tangents lift their head elsewhere - Nico’s 'The Marble Index' can even be heard in the organ-heavy 'Now Lift The Outer Figure (For Newcastle)'. 'A Red Rag to a Bull' is a companion of sorts to‘The Parakeet Beat’ from 'Fire Escape', a polyrhythmic percussive piece bringing to mind early 80s drum heavy groups such as This Heat and 23 Skidoo, as well as more recent outfits such as Gang Gang Dance or Liars’ 'Drums Not Dead' LP, before shifting near the end to Derek Bailey-style free guitar frippery. There’s a ghostlike feel to the album, with the drum-less 'Apollo Wind' filled with analogue synth sounds that conjure up a band disembodied and floating away to the Sun, oblivious to anything earthly; the track has more in common with the Aphex Twin or LFO than any psych-rock outfits. Then again, if – as elsewhere on the album - it had vocals. You could almost imagine this sounding like Arthur Baker or various left-field acts in late 70s/early 80s downtown New York City given space to experiment with non-rockist or 'Fourth World' sounds; or Brian Eno circa 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts'. Indeed, what strikes most about 'A', as with 'Fire Escape', is its eclectic nature. Seemingly unconcerned by commercial pressures, Sunburned have weaved together an utterly unique stew of dub, post-rock, noise, and motorik house rhythms into a seamless hole. It still bears little resemblance to anything remotely mainstream, but this is precisely what can make Sunburned so compelling while simultaneously elsewhere so frustrating. 'A', happily, is an engrossing triumph that rewards the listener prepared to concentrate on it’s complicated journey. Though what those other twelve albums released this year sound like in comparison is a moot point, and a mystery to anyone but the seriously hard-core fan…

Track Listing:-
1 The Return Of A & C
2 Now Lift The Outer Finger (For Newcastle)
3 Loft At Sea
4 A Red Rag To A Bull
5 Arp And Hammer
6 Chasm
7 Anger Icon
8 A Sticky Wicket
9 Action Figure
10 Radish Vs. Beet
11 Alpha, Beta, Adam

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