Sunday, March 11, 2012

Music: Hands Off Cuba "Volumes of Sobering Liquid" EP

The title is right. Four cuts of sober Kraut-fusion-lite.

The signifiers are all motorik and psych but stripped of the weirdness and edge usually associated with those terms. HOC give sort of a "Dad Rock" take on their influences.

That's not to say it's not pretty good. The level of musicianship here is high: most of HOC are session players, or play in other bands that value technical proficiency. Scott Martin's drumming is of particular note for its precision, but the playing here is over-controlled and reigned in: tasteful to a fault. Live, Martin unhinges a bit, making exciting transitions between his rapid stop-gap fills and hypnotic, contrapuntal beats.

Too-tasteful is a complaint I have with the other instrumentaion as well. Ben Marcantel's synth (Moog Opus 3) gets a prominent name check on the cover, but is really only audible/interesting on track 2, "Plastic Handle". At other times is could just as well be one of the soft organ sounds favored by the band.

"Ramrod", which begins side 2 chugs into a bright, pulsing motorik but too quickly gets comfortable in its Neu-groove, then drops it for some ambientish delay-guitar.

"Sabretooths" kind of rocks though, opening with a stuttering drum beat, doubled by filtered samples and Adam Bednarik's bass line spanning like an octave and a half. Cool Morricone guitar chords, some fills, and then the record is over.

Pen and ink artwork by Martin on 85% recycled sleeve. Sebastian Speaks.

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