Künstler Scheiße….. Could It Be Any More? Yes, Yes It Could with Alex’s Hand

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Album artwork often speaks volumes to the future and potential listener and this one is a perfect example of, “You MUST listen to this record!” Why? Just look at it!  It’s so funky it smells of pure Zappa-esque cartooning meets Fritz the Cat animation style with a distant but subtle touch to hardcore English band Sore Throat’s Lp “Disgrace to the Corpse of Sid” but overall strikingly brilliant in where you can stare at for hours and always continue to find something new in it! Like Frank Zappa, Ralph Bakshi, Robert Crumb and Salvador Dali had some kind of artistic love child and drew this cover, I Love it! Thank You Helen Lord for this wonderful piece of album art!  Meet the third album by Euro-US band, Alex’s Hand, a Seattle based movement that one day decided that Berlin was the place to be and uprooted and moved across the pond to Germany. “Künstler Scheiße“, (Artist’s Shit) an hour long live album with a few overdubs made in a Deutschland studio to give us a full blown in and out album of live and studio brilliance and anything but Scheiße

8 tracks to certainly keep our mouths watering for more as we open up with, “Mars Travolta” coming in at just under 7minutes. Slow drawn out guitar pulls scream their way in and we begin our journey in to sound. Shortly thereafter the rest of the band collapse inwards creating a massive barrage of musical onslaughts that throw wave upon wave of notes and sounds at you barrelling out of your speakers before they all scatter around the room like maniacal animals dodging and attacking your senses. In a jazz infused pudding concoction tour de force the band takes on the roles of pretty much every player in the house all at once. The guitars scream and whine like the stampeding four horsemen of the apocalypse at times. The insane onslaught of the drums and horns attack your every pore like stinging needles of notated fury. The dual vocal/spoken words are quick and sharp, short but determined like a rushed . The dirty bass line in the middle just seers over your body like a boiling mudslide before the whole band explodes back in to a firey volcanic eruption that would make Vesuvius look like a firecracker. The start/stops and tempo/timbre changes are seductively insane in this song you just can’t keep up with them and only ride the frenzy that they have created. It carries on till the bitter end and we are blessed with a the sound of a heartbeat that makes you quickly think of the beginning of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and then silence. What the hell just happened there?! I heard, Soft Machine, Zappa, Floyd, Smirking on Man’s Wane, Eilliff and many others all poured in to this melee of sound that just took over my brain and dissolved it in to a pile of mush then rebuilt it in to an ancient artifact of musical expression. Heilige Scheiße! “Samba” follows up next with a very Kraftwerk like robotic intro quickly followed by the reincarnation of Gene Krupa on drums before we are hit with some hard slashing synth walls that summon up the groovy bass line that ebbs and flows like the bouncing waters of the warm pacific ocean as the guitar skips across the top like a bird looking for a high swimming fish to grab at. We drop in to a groovy film noir jazz club feel and the timbre shifts our minds to a dusty Parisian lounge in the late 50’s before it jets off in to a faster paced theme of peaks and valleys as it jives and grooves around the floors under your feet. A samba of whirling dervishes parading around the room to the pulsating drums and spiraling guitar work that just makes you clench your teeth and leap out of your seat reaching for a never ending sky. The song sways to fast and slow like a newbie at the hands of a high powered race car in the rain but here it’s done with precision and style, carefully and meticulously crafted as the notes are laid out for everyone to see. A rite of Shamanic passage is what we hear throughout this song in it’s free jazz form.

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Oh Bill” falls straight out of the Frank Zappa inspirational room as it draws upon the classic feel of the old travelling country song about Bill then snaps and strikes of jazz fused insanity swipes across the way without warning then the song eventually takes off in to a very Eilliff passage briefly before it goes back in to the free form take on things. The start/stops are quick and like lightning kung fu hits to the body your head whips around every time you hear one. With what sounds like a country musical being interrupted by the presiding live band with their whimsical and superior raw power they take over and alter the universe in which the song came from. The intense tightness of the musicianship here is phenomenal as they all know exactly when each other is about to stop or start at the stop on a dime and give change feel. The softer pathways in the song appease your senses to relax then the rest of the band bombards you with their tightly controlled alluring pandemonium as the spoken voice comes straight out of Zappa-land again making you reminisce on all the times you sat in your friend’s basement listening to Frank Zappa albums wondering what is this mayhem I’m listening to? This song combines everything in to one neatly packaged 5:56minute frenzied track. “Trained” starts off with a very light cabaret piano noodling that forms and reforms itself as if we were locked in to an episode of the Twilight Zone. This track is definitely in black and white. Haunting and refreshing, disturbing like the sounds of a patient in Cane Hill at the piano in the room alone, one loses reality here and pauses in a lull to just sit and listen again and again to this track. “Slave” opens up with thoughts of the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Careful with that Axe, Eugene”, that soft and quiet entrance of a track that has you wondering what’s going to happen….and when. The vocals here are pulled up from some depth that lies in the deepest parts of Germany’s Black Forest at the beginning before we are blasted out of the woods at the 2minute mark and told to “GET TO WORK!” “NEVER QUIT” with slathered on guitar and drums and added in the rest of the band accentuating on the notes that you don’t normally hear in that cookie cutter commercialism music on the MTV channels. The song quiets down for a couple of minutes before it launches in to a UK Underground snippet that just stands out in psychedelia with the stretching guitar notes, strained trippy vocals, the snappy drum patterns and synths wails. The tempo/timbre changes here are more laid back here but still very forceful when they do happen. At just over 14minutes the song contains a lot of variances and different styles held within its great walls of sound. The vocal harmonies around the 8minute mark are great signs of homage to their forefathers in the genre and the other styles of music that have influenced them. They’re angelic and choral as well as fitting in in just the right place before the band acquires the space to drop another funktified riff of expression that has you moving and bouncing in your seat. It drives, it jives, it grinds, it binds and it sure as hell ain’t no Ginsu(!) though some of the leads here by any number of the intruments cuts sharper than any knife. The horn section is dark and sweet as they play their refrains out like the sounds heard in clubs in Germany in the late 60’s, early 70’s Krautrock scene. The track is poetic, brutal poetry to be exact as it regales so many different stories throughout its tenure on the album. ‘Statuesque’ best describes the monstrosity of this track. “Back to Evan” takes longer to write about than to listen to, at .49seconds it again sends me to Zappa-land with songs like, “What Ever Happened to All the Fun in the World” and “Wait a Minute” but with also added snippets of things like “Exp” from Axis: Bold as Love by Hendrix in small ways. A very fitting Syd Barrett quickness and Beatles-esque use of the backwards guitar track feel and everything happening all at once to pull of this quick minded flash in the pan on the album that if you weren’t ready for it you would think it was the tail end of the track before it.

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 “Evans Lips” explodes right out of the gates and decimates what hearing you had left in 6seconds with its opening riff and completely nukes your brain as it does it again before it drops in to a cocktail lounge feel that you should be sipping a martini. You know that it won’t last long but you take the ride anyways because you’ve been absorbed in to this album as much as I have and marvel at its brilliance and tight forming free jazz sounds that just floor you with how the band executes each track so well. This one pulls it all out, Jazz, Metal, Prog, Experimentalism, Krautrock, Funk…. literally everything under the sun almost and you follow it like a pop-up book never missing a second of it as it whisks you away through other galaxies and planets where this music is drawn from and magnetized back to earth and culminated in to this band right here. The musicianship is beyond comparison here, possibly to bands like Eilliff from Germany in the 70’s who released a only a couple of albums that was the predecessor to this band now as far as stretching the boundaries of free jazz Prog music. Very Hallimasch in spots from their album Girlsrls in 1972 does this song Evans Lips take on. There is no other way to describe it than, “An Enlightening Movement in 100 Parts or More”, its like watching the world through the window of a time machine as you travel through the eras and ages faster and faster as you watch the world build and crumble, build and crumble only here it’s the music but it doesn’t crumble but instead moves over and builds another facet of the song, then moves over again and does the same thing but differently this time and every time. The world in 8:48minutes handed to you and you can do what thou wilt with it from there. “Habibs” closes off the album and starts off with a true to form free jazz Krautrock entrance that has some dark haunting synthscapes in it as the rest of the band dance around this macabre overtone. Like an ancient tome that has been left open too long this track finalizes the band’s place in the Halls of Prog in the Free Jazz Progressive Wing with pride and sustains them there immortalized with this last track to make the whole album an extraordinary journey in to sound. The harmonies are consistently brilliantly laid out here as the guitars soar and strike through the clouds to the earth below as if thrown by some Greek God then the passive sections where we are left wandering in an open sea of sound that pulls the foggy curtains of haze over our eyes before the sun screams it away and we are faced with another tempo/timbre change and this is all within the first 5minutes! The mid section shrieks with distorted guitars and ad lib vocalizing that could very well be intentional but it has the feel of improvisation and rehearsed all at the same time. The drums and bass tighter than Fort Knox and you couldn’t get in there with vaseline and a shoe horn if you tried! The synths are completely Jekyll and Hyde here as they play both characters throughout the track. Like a Shakespeare tragedy and an Orwellian novel combined in a stew pot, cooked to the boiling point and poured out on to the stage with no chance to cool and told to play this is what you get with the eulogy of a priest at times mixed with the psychedelia of an acid trip in the basement of the church hall in Ipswich circa 1967. The last word we hear or what sounds like we hear before the album abruptly ends is, “What?” which is precisely what I was about to say along with again, “What the Hell was that?!”

Blown away, floored, you name it I am there with this album! It contains so many influences you can’t list them all here and you don’t need to because it has a complete soul of its own and it contains all the ingredients to the Free Form Jazz Prog genre here and then some! This album is so worth getting and adding to your Prog Collective as it truly is a brilliant representation of this facet of the genre. Anticipation has already set in heavily for when their next album comes out and to get my hands on all their other releases as soon as possible! The band has garnered both the underground cult and popular audiences following both in Europe and the United States and here in Canada as well now! ; ) Their music is not to be taken lightly nor comically as it is straight from the gut. Sure there are snippets of humour in it and one can absolutely laugh but always know that what you hear on this album can not be unheard and you will like me play again because it is one of THOSE albums that you can’t resist it and spin it again and listen to what you missed the first time around. This album can be heard at their bandcamp site and I highly suggest you go and do just that and grab it! So worth it ! Enjoy.

alexs-hand-usa

https://www.facebook.com/alexshandband/

https://alexshand.bandcamp.com/

~fin

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Iris says:

    Thank you very very much for this review, sir Duke! 🙂 You made me curious again!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. progbeawr831 says:

      Sadly there’s no videos on YouTube for the new album but their bandcamp has free streaming. It’s mind bogglingly good!

      Liked by 1 person

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