by Adam Wiltgen
Originally published on 07/01/10 at: driftlessmusic.blogspot.com
Jonathan Miller creates exactly the kind of music I had hoped to encounter when I formally launched this site in January. The Minneapolis-based multi-instrumentalist will be bringing his psychedelic trance-pop act Hands to the Acadia Cafe for the Driftless Music Showcase on July 16.
Jonathan graciously sent me a hard copy of his recently released album Docks and Robes; an epic nine-track, 42-minute collection of meticulously crafted ambient freak folk. While packaged in a decidedly DIY-style (complete with a crayon-colored one-sheet), the recordings sound consistently lush, dynamic, and, well, professional.
This speaks particularly well of Hands, as independent trance / jam / psychedelic recordings often suffer, in my opinion, from garage-centric, lo-fi production value. On one hand, these kind of vibe-based audio collages can be hard to capture on tape. On the other, the kind of people who do it well tend to emphasize the creative process–sometimes at the expense of the end result.
At any rate, Docks and Robes recalls the best elements of Animal Collective, Radiohead, and Grizzly Bear. Pensive, emotional, quirky, and always stimulating. From the frog samples, loops, and Yorke-ish wailing at the beginning of Oblong to the percussion section of rattle snakes, claps, snaps, and bells at the beginning of Brusk no. 3, Miller wastes no time setting the tone of each piece and creating rich timbres to build layers of off.
Versatile, loaded with reverb, and complimented by expansive harmonies, Miller’s voice deftly cuts through the sometimes dense soundscapes underneath it. In tracks like Clergy and Short Smile / Homely Children / Don’t Ask How, the atmospheric colors are blended excellently with tenor guitar and live drums.
I’m very much looking forward to how Hands’ music translates to the stage. I’m not even sure what the band / live act consists of, but as a vote of confidence, Hands also has upcoming gigs later this summer in the Twin Cities at trendy venues like Medusa, the Turf Club, Sauce, & Lee’s, as well as in New York City at the Trash Bar and Pianos NYC.
Turn off your lights, turn up your speakers, and listen to the entire album via the widget below. You won’t regret it!