Frighteningly good, this All Seeing Hand group. Here’s their second album – here we have drums (B. Michael Knight) and turntables (Alphabethead) and the throat-singing of Jonny Marks. Deane Hunter adds guitar to three songs but the vision, the sound, the sprawl of The All Seeing Hand comes down to the march of Dave Lombardo-meets-Dennis Chambers drums and all knowing hands (and mind) of Alphabethead to set up the musical template. From there Marks moves the pieces in strange directions issuing storytelling barfs and grunts, the voice as both a baffling, barking lead instrument, a percussive layer and a human sampler.
If you’re lining up a Mike Patton-project comparison – and really, who wouldn’t be? – it’s good to remember when Fantomas joined up with the Melvins to form a spooky big band. Somehow this three-piece manages to emulate aspects of that wonderful horror but it never gets so wayward. This is wonderfully warped, but the precision of the playing – and the space that exists between the players, within their playing (so crucial to the sound) – means that every element can be heard, every element takes the music in exciting new directions, but it’s concise, measured.
It means, too, that The All Seeing Hand can be a trio practicing doom-metal, near death-metal even, and then a jazz trio – sometimes within the same song. There is something joyful in the noises they make, because, like Lightning Bolt, you can hear a confluence of melodies and rhythms, a clash of sounds that goes off to make a third – or fourth – sound in the listener’s head.
And you can knock yourself out assigning moments that might have inspired this music – did it come from John Zorn or Godflesh? Was it Mr Bungle or Hawkwind? And the answer – of course – is yes. Always yes. To everything. Anything. But beyond that, around that, above that – because of all that – this music comes from The All Seeing Hand. It’s as likely to come from the writings of Philip K. Dick as it is the music of Bauhaus, as likely to line up with the early films of Jean-Luc Godard as it is to sit alongside any of the music on any of the bills this band has shared.
And I like that.
And I like this.
It takes me away to view silent movies in my mind; it lifts me up to a new space – away from the cruel confines of my desk, my mortgage, my beaten-up car. It gives me hope, hope that many other bands will start looking for answers beyond the standard bass/drums/guitar format; hope too that this band will continue to rise, continue to inspire, to conquer, to pulverise and punish and wow as both a live and studio act; they’re somehow art instalment and hippie festival throwback. And they’re everything in between.
They’ve made a killer-good album here. Another one. And you know they can do it again after this. They’re one of the best things we have going for us; one of the cleverest, most interesting groups New Zealand could offer. But this isn’t a New Zealand band as such – the people just live here. They searched elsewhere for their answers and they returned with a gift for us all: Mechatronics.