Recorded in the summer of 2002 at the Sunburned Hand of the Man's Charlestown, MA, loft space, The Trickle Down Theory of Lord Knows What first appeared as a limited LP release on Eclipse in 2003. The following year, that label issued a CD version, making the album one of the first Sunburned releases to gain decent indie distribution after a series of vinyl and CD-R appearances. Regardless of its date of creation, however, this music is temporally difficult to locate. Indeed, the development documented on Sunburned releases can often be only partially apparent, even to the trained ear (i.e., listeners familiar with similar intersections of lo-fi aesthetics and free improvisation). That may be because the group's trajectory isn't about "progress" in the traditional, songwriterly sense, but something altogether more difficult to quantify. Captured here is the emergence of a collective sound that draws upon, yet ultimately transcends, the style and impetus of its individual players. Like modern-day field recordings, the music was extracted "as is" from a June 20th session. As a result, songs occasionally cut abruptly or fade out mid-flow. Standard song structure is continually avoided in favor of webs of repetition against which the group manipulates shifting plates of tone and texture like sonic spells. On album bookends "Spell It Out" and "Rivershine," percussion supports a series of drones, alien melodies, and vocal incantations. On the desolate, disquieting "The Easy Ease," the group dispenses with pulse altogether, the music set adrift on a sea of murky low frequency, cascading bells, and fractured sound. "Show of Hands," with its persistent acoustic strum and electric leads, is perhaps the most conventional item on display, yet it too is disrupted. The song escalates into a chaos of ecstatic shouting and repetitive guitar possession, only to reemerge transformed and slightly subdued. Like everything here, it's only half coherent, lying somewhere between an end result (a "song") and the route to it.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush