The Sunburned Hand of the Man

Fire Escape

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An amusing prospect that sounds great on paper but yields mixed results, Sunburned Hand of the Man invited Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, to remix some of the ensemble's jam sessions, and somehow managed to come up with their most coherent album to date. It makes some sort of sick sense, one supposes, that Hebden, whose electronica has veered from the beat-driven IDM/laptop pop of Four Tet to the electro-organic post-rock of Fridge to the more avant-garde sessions he did with legendary free jazz drummer Steve Reid under their own names, would be the one to remix the scattershot free folk of the Sunburned crew. Their stream-of-consciousness improvs are hit or miss; they sometimes manage to summon a furious ruckus that almost rocks, in their trademark off-kilter way, and it's Hebden's forays into free jazz-electronica that qualify him to understand just what it means to be "free" here. Most of these tracks meander discordantly and disjointedly in typical Sunburned fashion, or stagger and trip through wonky beats and manipulated live instruments in Hebden's standard cut-and-paste style, and there are some that stand up to the best of either artist's work. The most linear track is "Raw Backwards," a sinister spy theme mixed with psychedelic frug, but it's not even a minute-and-a-half long. "The Parakeet Beat" is straightforward enough with its layers of spliced beats and instrumental snippets from who knows how many sessions. The title track makes it difficult to distinguish where band ends and remixer begins and is probably the best example of pure collaboration. But the standout is "Nice Butterfly Mask": over a deep, flanged bass groove, disparate elements drop in and out of the mix -- moaning horn sections, guitar splatter and synth splutter -- all anchored by a live trap kit jazz shuffle. It's almost dancefloor ready...almost.

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