Handful of Dust

Musica Humana

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Designed as a counterpart to The Philosophick Mercury, with the same overall sense of design and packaging, Musica Humana differs from its counterpart in terms of musical content. Whereas Mercury collected two free-form shows of the band live, Humana compiles what purportedly are the "complete works" of the band from 1990 to 1993. Sources for material include a regular full LP, Concord (originally released on Twisted Village), and a variety of tracks from singles and compilations, including one from the legendary Killing Capitalism With Kindness collection on Turbulence. Russell and Galbraith are the specific stars of the show this time around; Stapleton doesn't appear anywhere on the collection, while the only two guests -- Russell's Dead C bandmate Morley and young son Max -- show up on a single track, the brief "Calling Radio Ethiopia." The Handful of Dust aesthetic runs at full force throughout the various cuts, whether it be the barely-minute-long noise/spoken word collage "The Lonesome Death of Albert Ayler" or the concluding quarter-hour tense semidrones of "A Brief Apology." Russell and Galbraith are credited with everything from vocals and guitar to "toys," and the mad, playful, and sometimes harrowing nature of Dust's work gets more than an adequate airing as a result. "Masonic Inborn" starts off calmly enough, with a squiggly, heavily processed instrument playing the American national anthem while found-sound conversations carry on, only to conclude with a sheet of white noise and dim, muddily recorded pounding. Russell's vocals, as before, seem to consist of readings from the obscure 16th and 17th century texts he enjoys, at least when they appear and are reasonably intelligible. Like Mercury, Humana is packaged as part of an issue of Russell's mock journal Logopandocy, this time containing Russell's sharp "free noise manifesto," "What is Free?," along with an enlightening discussion between Russell and Galbraith and a study of the Jacobean litterateur and nobleman Thomas Urquhart.