Spiritual Libertines

Handful of Dust

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Spiritual Libertines Review

by Ned Raggett

Though this compilation of various singles and unreleased numbers is bookended by two long, live pieces by the Russell/Galbraith/Stapleton lineup -- both numbers are examples of improv and free noise at their best -- most of the songs here are much shorter in comparison, being studio selections almost solely performed by Russell. They're no less extreme, however, as even a brief listen will rapidly make clear. It turns out Russell is as deft with the violin as Galbraith, finding newer and more aggressive ways to create music with it, as evidenced by "The First Dance...." On two other tracks, he plays the violin opposite Kate Russell's drumming; the first of these, "The Second Dance...," is one of the most straightforward things he has ever recorded, sounding not unlike a stately dance measure (albeit one with the lo-fi edge that characterizes most Handful recordings). Heavily treated percussion from undefined sources -- possibly gongs -- creates the basis for two other songs, "His Heart Savage..." and "This World Has...," the latter of which contains spoken-word parts and features a kazoo used in ways you've never heard that instrument used before. Two tracks feature Galbraith on violin while Russell plays an extremely high pitched organ, with the expected avant mysteriousness accompanied at points by a distinct quirkiness, as on "Roses and Bitumen, Gift of Song." Meanwhile, "The Oneness of Adam Quadmon" finds Galbraith and Russell performing solely on synthesizers, resulting in a lengthy, disturbingly beautiful piece that has as much subtle humor in it as ominous foreboding.

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