Review: Delicate Hand – Cardinal Bird (self-released, Oct 8)

“Indebted [eclectically yet sensibly] to Mark Fisher, Pauline Oliveros, and Peter Blasser,” Delicate Hand’s second release (following August’s 6 & 7) is a masterwork of murk, murmur, and mystery. The diverse trifecta of influenced listed by the artist seem to be more conceptual connections; as far as the music itself goes, I see cues taken, whether intentionally or not, from moldy corner-dwelling outsiders of all eras: Shadow Ring, Idea Fire Company, the Hafler Group, Barn Sour. Dominated by the omnipresent crackle of a dusty record spinning on a dinky old player, the first three tracks on Cardinal Bird don’t merely flit back and forth between the sublime and the surreal—it melds them, casually and cohesively, into a single complex conglomerate. Distorted mutters and nonverbals from answering machines running low on batteries, brooding piano, and restless mic shuffles melt and blur into each other on “Remember Hot Day,” while slurred, scraping string resolutions and intimate domestic creaks knit a warm, moth-eaten swaddling blanket on “Sick, Sweet Coffee.” Emf interference and loose connection hum, things that are usually avoided when using analog equipment, is frequently foregrounded and made unignorably inconspicuous, especially in “Grocery Store Tobacco,” a shifty, shadowy web of error and inconsequence, and “Corncob Pipe, Long Dead” is a fittingly rickety closer, almost rhythmic with its subtle metronomic thump concealed behind the amplified noises of indoor life. This is truly amazing and addictive stuff—”compulsively replayable” doesn’t even do it justice.

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