Sympathetic Stupid

Friday, February 17, 2006

Handsomeboy Technique: Adelie Land

Drowning in a sea of indie-rock, swallowing great gulps of pointy guitar distortion, rough drum sounds and buried vocals; Broken Social Scene this, Sigur Ros this, Tool here, Augie March there, Arctic Monkeys everywhere.

It's Friday of a beautiful summer weekend - maybe the last of the season. Not really the time to be listening to psych-folk or prog or the strangely underwhelming tastes of At War With The Mystics. I didn't realise how little my mp3 player knew me until today.

But then the master plan kicked in. First it hit me with the tinny brass and chaotic rap of Bottle Rocket by The Go! Team. For the first time today, I'm tapping my foot.

And then the beat-boxing pulled into Interstellar Discodrive, and staring out the window at the blue sky I realised I'd meant to write about this ages ago. An apposite transition by the player, because Handsomeboy Technique share certain flavours with The Go! Team. But despite the light, sugar-hit impression they give, for mine they're actually more satisfying.

The Go! Team are aggressively lo-fi. It's happy and not a little nuts, but ultimately I have to be in a particular mood to pump the fuzzy, messy sounds through my cans. (That's radio-speak, by the way. For cred.) Conversely, Handsomeboy Technique have diamond-sharp production which reminds me of The Avalanches; everyone's touchstone in this genre. Sharp, and yet sunny like a summer's day in Melbourne.

Adelie Land has big beats galore, and plenty of hooks to top it off. Best track remains Season Of Young Mouss despite its flaws. One of those is the cheesily embarassing vocal at the start; a rare misplaced sample on a polished album. The other is that it hangs around too long; a common if forgivable failure on this release. The last two minutes of the track, after the middle-eight, is a reprise of the first (nominal) verse and then the chorus, over and over again. The jazz flute sample may be hooky in the extreme, and the hyperactive bass line and light beat may be infectious, but it's stretched a little too far.

This criticism also applies to Quiet Place despite the wonderful piano sample, and to the slower 8000 Laurels despite the funky beat-boxing - but these three are such good tracks that it's hard to hold that against the band.

The album has two distinct moods. There's the dancefloor anthem mode notable in Season Of Young Mouss, as well as Interstellar Discodrive, A Walk Across The Rooftops and most of the album. Then there's the quieter, slower, more melodic Since I Left You mood of, especially, Quiet Place, Adelie Coast Waltz and Affections. Both work like a charm in lifting the darkest of moods - they're just so relentlessly bright and summery.

Adelie Land just makes me dance and smile.

Unfortunately it's only available import from Japan; here it is on Amazon and Tower Records. Both in Japanese. Hey, you might get something else good! That said, I have a copy, so maybe we can come to some arrangement...