Sunburned Hand of the Man
unburned returns, or something like that. They never really left, of course, and have been tossing releases into the void with a slick frequency that would alarm even the bedroom-muso crowd. The big difference here is Four Tet’s at the controls—King Tubby style—even though the only thing I can honestly relay about the man is that he’s got really great hair. He loans some beats and tickles some ivory, too, plopped down smack in the middle of New England’s baker’s dozen. The whole crowd’s here, too: Groz Izgrenear, Ferrell Longwood, Newt Orleans, Dougie, Jonnie, Marky, Lunkie, etc.
Said gentlemen mix spices, grapple weather vanes, mine Elysian fields and whisper along with the wind—all of which sounds like everything and nothing they’ve done before, but that’s hardly the matter at hand. There’s a stoic focus present that hasn’t reared its reptilian head before; a willingness to explore some dance-floor vibes and a predilection towards swilling sonic cocktails involving copious amounts of crème de menthe and organ squelch, which are neither pitfalls nor shortcomings. Shit’s taken up, brothers-in-arms style and disseminated with patience, wit, and panache.
Have they been listening to more Can and less German Oak? Has Jonnie dropped his Grim Reaper fixation and Bardo Thodol coloring book? Would we ever feel comfortable saying that this is a concerted effort to get—as Texans say—real gone, real quick? Yes, emphatically, to all of the above. Jonnie, forever rocking the box, drops the curtain into a gas/oil mixture and lights it up bright. Newt and Dougie and Lunkie, left with three rounds each and an army to fight, break every unwritten rule and throw themselves into the fray—guitars as percolating mud springs, shakers and tambourines and cymbals painting tiny frescoes out of smashed pomegranate, the blood of gars and water moccasin.
The musical waiting room is forever an uninspired place—see Rush’s version of “Jacob’s Ladder” on Exit, Stage Left—and Sunburned knows this; they bring domestic accouterments into the workplace, softening the borders to where they’re nothing so much as overly microwaved Velveeta in a little paper bowl: hot, soft, orange. Lungs fill and respire. Horns bleat and honk and wail. Voices mumble and whisper nonsense words through loaves of thick, gray wool. Beats throb and thump and the whole tabletop is left intact while Four Tet’s knob twiddles and twaddles rip the cloth from the dinner set with nary a goblet humming. Shit is psychedelic. Shit is visceral and shit is cerebral. I’ve thought about all sorts of stuff while listening to Fire Escape and none of it detracts from the fact that you can dance, drink and fuck to this; you can sweep the kitchen floor to this; you can crash your car, quit your job, flash sauté some chicken livers and Spanish onions in a nearly expired Barolo to this. All great and fulfilling activities, mind you…
Fervent Die Hard apologist Andrew Gaerig posed a perplexing question about Fire Escape that I attempted to half-assed answer. “Nutty Michael Keaton as Batman or nutty Chris O’Donnell as Robin?” Admittedly, I’ve got a hard fucking time thinking of Keaton as anything but Billy Blaze from Night Shift or Jack from Mr. Mom. But this is bona fide Mike Keaton as Batman: “You wanna get nuts? Come on! Let’s get nuts.” Oh, well, hell yeah… The baker’s dozen rolls itself out and fires the oven white hot. What’s made is crisp and moist and satisfying and would likely benefit from nothing but a healthy slathering of almond butter or Nutella. Pondering connections between the Hand and Gotham’s messianic mammal aren’t necessary, but work well with this program. By the time Four Tet’s pianissimo recalls Alice Coltrane’s finest moments of frenzy and fungus you’ll be asking yourself why you hadn’t committed sooner. And that’s a question you’ll be forced to answer, motherfucker.