Alex's Hand — KaTaTaK
(RAIG no#, 2017, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2017-08-04
Many years ago, I figured out that one quality of some music that really appeals to me is that it seems to either exist in a world of its own or create a world of its own, aside from the standards of music in our real world. This kind of music makes its own rules and doesn’t abide by the conventions followed by other music. This is a quality that Alex’s Hand has had from the beginning, when I reviewed their first EP, and this latest recording is further proof that these guys are not really of this world. KaTaTaK consist of three long tracks (“Waterfalls,” “Epic,” and “Ghost Peppers”) that are effectively suites of multiple divergent sections plus two brief interludes (“KaTaTaK (Inital Catfrontation)” and “The Kattening (Return of the Furer)”). At times you’d almost swear that the longer pieces were digitally assembled from separate recordings, probably shuffled in random order, but this is an illusion. While there is undoubtedly a lot of studio work involved, these are really cohesive pieces — just joined by factors that remain obscure to outsiders. There is a narrative, but it’s more akin to the storytelling of James Joyce or Samuel Delany or Thomas Pynchon (or Mo Yan, to go for an appropriate but lesser-known name) than Charles Dickens or Shakespeare or even Stephen King. Musical references include (the usual suspects) Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, but this band has listened widely in rock, jazz, and classical music and assimilated the sounds without regard to typical boundaries. I don’t know to what degree they intellectualize their process (and it’s irrelevant anyway), but I’m sure I could spend hours analyzing what they’ve created, dissecting themes and transitions and references. But honestly I just get caught up in enjoying the audacious craziness of KaTaTaK. One thing that strikes me is that as complex as the music is structurally, it’s played with a casual looseness that I associate with musicians playing by feel rather than reading charts — this is rock played with a kind of jazz attitude. Another thing is the very live feeling of the recording. While the tracks are over ten minutes in length, I could describe them as epics for people who are easily bored — the mood changes often enough to keep you on your toes as if it were numerous short tracks, though the overall span is probably longer than you normally listen to. “Ghost Peppers” is the outlier here, being the most internally consistent, though not without surprises along the way. Throughout the album there’s a balance between serious artistic intent and exuberant fun that makes KaTaTaK a blast to listen to, and well worth the time it takes to listen to the whole thing.
Related artist(s): Alex's Hand
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.