One Hand Loves the Other are a new, up-and-coming
Atlanta band. Heck, after we received this promo CD, we got
excited news from their label (Stickfigure)
that at a recent New York City appearance none other than Liza
Minnelli approached the band to say she was a fan. I am not
sure if that is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing (really -- why
they heck is Liza Minnelli famous, aside from being a Gay Icon?
Was she an actress or something???), but it is definitely an
Odd Thing. (Brendan's Note: Liza Minnelli
is best known for being the daughter of Judy Garland. You have
heard of Judy Garland, PostLibyan, right? Oh yeah, and she
won a Best Actress in 1973 for her performance in Cabaret.)
You see, One Hand Loves the Other is one of the most unique bands i have heard in a while. They have a DJ who programs strange, crunchy IDM beats, while a cello saws away over a nice piano melody, and a soul singer belts it out. How very ... odd. Perhaps they are the first soul/IDM/chamber music fusion band. I do suppose that, realistically, it was only a matter of time before someone made music like this. IDM and post-rock (which at one point in time was based on the cello) have been circling each other for years, like two dogs not sure whether to fight or sniff each other. So that part of the band was obvious, really. Adding in the soulful vocals of Lou (all band members only list first names on the disc) was a bit of an inspiration, although i suppose one inspired by geography. That is to say, can you even throw a pine cone in this city without hitting someone who tries to sing in a gaspy, breathy, soulful style? (I am looking at you, Atlanta Hip-hop community!)
Either way, it's new, it's fresh, it's different. DJ Mikey really ties it all together. His beats drive the songs, and in some cases he even seems to play cut-n-paste with Lou's vocals. Of particular additional notice is the pianowork of Nancy, who really is a wonderful counterpoint to Mikey's beats. Lou's voice is a nice touch, but i think that the overly breathy soul singer style gets tedious after a while. Fortunately Mikey and Nancy, with help from cellist Mary, keep a lot going on in the background, so that Lou's voice is one element of many, and not the only focal point (as is the case with so much of "modern soul").
As the first record for what appears to be a young band, the songs hold together pretty well. Some of them are a little weaker than others, but the few standouts are really remarkable. Of particular note is Rubbernecker Nightingale, which builds to a cello / beats / synth frenzy in the instrumental middle that reminds me, in some small way, of what Underwater were doing on their last record. It is catchy and beautiful, and Lou really turns in a nice performance, pushing his voice almost to falsetto.
I also really like 2 Not 3, which features a great synth line and adds Lou's voice in multiple layers to the frenzy of beats and synths. Very nice.
This is their debut CD, and they manage to pull it off remarkable well. However, i am very curious as to see where this all leads. This CD is the sound of a band trying something very new and finding their feet. They have combined several elements to make an interesting fusion: now what do they do with it?
I suppose that i will have to wait and see. And so will Liza Minnelli!