ALBUM REVIEW
Dominic Valvona



Our Daily Bread 354: Right Hand Left Hand  ‘Zone Rouge’
(Bubblewrap Collective)  LP/ 15th November 2019



A truly global traversing album in which all the compass points referenced could be considered the ideal dark tourist package, the Welsh band Right Hand Left Hand rev-up for a tour de force of environmental trauma on their second LP, Zone Rouge. Bordering deep into the psychogeography, the tainted soil of a number of both well-known and more mysterious cities, towns, islands and plains provide the backdrop for eleven, mostly instrumental, post-punk, math, prog and alt-rock soundtracks. Bad vibes permeate, whether it’s environmental damage or acts of barbarism each stopover shares the common themes of human malevolence, intrusion and ego.

The scars run deep as the band tunnel into the hell’s gate open pit of the Russian diamond mining town of ‘Mirny’ or, beating out a sinister unwieldy industrial reification of the French village tragedy of ‘Oradour-sur-glane’ – scene of a Nazi-meted atrocity in 1944. A second French scene lends its name to the album itself, Zone Rouge being a legacy of WWI, a stretch of battleground contaminated with unexploded munitions, parts of which are still off-limits to this day. Battles style toms and corrosive guitar meet classical mournful melodies on a plaintive survey of this spoiled ground.

The Hands lend a growled, gnarling, cell-door banging abstracted slammed version of the QOTSA and Nine Inch Nails to the idealized Brutalism of the Nazi holiday resort, ‘Prora’; lend an Aegean flavor clandestine menace to the atavistic pawn in a history of warfare and conquer between Turkey and Greece on ‘Smyrna’; and offer a chilling heart of darkness lament to the former Chilean nitrate mine workers town turn Pinochet concentration camp, ‘Chacabuco’. The latter is also one of the only tracks to feature vocals, with former Estrons front-woman Taliesyn Kallstrom not only singing but exhaling, huffing and shouting on the most ghostly of evocations.

Each track on this album is accompanied with various notes in case many of these map references prove too obscure, but they also prompt further investigation. The stories behind the broken-down quasi-Buzzcocks riff with Mexican tremolo ‘Clipperton’ and menacing turn utopia cloud-breaking ‘Florenna’ are really fucked-up: the former, the both tragic and miraculous survivors tale of guano-extracting workers families escaping starvation and a tyrannical murderous rapist lighthouse keeper, the latter, a Galapagos Islands misadventure of abuse.

The Hands snarl and rile, wane and speed through a tumult of influences, from Battles to Holy Fuck, Adam’s Castle to Die Wilde Jagd, on what is an ambitious album in scale and dynamics; one that counterbalances breaks of light with the miasma of greed and trauma; delving deep into the earth as a metaphor for the recesses of humanity’s darkest intentions.  (DV)





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