Rhythm of Black Lines: Human Hand, Animal Band

Kevin Jagernauth

Rhythm of Black Lines

Human Hand, Animal Band

Label: Gold Standard Laboratories
US Release Date: 2004-05-25
UK Release Date: 2004-05-24

With a stack of CDs beside my computer waiting to be listened to and reviewed, I can usually glean an idea of what the band will sound like based on such superficial things as what label the group is on and a quick glance at their one-sheet. However, rare is it that I am as at a loss for words as I am with Human Hand, Animal Band, the fifth full length by the Austin, Texas-based Rhythm of Black Lines. A dense, beautiful album, it is so wholly original and ambitiously conceived that mere comparison couldn't do the band justice.

Spanning ten tracks, the disc has nothing that feels short of epic. Each song could be a mini-EP unto itself as each track feels completely realized. It is rare that I will get this sense of complete devotion when listening to a CD, but here the blood, sweat and tears are palpable. Rhythm Of Black Lines play like each song might be their last and that if they're going to go out, it will be with a bang. It is difficult to describe the album without making references that I feel will short-change the band, and if you were even thinking about picking this up, I would recommend to stop reading here and listen to this album fresh.

From the opening notes of "The Tooth" there is no denying that Rhythm Of Black Lines are going to take you on a journey. Imagine the post-rock guitars of Chicago's finest, battling David Byrne in a classical music-writing showdown and it might begin to approximate just what is going on here. "One Red Eye", the best song on Human Hand, Animal Band, is a prime example of the Rhythm Of Black Lines' visionary songwriting. The song starts a minute of strings and horns that decompose into a swirl of noise and this is all before the song begins, yet none of it feels extraneous or pretentious. The song proper is framed by a rather complex guitar line that leads into a stunning horn driven chorus that has Clint Newsom singing: "To hold your hand you'll run the course / And guide me down a fatal trap / Can't read the type with one open eye / No more red no more blue / No more yellow this is true." The centerpiece of the album is the three-part "PJs". Best experienced as a whole, this is both the loudest and most ambitious part of the album, and it succeeds brilliantly. Brimming with strings and horns the song builds and cascades wonderfully over its twelve-minute running time. This track has song structures reminiscent of prog rock's finest progenitors and with an uncanny attention to detail, and further listens reveal backing vocals, sounds and parts of songs that may have been missed on the first go round.

The term "art rock" usually brings to mind high-minded college students with too much music theory and pop culture references churning out music that needs a thesis attached to it to gain any insight. Though the phrase "art rock" would be more than fitting for Rhythm of Black Lines, it is immediately accessible and rewarding. Imaginatively composed and executed with a confident panache, Human Hand, Animal Band promises a great future from Rhythm of Black Lines.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.