Review: Hands Holding The Void – ‘BRDLND’ LP (experimental/ambient/noise)

Coming to us now is the extremely-unique, Chicago-based artist, Hands Holding The Void and their album, BRDLND. Now before we get into the review, you, the reader need to understand the true uniqueness of how the artist created this well-thought out album. So, I urge you to read the Album Description below as those are the only words that could do a description justice.

Anyway, BRDLND contains eight tracks, half of which are pretty short. There’s “Bird Rhythm” I, II & III, and “Flight” I, II, III & IV. Then there’s the “Bird Dream Interlude” which stands on it’s own. It’s a really interesting track that almost gives an environment of gloomy, overcast skies and apocalyptic landscapes. It’s like a slow-moving train at the end of the world.

The “Flight” tracks are pretty special. The first one starts out with this repetitive noise which sounds like a quick-moving wave. It’s at this point where it’s obvious that the artist wants to document the feeling of “travel” What’s strange but very cool is that often these tracks, starting with “Flight I” give the impression that the “travel” is in fact beyond the birds. It’s a slow moving wave or train or distant factory. As it states on their Bandcamp site, BRDLND’s many individual drones, loops, and other improvised sounds were generated by three prepared guitars” A lot of artists can effectively paint sonic pictures of their intended visions but these “Flight” tracks go beyond that as I noted. Very creative albeit unintentional or intentional.

The “Bird Rhythm” tracks are pretty interesting as they use what sound like manipulated, repetitive bird noises. Each of the tracks have very experimental, inventive approaches. But the best of them is the last one and final track of the EP, “Bird Rhythm” III. In less than a minute, the track starts with an apocalyptic noise repeated and proceeds into a combination of odd percussion patterns and bird sounds and then ends simply with the percussion abruptly stopping.

But by FAR, the most intriguing track is the twenty-minute piece, “Flight IV: Night On Earth/BRDLND“. It starts off with a really slow-moving harsh ambient drone and what sounds like distressed, uncomfortable bird noises. It then develops with a very vacuous noise sound then a straight-up uncomfortable mixture (and VERY well mixed) environment of high and low frequencies, and experimental, almost death industrial sounds. This is a landscape from which you cannot escape. Very disturbing but one in which you can’t look away from. At around the nine-minute mark, the listener is then held in suspense with a static noise wall as if they are enveloped but can’t move. The piece then moves into the territory of some highly treated, improvisational string instruments. But it’s as if we forget the sources of these noises. There is chaos weaving in and out of a dystopian landscape and the listener is absolutely enveloped in a track that is expertly-treated with a foreground and backdrop. Track then ends as if the sonic storm is receding and moving out of the way. The bird sounds come in but yet there are memories of chaos and repetition. The listener is left hypnotized not knowing if they are in a nightmare or reality. This track is just about as genius as it gets. It’s mind-boggling-the trouble the artist must have gone through to construct this being mindful of changing moods, depth and movement, repetition and improvisation.

I can’t wait to hear where Hands Holding The Void takes us next. I’m sure it will be interesting. For now, we have a very creative, intriguing and original piece both conceptually and sonically.

Album Description:

BRDLND is a suite of chance-guided soundscapes presented as a sort of Earth-music symphony; both a paean to and lament for the planet, composed——with an assist from certain hollow-boned earthlings——by the planet itself, as it was constructed from a score organized along the paths of migratory birds as they intersect with maps of the Earth’s magnetic fields.

BRDLND’s many individual drones, loops, and other improvised sounds were generated by three prepared guitars, electric bow, a homemade spring-reverb/bass instrument called BBOX, various preparations and unconventional plectra, and a birdsong-triggered drum machine——all routed through a small phalanx of effects pedals.

The aforementioned score was created by superimposing eight bird migratory paths over eight different maps of the Earth’s magnetic fields, transferring that information to a spreadsheet, with each column representing the distance traveled along segments of the migratory paths as they stretch between the contours of the magnetic fields, then transposing those distances into time.

Using chance procedures and information from the maps, the spreadsheet’s columns were populated with various directives and limitations before being transferred to handwritten flashcards, from which 211 individual segments were recorded in random order (within eight instrument groups, one for each migratory path) then reassembled according to the score.

Finally, following the natural ebb and flow of the base composition, BRDLND was organized into four main sections which play out in overlapping cycles, gliding through dark ambient atmospheres and waves of cathartic noise, while three shorter bird/drum solo pieces provide a lively counterpoint to the long motions of the primary tracks.

But the album on digital and ltd. CD formats HERE:

And please check out Hands Holding The Void‘s Youtube channel. They are doing some pretty interesting live drones and more.


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