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Published: 2008/01/25
by Brad Farberman

Fire Escape – Sunburned Hand of the Man

Smalltown Supersound

According to ecstaticpeace.com (Ecstatic Peace! being Thurston Moore’s record label), “Sunburned has been dropping mind bombs since 1997.” And, as far as I can tell, that’s a pretty good way to sum up the improvised rock madness that is Sunburned Hand of the Man and their latest disc, Fire Escape.

Born in a loft in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Sunburned, on any given night, may include up to twelve players, and as few as three (Fire Escape features nine musicians). They hail from Belgium, the UK or the northeastern United States. They play guitars, drums, trumpets, violas and, in the case of one Sunburned member, “wheels” and “map.” Leader John Moloney has toured with Six Organs of Admittance (who I think are popular?). Chris Corsano, who now drums for Bjork, has toured and recorded with Sunburned (check out Corsano!). Basically, these guys are cool.

And Kieran Hebden (who releases his music under the name Four Tet) thought so too, after first checking them out in 2003 (he was prompted by The Wire’s August 2003 cover story on the band). Hebden took Sunburned on tour with Four Tet in 2004 and, in 2006, the musician recorded four hours of improvised Sunburned at a studio in London, with the intention of remixing the music as he saw fit. 19 months later, Smalltown Supersound dropped Fire Escape and the music you hold in your hands (if you’re holding a copy of Fire Escape) is downright kickass.

“Nice Butterfly Mask” is eight minutes of sludgy bass, funky drums and menacing trumpet lines (plus other, unidentified, menacing sounds). “What Color Is The Sky In The World You Live In?” is a shorter, meditative piece featuring a pretty piano motif backed by bird sounds, peaceful bassisms and some more trumpet (less menacing this time, though not by much). “The Wind Has Ears” is an eerie, minimalist epic (clocking in at over fifteen minutes) with some scary synth sounds thrown in. P.S.: check out the funky cover art by Yamantaka Eye (Eye, a vocalist, founded Boredoms, and has recorded with John Zorn’s Naked City he also did the cover for Beck’s Midnite Vultures).

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