Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hamsas Xiii: delight and enchantment...

Writing about Hamsas Xiii is not an easy task when you are a huge fan of the band and have to necessarily present a neutral assessment of their work and not just a blind critical acclaim just because you like the music they make. 

On the other hand a complete neutrality would not be wise because you’re writing about something that gives you aural pleasure and sets your mind free to trip out. So let’s make an effort to say something wise…

Hamsas Xiii is a duo whose core members are the songstress Robyn Bright from Canadian post punk act Cockatoo and multi-instrumentalist Rich Witherspoon long-time guitarist and co-founder of American goth rock outfit The Wake.

There is also another musician who also joins Hamsas Xiii as a guest studio performer and which is the well known Red Lorry Yellow Lorry guitarist David ‘Wolfie’ Wolfenden who also collaborated with The Mission, Rose of Avalanche and Expelaires.
  Needless to say that in face of such aesthetic background we feel quite tempted to prompty send Hamsas Xiii back to post-punk, goth rock, ethereal, darkwave and drone great dominions where the duo not only nurtures but seeks their Acme. 

That does not work as an handicap, a stigma or a prejudice but quite the opposite. In order to plunge in the depths of Hamsas Xiii sound one must not ignore or delete their musical influences since doing that it would be like denying the musical DNA of these two poets of beautiful and mysterious soundscapes by somehow drying the marrow that represents the essence of their work.

Hamsas Xiii present a sonic proposal built upon all those genre influences mentioned above, though openly assuming them while at the same time rejecting to reproduce mere sonic narratives in spite the fact of their most recognizable references could be effortlessly traced. 

We can say that Hamsas Xiii draw their creative imagination from a wide spectrum of filigranity spanning from hidden secrets and muted feelings, recurrent dreams, anxieties and fears, delayed expectations, angst and frail hope all of them so characteristic of 4AD label and superbly crafted by 4AD acts since the Ivo Watts-Russel/Peter Kent/John Fryer up to present time.

There is in fact a 4ADesque density underlaying Hamsas Xiii work which allows the band to venture into other horizons of experimentation, seek sonic and psychic unknown places crossing the sensibilities of both the creative nucleus.

Nonetheless, this strong reference does not impose itself throughout their work quite the contrary. These two brilliant musicians no matter what they have in their iPod’s seem unable to deny their strongest references and by references we mean those that helped them built their aesthetics.

Today, April 22, is a special moment in time for Hamsas Xiii considering that it coincides with the official release of their long awaited debut album Encompass through US label Blaylox Records
Encompass is definitely a long play album with 15 tracks that constitute a true pleasure to the mind kindly displayed in this first voyage of the Bright/Witherspoon duo. Encompass is somehow what we would call a personal journey questing for a nearer future, though deeply immersed in the past which opens to the present state of creativity of Hamsas Xiii.

According to this perpective Encompass is the best title the Bright/Witherspoon duo, they could have chosen because this debut album reunites much of the material they have previous material of the band now reworked but mostly it serves to point out road that will be probably taken when it comes the time to release a follow up album to this one. 
Encompass is not a list of songs in fact, it is a stunning addictive vicious album that once you get immersed into it you feel the urge to hear it again and again. I can tell you that over the past two weeks I have listened to it more than a dozen of times and each time there is something enjoyable to discover some pleasurable detail that makes a click in your spirit.
Encompass would dare to say that it really isn’t easy listening since you can only get the most out of it if you got some concise background on the influences and references present in Hamsas Xiii work otherwise you will not benefit enough from this truly delicate gem for one simple reason you’ll lack point of contact. It would be like reading a poetry book without understanding what poetry conceals.
If we shuffle through the songs that are part of this album and starting with Unbound and finishing with Breeze we enter a dimension of gloomy atmospheric and melodic fluidity in which the bass is often played as a lead instrument displaying unequivocal influences of Cocteau Twins (Head Over Heels), The Cure (Seventeen Seconds; Faith; Pornography, Carnage Visors and Desintegration), The Sisters of Mercy (First, Last and Always; Floodland), Gene Loves Jezebel (Promise) and surprisingly Joy Division which subconsciously or not are quite present in Encompass.

This maybe due to the role attributed to bass guitar played as lead instrument just like a lead guitar so very similar to what Peter Hook does in both Closer and Unknown Pleasures but also because the syncopated cold drum programming systematically reminds either Joy Division or The Cure and even the big real rock drums notion we find in Encompass is much more related to these bands than to any other band else.

One extremely interesting and rewarding aspects of Encompass is the crossover that blends post punk and its diversity with the strongest middle eastern influences that remind us of Nyaz, the Montreal based band with deep roots in Iran’s music mixed with some intense scent of Massive Attack (Heligoland, 100th Window) and Archive (You All Look The Same to Me) downtempo/trip hop sway but also Silver Ghost Shimmer noise pop and this one have John Fryer’s magic touch. 

Encompass would not be possible without the influences and references gathered through time, but those influences would be useless without the superb talent and artistry of the Bright/Witherspoon duo who was capable to craft an album that is a mix of exoticism and esoterism since each song presents the listener layers and textures like veils that hide and never uncovering the ultimate truth, but keeping a permanent tension between the alleys of a sometimes frantic rhythm with shimmering guitar patterns and lingering vocals, and sometimes thick dark, unsettling guitars and basses that stumble into vocals that range from disquiet to lament and spellbound highlighted with one of the finest senses of drum and percussion heard in a long time. 

I am convinced that Encompass will stand as one of the most brilliant albums of 2015 and years to come leaving the listener in a constant state of desire to get back to it. This album is pure opium absolute delight and enchantment!

Check for yourself and support Hamsas Xiii HERE!