By: Jamie Jones
Melting Hand | facebook | bandcamp |
Released on September 5, 2016 via Hominid Sounds
Much like an invention that, once invented, seems such an obvious idea it’s as if it willed itself into existence, some collaborations seem to make so much sense on paper it feels as if they were fated to happen sooner or later. Take Melting Hand: Russel Smith, guitarist from 80s/90s weirdo psych torchbearers Terminal Cheesecake, working with ever prolific guitar virtuoso Mike Vest, he of Bong/Blown Out/Haikai No Ku? How have they not come together to create an instrumental psych rock record already? High Collider is not so much a ‘supergroup’ as it is the universe finally correcting itself.
From the moment on opener ‘Drug Cop’ where the sinister fuzz of Smith’s slow handed riff, a tone so thick you could put up wallpaper with it, comes up against Vest’s singular style, as ever sounding like he’s trying to carve a hole into another dimension using only guitar noise, you know you’re in for a good time. With Luminous Bodies’ pair Gordon Watson (also of the latest incarnation of Terminal Cheesecake) and Tom Fug (also of Gum Takes Tooth) making up the rhythm section it whipcracks between passages of ominous looming doom and sudden jolts of snare flurries and frantic groove, all capped off by bursts of what sounds like Darth Vader taking a bong hit. Which may sound pretty out there, but it’s actually structured rather neatly almost along a typical verse/chorus/verse pop template. Which seems oddly conventional for the personnel involved.
This, as you may as expect, doesn’t last. The remaining jams take a more relaxed approach to songcraft; though ‘relaxed’ is the last term that should be used to describe the title track. High Collider sounds as it’s titled, like Vest and Smith’s screeching guitars are barrelling towards each other in some sonic supercollider and crashing in beautifully hideous noise, accompanied by some warped screaming that sounds like someone performing a particularly violent exorcism in a speeding car. It’s a brief, bracing tsunami of noise that is completely unhinged. And, in it’s own deranged way, kind of brilliant.
‘Carcel De Ibiza’, in contrast, is the very definition of relaxing. It luxuriates in a low energy haze, with the twin guitars blending into a sort of soporific fug, only lifted by frenetic descending bass runs. It’s a sound not too far from Vest’s work in Blown Out; a trance inducing 11 minutes during which time it’s likely to have subdued you to the point that you’ve pretty much come to accept its dark blues as your new reality. That the old reality should be rude enough to still exist when the song ends comes as something of a disappointment. ‘Chemical Deadline’ plays out at a similar pace, though it deviates from the wall-to-wall guitar attack and instead falls into the old psych rock trap of overusing a bunch of weird effects, like a kid playing with a new toy. Its salvation comes in the form of the propulsive drumming of Tom Fug, powering the song along and elevating it from meandering drone to something more primal and urgent.
‘Slug Race’ caps things off with some meaty stoner riffery, with Watson laying down a positively evil bassline that quickly escalates into a lengthy jam session. The longest track here, Vest and Smith occasionally threaten to slide into a state of torpor, of nice-enough background noodling, but whenever they do Fug and Watson light a firecracker under them, injecting impetus into proceedings. The pace shifts up and down the gears for several minutes of cosmic majesty before just about petering out altogether after 7 minutes, only to come back twice as hard for a delirious everything-at-once finale.
Vest and Smith’s respective guitar tones, the former an otherworldly wail and the latter a filthy dirge, are sonic soulmates, and the rhythm section are the perfect foil for them, dictating the pace and providing flourishes of their own to cap off the spaced out noise. Just loose enough to sound wild and free whilst exercising enough control to give it a sense of consistency and coherency, Melting Hand is the sound of 4 guys who just straight up Know What They’re Doing. If you like your psych rock jams to both be free of bullshit, but also sound like they’re beamed in from a distant galaxy, you really ought to put yourself in their hands for a while. They’ll see you alright.
Listen to High Collider in its entirety here: