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Alex's Hand — Hungarian Spa
(Bandcamp no#, 2019, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2020-03-13

Hungarian Spa Cover art

From the very beginning, Alex’s Hand has been a band with a distinctive vision of what they wanted to sound like — or maybe I should say “visions,” since their sound has continued to evolve. Or maybe they’re just learning how to better accomplish what they’ve aimed for all along. In any case, Hungarian Spa finds the core of the band (Kellen Mills on bass and Nic Barnes on drums) augmented by an expanded lineup featuring guitar (Ruben Bernges), keyboards (Danielle Friedman), vibraphone (Jacopo Bazzarri), two saxes (Matt Kennon and Giovanni Chirico), and two brass (Dima Bondarev and Scott Flynn), plus singer Erik Leuthäuser on most tracks. On top of that, more than a dozen other musicians contribute strings, more horns, vocals, guitar, and so on. The result has features in common with big band jazz, Frank Zappa’s larger ensembles, and RIO chamber rock, all filtered through a post-Mr Bungle sensibility that sets Alex’s Hand apart from any other band on this planet (maybe there’s another planet out there where every band sounds like this, but I’ve never been there). And while “unpredictable” is one of the most appropriate adjectives I can use to describe their music, even the strangest changes have a kind of sense to them. A heavy rock riff in an odd meter, a meditative saxophone solo, and elaborate vocal harmonies can all cohabit the same song. There are so many WTF moments that you have to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Those with theoretical inclinations might detect some very sophisticated techniques in the composition and arrangement, but deciphering them isn’t necessary for enjoyment. Hugarian Spa is a surreal journey full of weird characters and confusing situations, but it’s an amazing trip!

Filed under: New releases, 2019 releases

Related artist(s): Alex's Hand

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