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The Hafler Trio - Kisses With Both Hands From God's Little Toy

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Artist: The Hafler Trio

Album: Kisses With Both Hands From God's Little Toy

Label: Important

Review date: Sep. 20, 2004

In a pitch black theater, deep in the belly of London’s West End, a bemused audience gaze upon an empty stage (well, apart from three white balloons placed at its front) as a metallic drone whirs, timidly at first, before slowly escalating, marking the commencement of this night’s performance. The next hour and a half is comprised of a unique display of mystical amateur dramatics: torches being shone by bodies attired in black body stockings upon white satin bed sheets, representing who knows what. Suddenly, one solitary shape ambles his way to the back of the auditorium, utters a few indistinguishable phrases through a megaphone and, with that, the show comes to an end. The whole thing comes across like a Coil show done on a shoestring budget, directed by a secondary school drama teacher with ideas above their station. The few members of the audience that remain in their seats as the lights go up escape into the London night, none the wiser, utterly confused.

Such curios are not strangers to the world inhabited by Andrew McKenzie of the Hafler Trio. Since their inception in 1984, they (the very name is a misnomer, for McKenzie is now the only member) have operated under a shroud of mystery and myth manipulation. There was the early arrival of Dr. Edward Moolenbeek, a finely elaborated fabrication and entirely fictional member of the Hafler cartel. Then, of course, there are the records and compact discs themselves, countless mystifying missives conceived as fetish objects, containing opaque arcane texts and surrealist sound pieces.

Kisses With Both Hands From God's Little Toy is a brief work, part of a spate of recent releases from the Hafler stable (other ventures have seen McKenzie collaborate with Autechre and Blixa Bargeld of Einstürzende Neubauten). It operates as a sonic palindrome, ending how it began with an unintelligible foreign male voice, muttering some dark and meaningful/less phrase, to book end the 19 minutes of aural confusion. This is then followed by a barely audible electronic drone, shimmering somewhere just above silence, only to be suddenly interrupted by a loud, piercing human cough and then a spontaneous outbreak of applause. All very strange, typically. Distorted telephone tones and an endless stream of public service announcements, once again barely distinguishable, complete this centrepiece before Kisses comes full circle with the coldness of that same foreign voice we heard at the beginning and, yet, still fail to comprehend. After 19 minutes we remain none the wiser and utterly confused.

By Spencer Grady

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