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Directing Hand - Bells For Augustine Lesage

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Artist: Directing Hand

Album: Bells For Augustine Lesage

Label: Secret Eye

Review date: Feb. 18, 2006

Alexander Neilson is one of the busiest drummers/percussionists in the British underground. Best known for three collaborative albums with Richard Youngs and live performances with Jandek, Neilson is just as active on the sidelines, as a member of Scatter, playing with Ashtray Navigations, Taurpis Tula, Mirror and Alasdair Roberts, or in the group ensemble Helvetica Is The Perfume Of The City. Directing Hand is his solo project, and though he calls on a wide pool of instrumentalists to help sketch his ideas, albums like Bells For Augustin Lesage certainly manifest his most personal visions.

While there have been many recent attempts to cross folk music and improvisation, many fail due to the overbearing earnestness of the participants. Neilson however has a canny knack for reconciling the two impulses. He has correctly divined the slow-breathing, unmetered pulse similar to folk and improv. Opening with a nostalgic, glowing organ drone on “Beamsley Beacon,” the Directing Hand ensemble spend most of their time levitating watery, swooning improvisations with sawing strings and clattering bells. On “His Precious Blood,” guest player Christina Carter of Charalambides ascends from the dense, skirling interplay with siren vocals like a spectre or chimera up from the depths. The strongest songs are left to the end, where Directing Hand grab hold of two traditional tunes, “Hangman” and “Lowlands,” and untangle them slowly, Neilson’s shy, cracked vocals coasting the creaky hum of the latter as though he’s heartbroken and all out of air.

By Jon Dale

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