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The Hundred in the Hands - This Desert

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Artist: The Hundred in the Hands

Album: This Desert

Label: Warp

Review date: Jul. 1, 2010

The Hundred In The Hands, (which sounds like a rap crew name, but is actually a Lakota reference to the Fetterman Massacre of 1866) are a girl/boy synth-pop duo from Brooklyn. At this point, you’re probably thinking Brooklynites doing rehashed 1980s synth songs has become rather caricatured. While I agree that it is certainly beating a dead horse, I do hold some stock in anything Warp offers— so that means an extended look at THITH’s Eleanor Everdell and Jason Friedman.

After releasing their debut single “Dressed in Dresden” back in December, the pair now have this six song EP, beginning with “Building In L.O.V.E.” The track’s lyrics, handled by Everdell, mention a failed condominium development (and its subsequent vandalization) amid ancillary arrangements of gothic choir, staccato synths and Rhodes. Its mid-tempo drum programming and sequencing is top notch (as it is throughout This Desert), vaguely reminiscent of Junior Boys, albeit with bland, bordering on bizarre lyricism.

“Tom Tom” putters along with a disco backbeat of analogue drum machines and chopped samples, finding Everdell sounding like Suzanne Vega (a comparison at which I’m sure she’d cringe). “Could have stood by you for days / I would forget the world for you,” she sings in the refrain; it sounds sincere, but loses meaning after being repeated for an entire minute. The impression is that this song, as with the others, is an exercise—going through the motions, as it were.

“Ghosts” bears the watermarks of post-punk and minimal wave sounds, while nicking the better part of a guitar line from Portishead’s “We Carry On.” The track’s pulsing four-on-the-floor drums and use of space is spot on — though it ultimately comes off flighty and sounds oh-so-familiar. They ratchet up the pace on the flip-side with “Sleepwalkers” — the most accomplished cut on the EP — a culmination of perfect pop-sensibility conflating with more of their tasteful, restrained production.

The druggy vibe of “In To It” permeates a sexy fog, with Durutti Column-styled guitars careening against flourishes of hand percussion and a wall of synths. Over the simple drum pattern and cyclical bassline, Everdell sings in her signature coy manner, coming off like a subdued version of Brooklyn brethren Tanlines. The cold, antiseptic beats and withdrawn affectation is what every “cool” synth-pop diva thrives on, and Everdell’s declamations pair nicely, but her middle-of-the-road delivery ultimately fails to inspire.

The EP’s closer, “It’s Only Everything” has a cheesy veneer with the phoned-in lyrics: “Come on follow me, I’ll show you something / Eyes like X-ray specs, expecting nothing.” It’s still catchy, like most of this disc, even if it sounds sterile or samey. But it’s this neutrality, or blasé hangover left behind by This Desert, that makes for a very well-crafted, if ultimately austere look at what THITH have to offer.

By Jon Dempsey

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