William Bennett, former Whitehouse provocateur, admits he got into working with elements of African and Haitian percussion by accident. The Cut Hands project started when Bennett was asked to DJ at Glasgow club Optimo, where he delivered a set of Haitian Vodou music and heavily percussive African tracks (at ear-splitting volume, natch) and was delighted at the effect it had on the audience. It’s a feeling that still lingers—this is the third album under the Cut Hands name following a series of quick fire releases, some of which have appeared, like this one, on Kiran Sande’s London-based label Blackest Ever Black.
It’s been a strange time for Bennett, who has gained a marginally higher profile via the less challenging nature of Cut Hands, but has concurrently had to fend off misinterpretations of his past work. In 2013, he was even moved to make a statement that clearly outlined his personal beliefs. His take on cultural appropriation, and whether he’s practicing it in Cut Hands, is as forthright as you’d expect. In a 2011 interview with Sande, Bennett claimed that parsing out “world music” as a separate form was a “condescending and patronising” practice that was antithetical to the way he sees music.
All this adds up to a different form of confrontation to the one he practiced in Whitehouse; despite the “it’s-all-just-music” claims, it’s hard to imagine that Bennett wasn’t expecting a few pointed questions thrown his way regarding his intentions for Cut Hands. Where that’s taken him on Festival of the Dead is into a curious cul de sac, where he builds on what came before in tiny increments. It’s placid at times, even skirting around ambient when he rolls out the solitary tones of tracks such as “Belladonna Theme”, “Inlightenment”, and “Fruit Is Ripe”, which intermittently provide respite from the drill-like percussion elsewhere.
Of the meatier material it’s in “The Claw” that Bennett finds most purpose, where his signature hollowed-out drum sound is entwined with niggling percussive elements and a bass heavy groove. It’s a formula he returns to often, with varying results. The former single “Damballah 58” is among the better examples, especially when it’s galvanized by a sample resembling a ticking time bomb. Further tracks torn from a similar blueprint—“Vaudou Take Me High”, “Madwoman (Festival Mix)”, “Fire Ends the Day”—labor the point to the verge of redundancy, especially as there’s a weight of similarly minded Cut Hands material already out there.
Where Festival of the Dead works is by leaving markers that could potentially be followed and exploited at a later date. “None of Your Bones Are Broken” is one of the best tracks Bennett has recorded under this name; constructed from manic, jungle-like backing that intersects with jarring string samples, its a perfectly unharmonious meeting point of inter-continental ideas. Elsewhere there are hints of UK garage in the rhythms Bennett lends to his work, but the overall feel is of a markedly barren place. It’s like Bennett looked at clubland and saw an emptiness eating away at it from the inside—an interesting and possibly valid viewpoint, but not one that needs repeating ad infinitum.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1wx17Wk