Phenomenal Handclap Band – Phenomenal Handclap Band

January 01, 1970

(Friendly Fire)


Who knew that the Lower East Side’s
premiere hipster taste makers had a secret yen for disco?


In the Phenomenal Handclap Band’s debut, DJs Daniel Collas
and Sean Marquand showcase the tangled guitars, the slushy cymbals, the viscous
bleats of synthesizer of 1978 or so, a polyester sound akin to funk but
sleeker, chillier, less human. They dip, sometimes, into other genres — prog,
downtempo electro, kraut, hip hop, psych and indie rock – but all their songs
are paced by a plastic beat and lit by a mirror ball. The alphabet-reciting
“All of the Above” is like a Jackson Five song covered by Ace of Base and if
that sounds like fun to you, go ahead, clap along.


An impressive list of NYC insiders join the Handclappers for
this debut album, a crew diverse enough to ensure that most people will enjoy
at least a couple of tracks, if only for the guests. If you’re a Calla fan, for
instance, you’ll likely gravitate to “Testimony,” where Aurelio Valle
insinuates and menaces in a whisper over a slinky, slack-funk groove.  It won’t hurt, either, when Jaleel Bunton of
TV on the Radio switches on the wah for the cut’s smouldering guitar part. Or
say you like Jon Spencer. That’s him spitting grit and heat into the otherwise
dream-sequence softness of girl-harmonized “Give It a Rest.” Old-school mc Lady
Tigra (ex of L’Trimm) gets the album’s brightest spotlight, holding court in the
effervescent “15 to 20,” with its criss-crossing rhythms and percolating
keyboard lines.


Yet in focusing on the stars, you might overlook the skill
with which Collas and Marquand divine the right musical setting for each, or
the clean, clear execution of the arrangements that support them, courtesy of a
six person core band. Indeed the only problem with these cuts is that they are
a little too clean to catch in your head right away. They melt instead into a
slippery stream of dance-friendly, disco-leaning experiences, hedonistically
enjoyable, well-made and tightly played, but a bit inhuman. A handclap is,
after all, probably man’s earliest musical attempt, as rough and unpremeditated
as breathing. Why encase it in all this plastic?


Standout Tracks:
“Testimony” “15 to 20” JENNIFER


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