This Right Hand, Left Hand article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Macon Oxley.
There are a few acts that immediately spring to mind when the term rock duo is mentioned. The most obvious of those is probably The White Stripes. So, are Right Hand Left Hand anything like The White Stripes? The short answer is no. The longer answer is that they make way more noise. You could be forgiven for jumping to the next assumption of them sounding like Royal Blood, maybe even Death from Above 1979. Does that bring you any closer? Kind of, but whilst there are dirty, scuzzy riffs all over this self-titled release, Right Hand Left Hand have a secret weapon that sets them apart and, no, it’s not a bass that sounds unfathomably like a guitar.
That secret weapon is an inanimate object, though. Those that fear we’re being replaced by computers and robots should avert their eyes and ears because the Cardiff duo’s ghost member is a looping station. By employing the looping station, Rhodri Viney and Andrew Plain, who both play guitar and drums, have effectively got a third member that really pulls its weight, doesn’t take a cut of the royalties and never has to agree with Viney and Plain. An inspired move really.
The main advantage of the pair’s use of the looping station is the depth of layers that would be impossible to achieve otherwise, as they build simple, catchy ideas into the textured soundscapes that we hear here. From the outset Right Hand Left Hand manage to sound like an act twice its size as they stack little guitar lines upon each other over a distinctively math rock beat on ‘Seat 18c’ – an opener that would sit quite comfortably on Foals’ ‘Antidotes’ debut had Yannis Philippakis decided against the idea of vocals.
The absence of vocals is prominent throughout, as the duo stick by their post-rock guns. They instead allow the music to take centre stage, barring a brief monologue on ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’ and one of the album’s lesser tracks, ‘Nightmares in the Afternoon’, which really could have been left alone vocally.
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One of the album’s highlights comes with the broody single, ‘Tarts and Darts’, which drives through its three-minute duration with a distorted bassline taking the wheel until we get to ‘Broken Hill’. We get a few minutes of respite there as the song builds up from a sombre beginning and signals a shift by dropping to nothing but a teasing, harmonized guitar line before bursting into a frantic finale after four-and-a-half minutes. The payoff is worth the wait.
Before the album draws to a close we have one last standout moment to enjoy in the Radiohead-aping ‘Cliff Young Shuffle’, which stops just short of actually being ‘Bodysnatchers’. Thankfully it sits on the right side of the fence that separates influence and plagiarism as it takes a lead from a bassline brought to you by the school of Colin Greenwood.
There are times when ‘Right Hand Left Hand’ doesn’t completely thrill the listener, but there is the sense that this band are one that would be well worth the entrance fee on the live stage as they constantly swap instruments, creating the loops live in a way that requires expert precision. In a way, to totally appreciate Right Hand Left Hand may require the odd reminder of how they craft their work, but for the times that reality does evade you, their standout moments are just the ticket.
‘Right Hand, Left Hand’ is out now via Jealous Lovers Club.