When The Hundred in the Hands emerged in 2010 with the release of their debut EP (This Desert) and eponymous first album, the group were at the front of the emerging dream-pop scene in Brooklyn, NY. They created clever, exciting, innovative music that was rousingly fresh and different. The group’s style of soft synth-pop was delicate, diverse, and subtly exotic in its quiet brilliance.
Now, in 2012, it is safe to say that Brooklyn’s fires of innovation are slowly dying down – and it is perhaps not quite the stupendous and unique creative hub that it once was. This second full-length effort from The Hundred in the Hands reflects this geographical/temporal artistic shift, and as such it is not as innovative a body of work as their debut EP and album. There is less dynamism and innovation at play here, which with the passing of time is perhaps to be expected.
With Red Night, The Hundred in the Hands have certainly offered a competent and enjoyable album however, which is full of the same atmosphere and whimsy that the group fostered in their earlier releases. There is also a darker, cinematic vibe to the music, which is an interesting development from the group’s work. More diverse, grandiose timbres are offered such as deep brass and horn hits mixed with crashing cymbals, and fat synths that would sound at home in any 1980s’ film from TRON to Ladyhawke.
There is also a wistful distance to this album, even more so than what was present in earlier releases. Many tracks feature incredibly low-key mixes with barely audible atmospheric drones, distant guitars are fed through lashings of echo and chorus, and as in earlier work, vocals are dripping in heavy, almost ethereal reverb. The overall effect of these methods makes Red Night quietly melancholic. Many of the tracks, such as the title track and Empty Stations are very toned down, and almost appear to be unfolding in slow-motion.
Red Night is not a one trick pony, however. There is more rhythmic diversity here than in The Hundred in the Hands’ previous work, with complex poly-rhythms at play in some tracks. The level of saturation and overdubs is varied too, with timbres coming like sporadic waves. The combination of live and synth sounds is also more apparent, with crunchy, distorted guitars occurring alongside live percussion and drums.
There is some genuine beauty with each track on Red Night, and once again, The Hundred in the Hands have proved themselves to be the masters of layering timbres and fusing sounds to make an intrinsic, yet complete whole. This is still clever and enjoyable music, even if it is beginning to sound a tad familiar.