Big Thief – Two Hands
- Fiona Shepherd
- 30 September 2019
Quartet's fourth record is a stark exploration of the earth and the bones beneath it
Even by their prolific standards, Brooklyn four-piece Big Thief are on a roll at the moment, releasing their second album of this year. Two Hands was recorded hot on the heels of its predecessor U.F.O.F. but in rather different circumstances. Where U.F.O.F. was produced in the verdant woodland of Washington State and described by the band as the 'celestial twin', its 'earth twin' Two Hands was recorded close to live in the Texan border town of Tornillo, right in the shadow of the US-Mexico border fence.
There is an undeniable claustrophobia around these bare bones creations, with the band playing in each other's pockets to capture that slightly uncomfortable intimacy in Adrianne Lenker's songs. Lenker sounds utterly exposed. There is a perpetual cry in her voice, whether she is delivering the soft, sensitive lullaby 'Rock and Song', indie blues of 'Forgotten Eyes' or understated country rocker 'Replaced', and she sounds increasingly desperate as she defines a negative space in 'Not'.
'The Toy' is reminiscent of desolate 90s slow-core, with burnished bluesy guitars, but uses fatalistic imagery like some ancient cautionary folk song about the twisted ritual of manhood. It's not quite a story but when Lenker sings 'the toy in my hand is real' she conjures up a snapshot of combat's stark reality.
She uses landscape metaphors on the title track about navigating a rocky relationship, while 'Shoulders' is typical of the album's corporeal imagery. Next on the visceral trail, she's clamped in the jaws of a howling wolf on what is paradoxically one of the most gentle, peaceful tracks on the album. But even when the music of Two Hands is soft and inviting, as on the rapturous-sounding croon of 'Cut My Hair', there is always dark matter at its impressionistic heart.
Out Fri 11 Oct on 4AD.