MONM 2011 Day 10: Dixie’s Death Pool – The Man With Flowering Hands

Dixie’s Death Pool – The Man With Flowering Hands (2011, Drip Audio)

I have a bad habit habit of forming opinions of albums based on their opening few seconds. That’s not to say I’ll discount an album if it doesn’t win me over in ten seconds or less, but if those opening seconds are strong enough, it’s love at first sight, and rationalizing it is a little tough.

Think of the first five notes of “Everything in its Right Place” off of Kid A, the opening chimes on “Melody Day,” or the stutter at the start of David Vandervelde’s “Nothin’ No.” Not all of those albums are on the same level, but they each make a hell of a first impression with their first few notes. That impact has almost nothing to do with songwriting ability and everything to do with the production – it’s about the album’s ability to establish a mood purely based on the timbre of the instruments – but it’s an important skill nonetheless.

Dixie’s Death Pool absolutely nails its first 10 seconds. “Sunlight is Collecting on My Face” opens with an isolated buzz of gritty distortion as the song gets ready to start, dropping in a gently throbbing bass, and tropical guitar laced with impossibly high feedback. It’s striking, and the other 5:31 of the song isn’t half bad either, scratching up its bucolic foundation with a seemingly endless variety of textures.

As I said, it’s all about the production, but then, that’s Dixie’s major purpose. It’s largely improvised, building its tracks around relatively straightforward drums, acoustic guitar and upright bass. But Dixie mastermind Lee Hutzulak took those skeletons and stuffed them full of homemade organs (among the instruments: “a 6ft tall spinning card rack on wheels” and “a large metal shelf played with a scrub brush). It’s not always obvious how or why a certain texture was added, but there’s a dream-logic to it that works throughout.

It’s a cliche, sure, but dream-like really is an accurate description of The Man with Flowering Hands. That’s a double-edged sword, too – like a dream, the album isn’t always easy to remember when its wrapped up. Hutzulak has a gift for atmosphere, but that comes at the expense of particularly memorable melodies. By the album’s closing third, the tracks start to blend into each other, with a few strong moments bubbling to the surface and then quickly receding. That said, what the album does well, it does very well indeed.

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