May 26, 2024

‘A Thousand Hands’ – Sextile

My name is Garry and I am addicted to conspiracy theories. I often listen to the borderline bonkers Higherside Chats podcast, I check before I read the BBC news website, I’ve read the mind-bending ‘Illuminatus! Trilogy’, books on the JFK assassination, podcasts on the occult, I’m rewatching ‘The X Files’ from the beginning and yes, I have watched the 9/11 documentary on Netflix. You can’t melt steel beams with jet fuel etc. And I do not wear a tin foil hat. Thanks for letting me share…


So yeah, there was no way I was going to not give a listen to a band with an ‘occult-inspired’ name, even if I did have to look up what ‘sextile’ meant. Even the title of the album is inspired by a vision the keyboard player had during open eye mediation.


So. I’d say Sextile are a rock and roll band. Brave, I know. But there’s so much going on in this short debut. Sometimes post-punk, sometimes surf rock, sometimes Suicide, sometimes all at once. With added ambient passages….


Sextile first attracted interest in June of this year with ‘Can’t Take It’, a primitive but futuristic garage rock beast with added 70’s synths. I was an immediate fan. I nearly tweeted that Sextile were like a ‘psychobilly Joy Division’ before promptly deleting it. Well, there, I’ve said it now. After the Cramps-y rumble of second ‘single’, ‘Flesh’, I was counting the days until the debut landed. And on first listen I was…well, meh. The first half of the record includes the aforementioned singles and some tracks that just seemed to be smog, merely grumbling electronics and echoing howls. Maybe I’d got too excited. It happens. However, something changed by ‘Romance’, the halfway point. I had to check that I was still listening to the same band. A menacing, ambient workout that recalled the better parts of the Nine Inch Nails ‘Ghosts’ project segued into ‘Mind’s Eye’, a track that sounds like John Carpenter has been asked to soundtrack a military march. Occult imagery is accompanied by more synths than guitars and it comes off sultry. ‘Shattered Youth’ sees vocalist Brady Keehn howling like he’s fronting the Meteors as the keyboards swirl like early arcade games music.


The finishing stretch is exhilarating, the tension is ratcheted up on ‘Into The Unknown’ until Decades’-style keyboards provide a glimmer of light and release. Penultimate track ‘Visions of You’ is potentially the high point of the album. It finds the darkness the Arcade Fire believes they’d plunged into on ‘Reflektor’, shrugs and continues downwards. I hate this term but yes, there are ‘driving’ guitars. When the Eddie Wuebben’s keyboards explode in the chorus, it’s feels like the midday sunshine at the end of a very long tunnel. The guitars chime like stadium-crushing Cure and there’s very nearly a solo. Closer ‘Introvert’ is a return to the stalker ambience of ‘Romance’, no vocals, just stillness. Those who smoke may now light up.


Maybe I expected an album of 11 ‘Can’t Take It’s, hence my early disappointment. But on repeated listens, the early tracks work when you listen to the album as a whole. I’ve hardly listened to the tracks individually. The ghosts of sounds on here, be they punk, rockabilly, reverb-soaked vocals, all add up to more than the sum of their parts.  This is a thrilling album that creates an enveloping atmosphere. Know the movie ‘Blade Runner’? Of course you do. Well, beneath the towering skyscrapers and flying cars, below the smog and the neon lit noodle bars, Sextile are playing in a hot box nightclub using one of Vangelis’s knackered synths.


I don’t think I can fit in anymore utterly nerdish references in here, especially when talking about a band with cool to spare. I love this album. If you have a pulse give it a go. They’re going to do awesome things.


‘A Thousand Hands’ is out now on Felte.



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