Tuesday night promised to be a four-band bill at the Wonderbox, but when the DIY venue fell through, two bands dropped out. The show was moved last minute to an artist warehouse space off of North Capitol in Bloomingdale, under the guidelines that the two remaining bands ran the show at a respectful volume and mindful hours. The touring band, Cloud Becomes Your Hand, couldn’t of been any happier to play early. “One in the morning is a normal time slot to go on when we’re on tour,” a member of the band expressed. “It’s nice to play like we’re on a school-night schedule!”
The Brooklyn band then dove into their set, immediately revealing their diligent and dexterous performance capabilities. Their sound border-lined improvisation and meticulous orchestration; sometimes cacophonous and then melodic, and always complex. “They’re kinda like John Cage meets Mahavishu Orchestra, or King Crimson” my friend whispered to me during their set. I nodded a bit, somewhat concurring. The prog was definitely present, and so were the intermittent blips and pausing moments reminiscent of Cage. Guitarist Stephen Cooper even took a screwdriver to the neck of his guitar at times to use it as a substitute slide. Not exactly a prepared guitar, but creative, and close.
After a couple of songs, I was taken aback at noticing that each musician followed the songs with sheet music. How could such spontaneous-feeling music be captured by notation? I pointed that out to my friend, who said, “It takes a special breed of musicians to perform written pieces like this.” Taking a peek at one of their sheets, I was able to catch the visible and playful title “hawk sonG”, along with a blast of elaborate notation that could’ve been a segment of John Stump’s satirical “Faerie’s Air and Death Waltz” (you know, the piece that has musical commands like “release the penguins” or “gradually become more agitated”).
As the show progressed, it became more obvious though that the band move in a conceptual direction, from title to tone. For instance, “Rutabaga Pigeons” might sound like immediate nonsense, and that’s okay, because it should. It’s homage to Carl Sandburg’s 1923 sequel to “Rutabaga Stories”, a series of whimsical fairytales written “for people from 5 to 105″. The same could be said about Cloud Becomes Your Hand’s music and interpretation of nonsensical stories. Their atonal ragas and meditative yet engaging, and quite a spectacle with their use of combining standard instruments with an electric and effected violin and marimba.
The band moved with incredible finesse, stretching their extremities to the extreme. It was as if the marimba player’s fingers were extended by his mallets, resembling paws almost and making his hands move in a rather animalistic nature. Their drummer would often turn his sticks around and use the blunt, rounded side of his sticks to obtain certain pitches, too. Overall, the band’s adventurous compositions were on point. Even when the guitarist broke a string, he went with it, and started to spastically sing what should’ve been the guitar solo.
Closing out their set, the band let their synth specialist weave together an extended loop, allowing them some wiggle room, literally. The group moved away from their instruments and onto the floor, except for their marimba player, who climbed on top of his instrument and situated himself into a table-top pose. For five to ten minutes, they took part in a ritualistic dance, crawling on the floor, interacting with furniture, and swiveling back and forth between each other. The whole thing seemed incredibly interpretative, but at that point, wouldn’t of been surprising had they planned the dance out prior to the performance.
Stream their latest release, Doggy Paddle Tore Tape 2011 below: