Few pieces of music can make you feel as though you’re directly caught in the streetlight-singed gleam of a huge, sprawling city at night, where you’re both self-aware and scared shitless. The neon signs of late-night greasy spoon joints and a haze of lights shine with a nauseating glow, somehow resulting in a reflective shimmer that’s beautiful and deceiving all the same.
New York City twosome the Hundred In The Hands play meticulously crafted music of alleyways and the cracks in between the concrete, with eerie accounts that span sentiments of redemption, separation, misery, recovery and ultimately waiting for that moment where it all begins again. Their second release via Warp, Red Night, is music for city dwellers, the disbelievers, those who aren’t quite sure of their place within the concrete wasteland.
The duo has mastered the strange art of countering divides marvelously on Red Night — tracks evolve and mutate, becoming several songs at once even within a single piece. Ethereal vocalist Eleanore Everdell chillingly channels the pipes of the late Trish Keenan (of Broadcast). Layering the beats and quietly powerful background ambience is Jason Friedman, providing a well-fitting counterpart to Everdell’s multifaceted vocals.
A desolate ambience kicks off dynamic beginning track, “Empty Stations,” rapidly dissolving into a pulsating array of Everdell’s vocals and haunting string arrangements. Sultry title track “Red Night” escalates into a Massive Attack-reminiscent track, laden with faraway drones and space-age synthesizers. “Keep It Low” layers itself distinctly well, with thundering basslines and looped vocals mirroring the disorienting, hours of the early morning. With distant pianos, you can almost recall that virgin feeling of wonder when seeing a skyscraper for the first time with “SF Summer.” The perfect soundtrack to aimless midnight cruises soaring down the highway, “Tunnels” channels the roar of cars growling down the streets. An unsuspecting choral arrangement at the beginning of “Stay the Night” chills, only to shift into a series of grimy beats.
While Red Night effectively reminds you just what can be incredibly romantic about the big city, you can’t help but think about how the urban sprawl has also wronged you. Harsh realities occur in this weird, metropolitan area where you are, essentially, merely a speck. Take another sip of your black coffee, spoon another bite of cherry pie into your mouth. This is the modern American Dream.