In the wild and tangled web of sound that makes up contemporary experimental music, it can be hard to see up from down. Beyond all their obvious tasks, record labels double as a crucial lens. Ears to the ground, they build context and understanding for the disparate elements of this sonic world. Among the most notable of these, looking beyond the well trodden path, is Hands In The Dark.
Over the last decade, they’ve become an unmissable force, bringing visionary and unexpected projects into focus, making their love affairs our own. Now they return with an absolutely mind-blowing wonder of textural drone, Robot Brujo, a double LP by the Belgian ensemble Razen. Beautiful and challenging from start to finish, it’s absolutely not to be missed.
Razen is a project that pays loyalty to none, forging a singular path that rethinks the idiom minimalism, pushing toward a higher plane. Founded in 2010 as duo of Brecht Ameel and Kim Delcour, growing and contracting as an ensemble over the years, the project deploys improvisation and the unique timbral and drone characteristics of string and wind instruments to sculpt landscapes of intuitive long tones that forge the gap between the trance-inducing primal roots of music and a forward-thinking vanguardism that seeks the intangible and unknown.
Robot Brujo, Razen’s tenth recorded outing in as many years, and their first with Hands In The Dark, is a tense body of artistry, springing from six discrete improvisations that stretch across four sides. While appearing vast and intricate in their materiality, each of the album’s works, titled only as an progression of numbers, was created through a carefully considered system of constraint, encountering its three musicians - Ameel, Delcour, and Pieter Lenaerts, weaving sprawling, almost mystical expanses of sonority from limited combinations of structure and tone.
Attempting to instigate the broadening of consciousness, each work is the culmination of tiny variations in timbre, timing, articulation, and vibration, gracefully joined as a tightly wound meditative expanse which bridges the realms of avant-garde electronics, and kind of elemental approaches to music, pushed through the lens of avant-gardism, explored by projects like Third Ear Band, Futuro Antico, Popol Vuh and Prima Materia.
A near perfect mirror for Hands In The Dark’s first encounter with the band at 2018’s Meakusma Festival, the moment we dropped the needle on Razen’s Robot Brujo we fell deeply in love. Defiantly one of the best records of contemporary experimentalism that we’ve heard this year. Absolutely stunning, challenging in unexpected ways, and overwhelming beautiful.
Tapping the primal root, while pushing toward the future, Hands in the Dark’s beautiful double vinyl edition Robot Brujo is limited to 500 copies.