Broken Hands for Brilliant Minds – Remember the Past, Respect the Future

Broken Hands for Brilliant Minds
Remember the Past, Respect the Future

Boring, boring, boring, boring, boring. Boring. There, I said it. In fact, I was so worried about not getting the message across that I thought that at least the first six words of this review should consist of the syllables “bo” and “ring.” Bo-ring.

Oh, and it’s not necessarily Broken Hands for Brilliant Minds’ fault. I mean, it was probably inevitable that the next low-key, drone-y post-rock band that I reviewed would elicit this kind of response. You see, myself and drone-rock have a long history together.

It all started with Mogwai’s Come On Die Young, which I bought used and cheap, mostly because I had heard good things about the band and the title of the album absolutely killed me. It was low-key, spindly post-rock music that bored the shit out of me every time I listened to it, but I assumed this was because I didn’t understand it. I went back to the roots: Slint. Now that was more like it: some vocals, some bombast, some energy. So I tried again. I got caught up in the mysticism and beautiful packaging of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mt. Zion. I bought Mogwai’s Young Team. Now I understood.

I understood so well, in fact, that I started working my way into the Eastern minimalism of Sam Shalabi and the stretching, beautiful wash of Flying Saucer Attack. Which pretty much brings us up to date. So what’s the problem? Thing is, I don’t know. I still think highly of all of those bands (although releases from the Godspeed camp have been lacking in the past two years), and in some cases, I still listen to them as well. I just can’t bring myself to buy anymore ambient, wide-screen post-rock.

Broken Hands for Brilliant Minds excited me: the attractive blue-and gold print packaging and the Odd Halo Records logo stirred my bitter blood. The band excited me to the point where I was willing to overlook the childish album title, Remember the Past, Respect the Future, and ridiculous song names like “The Elfman Project.” Popping the disc in ratchets me violently to the first six words of the review.

Broken Hands for Brilliant Minds makes ambitious, sloth-like ambient music. There is no percussion. There are no “lead” instruments. Even mood shifts are few and far between: Clint Lister, the mind behind Broken Hands, seems totally content to let haunted-house whines and electronic creaks “dominate” the mix for 10 minutes at a time. I can’t even say much about individual songs, because they float so listlessly out of the speakers. I can tell you that the repeated, descending piano pattern on “Pickles and Pears” acts as sort of a proxy percussion, tethering the track and making it easily the most discernable. The rest of it doesn’t sound like psychedelic minimalism, or genre-pushing concept – it just sounds like noise.

Of course, sometimes, it doesn’t even sound like noise. The aforementioned “The Elfman Project” opens with 20 minutes of silence. Not a typo, folks: 20. I mean, what’s the fucking point? Is there some sort of high-concept art project behind all this? Like, “What kind of idiot will tune in for 20 minutes of nothingness?” Back when I listened to terrible metal music, the Deftones, of all bands, followed the last track on their album with 30 minutes of silence before launching into the “hidden” track. I didn’t like the wait time then, either, but at least the Deftones gave me a fully-formed rock song for my trouble.

There’s just not enough substance to work with here. Lister isn’t pushing any limits here: He’s simply indulging himself. There’s nothing on Remember the Past, Respect the Future that indicates a desire to be anything more than background music, which puts Lister’s musical ambitions on par with Enya’s. I can deal with experimental, ambient music, but it has to be gripping, creative, and well thought-out to hold my attention. Once you get past the packaging, there’s nothing here even remotely like that.