Release Date: Jun 23, 2009
Record label: Friendly Fire
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Dance
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Here's a Tardis of a record, with the controls set squarely for the very heart of 1972. The Phenomenal Handclap Band – a loose amalgam of musicians brought together by New York DJs Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand – operate at a point on the spectrum somewhere between Pink Floyd and the Blackbyrds, to produce a kind of space funk dripping with retro-futurism. That makes it sound less appetising than it is: in fact this is a party album, whose two centrepieces – the proto-disco drone of You Disappear, and the playground chant of 15 to 20 – are irresistible invitations on to the floor.
Phenomenal? Well, not quite. Led by one dude called Medicine Man and another known as Witch Doctor, this coed New York combo makes lovingly detailed replicas of the kind of sweeping disco-soul productions that once made people all over the world join hands and start a love train. The PHB’s sense of style is spot-on; check out the trippy? space-funk groove on ”Testimony,” which features guest guitar work from Jaleel Bunton of TV on the Radio.
You get about 90 seconds' warning before the groove deepens on the Phenomenal Handclap Band's self-titled debut LP. And from there, is it ever on: 65 minutes of slightly spacy live-band psych-disco, Hawkwind jamming with Isaac Hayes with percussion from the Incredible Bongo Band. If that sounds like a party, well, it is a party; you'll want to grab a drink and do your damndest to have a good time.
How much trust can you put in a band when their first big creative decision - their name - is a stinker? And what if the record sleeve is terrible too? The Phenomenal Handclap Band, the name, is surely a play on The Incredible String Band - and not a very funny one at that. Rightly or wrongly, there's so much music available now that people make snap decisions on what's worth trying, and I can't help but feel that The Phenomenal Handclap Band have given themselves hurdles before they've even recorded a note. Nobody needs another Polyphonic Spree right now, you might fairy think, so let's try something else.
This loose, eight-person downtown collective makes music that’s so post-genre it’s almost futile to describe. Still, it’s clear that Daniel Collas and Sean Marquand, the group’s main songwriters and ex-DJs, have a deep and wide-ranging musical appetite. It ranges from psychedelica to disco to funk, with a strong overlay of prog that gives these leisurely songs its esoteric air.
The New York group tightens its sound with mixed results. Marcus J. Moore 2012 In 2009, The Phenomenal Handclap Band’s self-titled debut album dripped with agitated ambition. Though chastised by some critics, it was a set which left the listener never knowing what to expect from the multidimensional New York band, as the recording reached for alt-rock, disco, and electro-pop – sometimes all in the same song.