TLR 150: sunburned hand of the man nimbus LP (with bandcamp coupon), CD, digital.

TLR 150: sunburned hand of the man - nimbus

released april 12, 2024. 160g LP (black vinyl) - $24. 160g LP (limited "big blue" 12" vinyl) - $25, CD - $12. digital via bandcamp.

three lobed and sunburned hand of the man have a long history. the label has been releasing the group's output for nearly two of its three decades of making music. as sunburned has picked up momentum again in recent years, the label's been right there, releasing the highly acclaimed pick a day to die in 2020, and in late 2022 reissuing a 20th anniversary edition of headdress, the classic and confounding first sunburned LP. label head cory rayborn acted as the catalyst for storyteller kelly davis to assemble no way out, an astonishing eight-part oral history podcast released by aquarium drunkard in 2023. it was a free-wheeling kaleidoscope of a project, mirroring the band's own elusiveness and flux. sunburned life was related, analyzed, mythologized, dissected, and obfuscated.

the podcast caught some key points. at its core sunburned is both a familial and mercurial entity. there's not a fixed lineup, yet those within its borders are fervently committed. there's not so much a consistent sound as a spiritual throughline, straddling god-loves-a-drunk mysticism, bombastic basement show ethos, the far reaches of post-hippie underground esoterica, and making the gallery world scratch their heads instead of their chins.

in january of last year, sunburned gathered for a wintery week of sessions at big blue, adam langellotti’s studio/house in turner's falls, ma. with the cozy setting and sunburned's nature, it was a family affair, with members dropping in and out, cooking meals, going through old photos, making beer runs. the current sunburned core was there, while michael josef k and matt krefting were back in the mix after years away, and sarah gibbons was making her proper recorded debut.

plus, original member phil franklin was back in the states after three years of travel restrictions from his current home in australia. sunburned fans might know franklin's mint, phil's song-oriented project that involves other sunburneds as musicians, mixing original compositions with covers. on nimbus, he's got one of each, as the mint gets folded into the larger band. "ishkabibble magoo" is a jaunty earworm of the highest caliber, weaving hilarious, ingenious wordplay into an infectious melody. and the coded etymology of the title is hard to beat—"ishkabibble" can mean "don’t worry," while "magoo" can refer to someone who's overly wholesome. so, like, who cares, square? on "lily thin," franklin leads a cover of the sun city girls' "cruel & thin," itself a re-working of "leïli twil" by younes megri. it's all campfire flicker and smoke, featuring a stately organ solo from p.g. six that's nothing short of miraculous.

then there are the readings. sunburned is no stranger to the spoken word. impromptu rants and missives are common. they backed the legendary poet ira cohen during performances in the early 2000s. agony interspersed jams with readings. on last year's hypnotape, band members read from a stack of books passed around the studio. but something about the spoken word pieces on nimbus feels different.

as the record begins, atop a delicate bedding of shannon ketch's sequenced synthesizer pulses, sarah gibbons' meandering mellotron, and the twinkle of bells, the poet peter gizzi intones the word "nimbus." he's naming the poem he's about to read, the record you're about to hear, describing the music sunburned makes. "it's so random becoming a self," he reflects, the words confessional and ghostly, the voice urgent and tender. gizzi's a newer member of the sunburned orbit, but has been a serious presence at recent live shows.

the bulk of the LP's second side consists of two longer poetry-based pieces. "consider the wound" is gizzi's again. the music is darker, the reading more punctuated and pointed. gizzi rides the syllables, following the words up and down their scales, then slamming the brakes for blunt statements. the band is fuller here, looser, more churning. more than just words over music, it's an emotionally wrenching experience. the album closer, "hilltop garden lament," is a funereal thump, with matt krefting reading this time. his voice is full of playful, deadpan beatnik violence while the instruments (acoustic guitars, drums, various keyboards) swirl in a witchy invocation. it's fun to play in the dark.

bolting the components together are a series of instrumental fantasias. "the lollygagger" is a funky, dreamy groove from john moloney, michael k, and rob thomas, with charging, chiming synths from taylor richardson, ketch, and conrad capistran leading the way to the battlefield. on "brainticket," gibbons' vocals recall the haunt of a.c. marias or "melody laughter"-era nico, and ron schneiderman's bright golden guitar sounds like a honeyslide from heaven. "walker talker" highlights the hot-tar-heat-stroke of jeremy pisani's guitar while the mellotron, helmed by capistran this time (sunburned shares their toys), comments with cloudlike splendor.

as with all sunburned records, the compositions were done on the fly. gizzi rolled up and busted out his manuscript for fierce elegy (wesleyan press), then still unreleased. krefting read spontaneously from a pile of his notebooks. franklin had "ishkabibble magoo" in his back pocket, but no one expected it and gibbons unraveled harmonies in real time. if the setting is right, magic will happen. and so, this record.

for the cover art, sunburned pulled another master into orbit. video and installation artist and david bowie collaborator tony oursler lent an image of his multimedia sculpture "SpEcTrUm," a collage of digital chaos within the silhouette of a haloed, meditating figure. the image perfectly evokes the aura of the record, and the band itself. there's no unifying theory of sunburned, nor should there be. there isn't even a notion of forward momentum. there is only time as a liquid property, looping and infinite. it is truly a nimbus, an atmosphere, a bright and golden disk investing a group of humans, a cloud so full it can only bring forth rain.

don't be a square!

sunburned hand of the man's nimbus was recorded in 2023 by adam langellotti at big blue in turner's falls, massachusetts. it was mastered by carl saff. it will be pressed to 160 gram 12" vinyl with pride in chicago by smashed plastic record pressing (primarily on black vinyl but also a limited quantity of "big blue" red vinyl). the CD version includes three bonus tracks not on LP. it is housed within a full color jacket featuring artwork by tony oursler. copies include bandcamp-enabled download codes.

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iä! shub-niggurath!