Detholz! demo – Hand and Brain

Welcome to Detholz! Mp3 Blog, Episode XXXV!

This week, I’ve scrapped “Attack of the Synthestra” (for which many of you are grateful, I’m sure) and have returned to the Detholz! drafting table to finish off writing songs for the forthcoming record, which is 2/3rd’s complete.

I’d strongly encourage you to listen to this track BEFORE you read the blog below. We need some objective opinions this week:

HAND AND BRAIN

So. This week’s installment was enthusiastically rejected across the board by the band.

Andrew (drummer) cited the lyrics as the primary culprit, while Ben (bass player) said that he had a hard time keying into the harmony, even after multiple listens. He likened it to an exhausting swim to shore from far out at sea.

Ha!

It’s impossible to be entirely objective about one’s own material, but after so many years of writing for Detholz!, I can usually tell which songs will “take” and which ones won’t. It’s nothing scientific– just a gut feeling. I knew before I completed this track that it would probably crash and burn into the B-side bin, but I decided to complete it anyway.

1. SONG CONCEPT

In the wake of my friend Kurt’s demise (see previous post), I’ve been thinking a lot about physical and psychological limitations and cognition; how the mind interacts with the body and vice versa– if, in fact, the two are separate entities at all.

A few years ago, I attended the “Body Worlds” exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago — you know, the crazy German exhibit of “plastinated” corpses in various poses– and was struck by a cross-section of a morbidly obese person. There was a thin man hiding in that body the whole time, encased in a thick layer which his body carried around!

Perhaps it’s over-simplistic of me– I’m not a scientist, I’m just the entertainment, after all — but I think that people with certain psychological dysfunctions operate in a similar manner. There’s a regular person buried in there somewhere but often it takes extra measures of patience and/or medication to get to him/her.

2. SONG COMPOSITION

Since I’ve been listening to a lot of cell compositions recently (music that is composed using tiny fragments of melody or harmony that are stretched and molded to form the foundation of the piece), I used some of those techniques here.

The very first bar of this song introduces the harmonic cell that runs throughout the “verse” sections — an augmented chord –> quartal (chord built of fourths) –> cluster. The bass line, melody and rhythms were all crafted around those harmonic changes.

I chose purposely “spacey” patches for this song given its scientific bent. Perhaps this was overkill — funny, I was stuck in a time warp as I wrote this and felt like I was writing “Scientific Eye” (from the DH! first record) all over again.

The melody is largely static and the harmony remains in one key throughout the chorus. I did this to focus the attention of the listener to the lyrics at these points in the song.

Also, as a nod to Bernard Herrmann, the great film/TV composer of yore whose trademark was cell composition, I added an electronic vibraphone patch to accentuate harmonic motion.

Overall, I felt pretty good about this when it was finished– didn’t think it’d land on the record, but maybe in a set list or two at a show. I did not anticipate such a strong “4 thumbs down” from the rest of the band.

What do you think? Redeemable? Is this a song you’d like to hear us play? Or is this one for the cutout bin on a par with our B-side elephant in the room, “Time Traveling Peterbilt Semi” (see previous post)?

Tune in next Wednesday for a brand new track!

3. LYRICS

HAND AND BRAIN

TV is hard on the eyes
TV is making you cry
That world is a dangerous place
Blips on the screen spatter blood on your face

Reach in
Inside your space
Reach in
And stir up the place
Reach in
Hand and Brain

Reach out
Don’t you understand?
Reach out
As the world demands
Reach out
Brain and Hand

A body of work
A body at work
Is overworked, work after work
A clasp of the hands
Is the work of the hands

Mind over matters
Matters on the mind
Are looped by loop, loop after loop
An ache of the head
Is a body at work

Reach out
And kiss that ring
Reach out
To the sound of the train
Reach out
Hand and Brain

Reach in
Through the membranes and glands
Reach in
To find the man
Reach in
Brain and Hand

Reach out
From your heart and veins
Reach out
To the body in pain
Reach out
Hand and Brain

Reach in
Reach out
Hand and Brain

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9 Responses to “Detholz! demo – Hand and Brain”

  1. j Says:

    It’s really good to listen to, but I can see how it might not be as much fun to play live. I really enjoy it, though..great work.

  2. Amy Says:

    Lyrics are terrific, but the music is a little much. The only part with a lot of soul in it is the vibraphone, which lends a bit of syncopation. I wonder if with a few rhythmic changes — change the rhythm to mimic a heartbeat? — the rest of the band might be more open to it.

    Incidentally, after a few listens, Time Traveling Peterbilt is now a favorite.

  3. kebabdylan Says:

    i actually like the music part of it quite a bit. although, I can’t really see it on the album. File it under “Strong B-side”. don’t know if this makes sense but it sounded to me like a sister track to smell-o-vision. Sounds like a personal experiement/project without thinking “band”. Kind works, kinda not.

    oddly enough the static vocal delievery made the lyrics (and the singing) sort of just fade into the background. I got lost in all the moving keyboard parts I forgot you were singing! maybe i’m just strange that way.

    I want to see you guys play it with a drum machine and 5 keyboard players!

  4. bp Says:

    When I first read the song title, I thought it was a coy reference to the oft-mocked “heart and hand and brain” line in the Wheaton College hymn. Oh well. No sense in beating that Timothy Dudley-Smith lyric down any more than you have to, I suppose.

    I think you have this pegged about right. It’s a really solid B-side. I really do like it, but not sure it’s the best fit for the new record–just a little too inactive melodically/harmonically, I think–at least in any overt sense.

  5. Jim Says:

    Like Kebab, every time I tried to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the lyrics/vocal melody, I found myself already half way through the song listening to the music. Although, with the somewhat familiar beat and a straight ahead groove, I would say it’s more of a weird offspring of Zeta Jones and X-Mas Palsy.
    -Strong B-side.
    -Live with five keyboards and a drum machine would be cool.

  6. detholz Says:

    J: Actually, I disagree. I think this one would benefit from being performed live– it would eliminate some of the “Digital Audio Workstation” vibe present in the demo. Glad you like it just the same.

    Amy: I, too, harbor a soft spot for TT Peterbilt Semi. It was written during an uncharacteristically romantic period in my life.

    ‘Bab: It is my dream to one day have the DH! play exclusively on headless Steinberger box guitars and keytars.

    BP: You are a tough man to fool! Coy reference, indeed! Muah ha ha…

    Jim: Glad you like it. I was surprised by the almost 100% pan by the band (Jonny is willing to give this one a chance). Might be worth hacking it at bit– or maybe buying a few more old synths on Ebay.

  7. Jim Says:

    This track sounds very David Byrne-esque. Although it’s probably already too late, this one’s growing on me.

  8. eric Says:

    I have to agree that musically there is a world of possibilities here (live translations could vary greatly – I can hear 5 keyboards and a drum loop, or 3 guitars and a sick drum n’ bass groove, and everything in between), but I’d have to agree with Andrew that the lyrics are the “culprit.” I don’t think they’re bad at all, but I keep on thinking I’m listening to a weird remix of Club Oslo – the “reach in” and “reach out” parts remind me of the “freak out!” lines of C.O.

  9. detholz Says:

    Jim: Help me Better Detholz! Demo. You’re my only hope.

    eric: Well, you know, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

    You caught me. The lyrics were a total cop from “Club Oslo.” When writing pop songs, I like a relaxing “wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round” approach:

    Jump in, Jump out.

    Reach in, Reach out.

    Freak out, freak out.

    Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring…. Bananaphone!

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