To use short-hand description for The Hundred In the Hands is to give the impression of them being oh-so-passe; oh great another Brookyln-based boy/girl disco-duo. Sort of ten-a-penny these days aren't they? In fact I reviewed one here just a few weeks ago. Well, let first impressions fool you not. I've already twice made this mistake with THITH. The first time was with debut single 'Dressed In Dresden'. 'No song released in 2009 that starts with angular stabs so reminiscent of 'Banquet' could actually be any good', I thought. I was wrong. The dirty bass throbs, cavernous toms, explosive snares, clicky claves/handclaps and all manner of synth sounds made for a more than satisfying barrage of danceable pop. Vocalist Eleanor Everdell's fine balance of nonchalance and impassioned pleading, meanwhile, was more than just the icing on the cake.
The second time I made this mistake was upon my first listen to 'Building In L.O.V.E', the opening track of the This Desert EP. 'Oh no, not another 'Standing In the Way of Control'-style bassline paired with a hi-hat shuffle'. Idiot. Only in dreams could The Gossip hope to achieve the beauty 'Building In L.O.V.E.' arrives at when the stuttering synth strings and Everdell's aching vocals reach a melodic crescendo together in an ethereal swirl. It's wonderfully affecting stuff, regardless of the bizarreness of lines such as "luxury housing development is falling in love" and the song ends only too quickly and suddenly amidst Jason Friedman's skyscraping guitars, which are reminiscent of those other Brooklynites, The National. Not that THITH need to borrow ideas to forge music of majestic quality.
The EP takes rather a symmetrical form, the first and last tracks of the six being the most dancefloor friendly, the second and fifth the most playful and the middle two the moodiest. EP closer 'It's Only Everything' features Everdell's most extroverted vocal performance, yet after the hollering of the intro the verses succeed in creating a gorgeous blissed out soundscape of whispered vocals and synth washes and alternates between the two passages until they converge for the outro.
THITH stated that this EP was partly 'summertime-gothic'. 'Ghosts' is the only gloomy-ish track on the EP; conveying its gloom through a less-is-more approach, it revolves around repetition of a simple bass figure and beat with intermittent repetition of a descending guitar line, recalling the melodrama of The Cure's 'Love Song' in the process. 'Sleepwalkers' is drenched in the sort aqueous reverb that characterised that song's parent album Disintegration and despite its danceability it is in fact the most organic/rock song on the EP, with mellifluous guitars shimmering and chiming in from all angles. When it seems that THITH might be taking themselves a little too serious there's 'Into In It', their own take on uber-twee electro pop. Everdell's repetition of the songtitle is possessed of the same persuasive allure as Lindstrom collaborator Christabelle, but there's an air of innocence pervading the song. Proof of the range of influences THITH weave into their sound.
The most inventive track is undoubtedly 'Tom Tom'. For a large part of its duration consisting only of synthetic slap-happy percussion and a needling synth lead, the song really takes a turn for the interesting with the burly thrumming sound of an almost atonal arpeggiated synth-bass. The late addition of a low humming synth melody brings a good dose of melancholy to the proceedings as Everdell laments "Could have stayed by you for days, I would forget the world for you." The whole track suddenly dissipates in a bewitching choir of "ooh"-ing vocals which you don't want to end, but that's the one trick that THITH repeat most effectively: leaving you wanting more. With a long player on the way This Desert is a perfect teaser/taster for that album, but more importantly an absolute pleasure in its own right.
8Neil Ashman's Score