– Pale Hands is a Boston duo with lush, buoyant vocals, layered over fluttering beats and augmented by bits of haunting synths and echo-laden guitars. Spiritually, it’s akin to Cocteau Twins, CHVRCHES or a David Lynch soundtrack, but markedly its own animal. Pale Hands release their debut full-length, Spirit Lines on October 28, 2014.
“Spirit Lines is our musical interpretation of magic realism and pop surrealism; we were inspired by the work of artists and writers such as Mark Ryden, Kelly Link, and Karen Russell,” says singer Jen Johnson.
“The name of the album is taken from the concept of the ‘weaver’s pathway’, which is a special line that indigenous Navajo weavers intentionally place in their textiles. A ‘spirit line’ is a deliberate mistake in the pattern that has various symbolic meanings. The meaning that inspired us the most while making this record was the idea that the pursuit of perfection stunts your creativity, and a spirit line frees you from that constraint.”
Johnson’s other projects, like Velah and Static of the Gods, tread on wildly different ground. They were built more on shoegaze-y guitars and post-rock rhythms, more apt to build up a wall of noise. In contrast, Pale Hands offers warmth. Johnson’s ethereal vocals float over skittish electro beats. It’s not “pop,” per se, but the music is inviting in new and exciting ways.
Oddly, Johnson’s dreamy pop was birthed from a period of pain. “I had a lot of shit go down in the last few years, I lost some close family members,” explains the singer. “There was lot of sadness. Coming out of that, it brought out a different kind of music in me.”
To find this new way, Johnson enlisted Mike Latulippe, her longtime musical partner and, interestingly enough, husband. “We complement each other very well,” says Latulippe. “Musically, she’s big picture – she lays out the structure and framework. I stress and fuss over the details.”
Lyrically, Johnson veers from the enigmatic to bittersweet. “Juventud” (“youth” in Spanish) reflects on the singer’s recent difficulties (“turn your head and close your eyes as our fall becomes a dive”) and, in her words, “having to quickly grow up.” Meanwhile, “Low Reversal,” provides the band its name and reflects on the singer’s heritage.
“I’m half-Mexican, but very white looking. I identify with both sides. As the lyrics say, I’m a pale daughter.”
Hometown blog Vanyaland premiered the track “Fanatic” saying, “Johnson’s voice provides the bittersweet emotion against an electronic, at-times skittish backdrop” while the haunting synth and woodblocks of “No Stars” builds to a shuffled chorus that’s elegantly anthemic.
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Live, the group is happy to explore the tumult and pop at its most exposed: just the two of them. “It’s less bombast than our prior work,” says Latulippe. “These songs are more spacious, and all about the details and the intricacies. And I love that it’s just the two of us up there – there’s nothing to hide behind.”
Pale Hands will take their duo on the road in support of the release in October and November.
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