This is a two CD reissue of two out of print vinyl slabs of criminality by the New Zealand duo of Alastair Galbraith and Bruce Russell. Both feature the same type of improvsed noise and abrasive metallic and electro-acoustic assaults, but each delivers at such a strong level of power and imagination that neither wears out its welcome, no matter how worn out they make the listener.
Guitar and slurring violins, feedback and drone fuel this minimalist attack. Sounds echo as they are piled on top of one another, each more piercing than the rest, yet not completely overpowering its predecessor. The sounds echo long and strong.
“Now Gods, Stand Up for Bastards” features one of the band’s more quiet numbers, the electronic/feedback-driven “The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast.” Also on the set is the impossibly loud and resonant “The Lullian Art,” propelled by a FAT bass buzz. “The Dark Lantern of Reason” is also a mighty exercise in sonic unease.
“The Philosophic Mercury” has only two songs. “Fama Fraternitatis” is mostly distant static and more close pulses, with a constant sickly buzz that threatens to jump off course and/or give up. The sardonically titled “God’s Love To His People Israel” is the noisiest and most insistent track of both records, and adds in muffled voices (Prayer? Debate?), which only makes the tune more menacing. This God’s love, it seems, is just a tad punitive.
Hellish and uncompromising as it is, “Now Gods, Stand Up For Bastards/The Philosophick Mercury” is alaways compelling, if difficult to process in one sitting. A Handful of Dust are explorers dark and strange, but impossible to ignore. Now that these two releases are available once more, hopefully they will get some much deserved attention. 7/10 -- Mike Wood (14 January, 2009)