Big Thief today announced their second album of 2019, ‘Two Hands’, with the studio recording of live favourite ‘Not’. Since first hearing it back in 2017, ‘Not’ has become an unhealthy addiction, the YouTube live performances stealing chunk after chunk of my battery power. The repeated shouts of ‘not’ instilling a form of rebellion in me, one that I sung on my bike-rides to work, hurling its insurgency at the behemoth rising out from the ground in front of me.
Where ‘U.F.O.F’ layered spirit-like sounds and effects for levitation, ‘Two Hands’ – it’s “earth twin” – was recorded live with almost no overdubs. ‘Not’ is the heiress of that, it’s live energy causing volcanic-like fissures, dramatic shifts in the landscape. The guitars are more powerful than ever, impregnated with thunder bolts eager to unleash, clouds full with precipitation, ready to unload.
Soon, the earth’s very foundations shake, Adrianne Lenker on the chorus impelling you to throw your head forward at every ‘not.’ Her voice soon imitates the scream on ‘Contact’, the words chafing against her throat as they fall out – “Not food / Not to eat / Not to die / Not dying / Not to laugh / Not lying / Not the vacant wilderness vying.” They wreak havoc in the final two and a half minutes, a piercing guitar reverberating with feedback. That promised storm finally dispersing – throw your arms out in it, let the water blotch your skin, dance in the rain.