Massachusetts industrial hip-hop duo Hansel is back with a second full-length album, and though things are just as loud and chaotic as they ever were, there's a more coherent vision to the music this time around. The punk ethos is still intact, but it's better integrated with the band's hip-hop influences now, with screamed rap vocals working with the hard breakbeat rhythms rather than against them on such tracks as "Psylents" and "Generate Humans." Turn down the distortion on "Cypress Millwood," and you've even got a beat funky enough to nod your head to. If the elements of Hansel's sound are better integrated, though, they're as eclectic as ever, if not more so. "The Death of Allen Steele," remixed here by fellow D-Trash Records artist Schizoid, crams dirty industrial metal up against jazzy rhythmic breakdowns, "Koslo (The Birth Giver)" mixes bleak trip-hop rhythms with reverb-drenched classical strings, and title track "Lorentzian Lineshaper" is like nothing so much as a Beastie Boys B-side as heard from the far side of a bad PCP trip. Then there's the cover of Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker," complete with staccato violins, drum 'n' bass snare rolls, and vocals that range from frantic breathlessness to brutal shrieking. For all the deliberate noise and confrontation, though, this is much more intellectual stuff than you might expect, and a surprising interest in such heady topics as quantum physics and astronomy makes itself known on opening track "Waking the Ghost" and the fascinating combination of synthesized cello, otherworldly chimes, and soft singing that is "The Uncertainty Principle." In many ways, this is extraordinarily violent music, but it's certainly not dumb. If you can correctly interpret the distorted shrieks through the morass of metallic breakbeats and buzzing feedback, you might even learn something.
Visit Hansel's website at www.hansel.org.
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