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***Since 2016, Chicago’s Luggage has operated according to a less-is-more philosophy, tastefully shuffling spare lyrics in a song space primarily occupied by guitar, bass and drums. This sense of openness and order define Hand Is Bad, their new album released by New York’s Amish Records.
Hand Is Bad arrives in succession of their pandemic-toiled 2021 Happiness EP (Husky Pants) and much like that release, the Chicago band picks their vocabulary carefully both with music and words. Michael Vallera presents guitar rotating around MJ Grant’s airy bass rumble, and minimal, metronomic drum thud held down by Luca Cimarusti.
Vallera’s more abstract and understated musical and artistic past with projects like Cleared (Immune, Utech, Touch, Digitalis), COIN (Opal Tapes) and Maar (Umor Rex and Entr’acte) find their way into the production, arrangement and recording of Hand Is Bad. Grant and Cimarusti’s musical output as Basic Cable (Permanent Records) adds a spindly post-punk edge. And it’s a definite plus to get Luggage back in at Chicago’s Electrical Audio, a place that enhances the crispness with a very distinct, unfettered mix theology. Jeremy Lemos returns as well-dialed-in engineer, recording and mixing in three days with minimal overdubs.
Hand Is Bad is a tonal dream full of surprises, including the band members surprising themselves with some clear new pathways blazed since Happiness. For years there was a lot of challenging gravity going on, and for this outing it seems Hand Is Bad enhanced their own atmosphere to escape the Earth’s.