A formicarium, otherwise known as an ant farm, is a fascinating insight into the behavior of ant colonies within their environment. When I first saw one at a young age, I was enthralled by the intricacies of their branching tunnels, a complex feat that only a cooperative colony can achieve. I was also taken by the idea that so many species hide under the ground, away from any threat or danger of their survival. Maybe this idea captured the mind of Chalk Hands as well, given the apt title of their debut EP Burrows & Other Hideouts. Nonetheless, this UK post-rock/screamo act are digging at something, and their first release is a refreshing and ardent venture.
RELEASE DATE: 25 August 2017 LABEL: Future Void Records
The EP begins with a disarming guitar melody until it instantly erupts with passionate yells and deep punk chords, marking the start of “Burrows”. The energy they harness is a subtle intensity, packed with plenty of grit that screamo has to offer without the chaotic, unrelenting instrumentals. Instead the band is more nuanced and minimal, balancing the scale between heavy and emotive. Chalk Hands let you feel the song, while most bands in the genre make music I find myself having to keep up with. “Burrows” is the first taste into the smooth blend of musical influences that Chalk Hands represent, and “Arms” follows with a deeper and slower cut.
Where else can you hide, if not underground? In your arms, where you can block out the world? Or the arms of someone you love? The second and final track on Burrows & Other Hideouts tells us more about the places we seek comfort with the powerful screamed lyrics In your mother’s arms, Or a hole in the ground, I’m all yours. Musically, this track gives more emphasis on instrumental passages, allowing for more dynamic changes that mark the post-rock genre. “Arms” also kicks back the tempo and lets the music build its strength with a purpose. A passionate finale signals the end with roaring chords that wilt and fade out, laying Burrows & Other Hideouts to rest.
Chalk Hands fought the fear of comfort and safety by releasing an EP characterizing it. Creating and releasing music is a vulnerable process, and letting people explore your thoughts and emotions that went into it can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience. Instead of letting that fear hold them back from putting their work out there, they catalyzed it and made it the motivation behind Burrows & Other Hideouts. The only complaint I have for Chalk Hands is that I want more, but their 9-minute EP is filled with insurmountable potential for future releases. The trees are rustling, the wind is picking up, an avalanche is coming; I can feel it.
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