On Derek Monypeny’s first album in seven years, the windows are wide open and the fresh air is bringing the dead back to life. The Hand as Dealt was hatched deep in the Mojave Desert and those ancient energies are baked into this sprawling double album. Monypeny’s work always reaches for a higher plane, but with The Hand as Dealt, he finds those spirits dancing on solid, sacred ground.
Sunlight blinds the senses as opener “Yoncalla/Drain” begins with bright, psychedelic guitar invitations. It’s a bit of a ruse, though, as you are quickly pulled under the current and enveloped intense, aqueous tones. This juxtaposition of opposites permeates The Hand as Dealt. The shine returns as “Waves of Nightingales” grieves for essences we have lost to the fire as a precursor to the fall. With such heavy undercurrents, it’s incredible that Monypeny made this record before the hell of the past year because it predicts everything. Inside the sprawling sonic maze of the title track, the inevitability of it all becomes clear.
In 73 minutes, Derek Monypeny breaks open the darkness and meditates on the path lost, and laments that there may be no way back. Hellish chaos and brittle fear collide like aural explosives when “The Tamarisk” opens up. Howls and screeches give way to subterranean bulldozers, all moving hurriedly toward impending doom. “The Tamarisk” is intense, like a 16-minute long lightspeed solo that never relents, never comes up for breath. It’s the centerpiece, though, where the weight of it all becomes too much and something has to break.
Circling around to album closer, “(You Are Just) Playing In the Entranceway,” though, the burden and denial turn to acknowledgment. Monypeny’s guitar excursions breathe catharsis. Tight timbral passages glow. They are freeing, boundless. Dusk’s shadows loom ahead, though, and through melancholic explorations, a stolid peace is found. Monypeny taps into that desert wind and lets it carry his spirit into the sky.
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