The fourth album by My Brightest Diamond, operatically-trained singer Shara Worden’s musical alias, is so diverse in its influences that you’re bound to miss a few on the first listen. This is My Hand resembles a child’s Lego creations; many-shaped and colourful building blocks are seemingly selected at random and assembled to form a vaguely coherent entity. Much like the output of junior Lego architects, however, the end result is decidedly hit-and-miss.
Worden’s primary construction tools are a drum machine straight out of the 80s, polished orchestral stylings and a clear, masterfully controlled voice. These foundations are accentuated with constant rhythmic experimentation, electric guitars and synths that flit between harmony and discord, and flashes of genres as wide-ranging as funk, shoegaze and even harsh noise.
These elements can be tied together successfully; “Lover Killer”, with its percussive clapping reminiscent of Dave Brubeck’s “Unsquare Dance”, grooving horn-backed chorus and soaring vocals, is a masterful example of art-pop done right. Similarly the near-chaotic primal drumming that introduces “Pressure” and alternates with pulsating verse and choruses throughout seems to capture for a few minutes Worden’s vision for the entire album; an “imaginary tribe of people, gathering round a fire, making music together”.
Having sprinted though the first five songs, This is My Hand runs out of energy and is almost crawling by “Apparition”, an anaemic book-end to the album. Intriguing flashes of Worden’s wide-ranging influences remain, however. The first few seconds of “Looking At The Sun” present choral vocals only to almost instantly underscore them with a rolling drumbeat. “Shape” holds flashes of over-distortion, guitar riffs, samples and what can best be described as echolocation pulses in one unsteady package that almost works. “Resonance”, on the other hand, would be completely forgettable if not for a singularly annoying rhythmic juxtaposition that persists throughout.
With all the focus on arranging all the instrumentation the lyrics seemed to have been neglected. The worst offender is the album’s title track, which, with lines such as “this is my thigh, this is my sex”, sounds like a poorly-executed New Age reimagining of Nina Simone’s “I Got Life”.
Despite this, overall This is My Hand is a polished, if perhaps uneven album, that marks Worden as a mature songwriter fuelled by an eccentric and thought-provoking artistic vision.