Review: My Brightest Diamond's “This is My Hand”

by Ruminate Magazine March 15, 2015

by Levi Bagdanov

In an interview with the website Wondering Sound, My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden says of her album This is My Hand:

I was looking at Shamanism and looking at the unseen world and the whole, ‘musician as John the Baptist character’ who goes out into the world and seeks some kind of revelation and comes back to the tribe and says, ‘This is what I’ve learned, this is what I’ve experienced in the wilderness.’

Indeed, Worden steps into the role of shaman on This is My Hand, released last September on Asthmatic Kitty Records. Her music asks us to look back and explore beginnings, to wrestle with our form, to strive for purpose.

On the album’s opening track “Pressure,” Warden sings: “I feel the weight of a billion years push down on me…all of this pressure’s making diamonds.” By opening the album with a metaphor comparing the act of making music to the geologic pressure required to produce a diamond, Worden demonstrates the scope of her ambition. She is not thinking about music in the context of this year, century, or even millennium; she is thinking in terms of epochs—epically.

The album’s second track focuses this scope to human history. On “Before the Words” she sings: “Before the words there was the voice / Before the verse there was the sound / Before the form there was the music.” Worden writes a new creation story.

She invites the listener to imagine a time before music and what forces led our ancestors to first create music. Later in the song she answers that question: “When we were young we heard our mothers…When we were young we heard that beat, beat, beat, beat, beat.” In Worden’s creation story, music is biological, embedded, necessary.

Worden also uses instrumentation to emphasize these themes. Sonically, melody takes a backseat to rhythm. “Pressure” begins with a marching band drum solo that seamlessly slips into a lavish disco groove. “Looking at the Sun” begins with a meandering jazz snare role that guides the verse through a complex melody only to transform into a simple solid beat for the chorus. As sophisticated as rhythms become, they still retain the simple and primal essence of a person hitting an object with a stick. And by building an album based on rhythm, Worden again leads us to reflect on music’s origins.

In the Wondering Sound interview Worden asks, “If records no longer have value in a certain way of thinking, what am I doing making a record?” With This is My Hand, Worden creates a new apologia for creating music at a time when music has little to no economic value. When the world changes we must create new narratives to cope. The world changed and Shara Worden went to the wilderness and learned that music is primordial and necessary. By Levi Bagdanov


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