William Bennett, former Whitehouse provocateur, admits he got into working with elements of African and Haitian percussion by accident. The Cut Hands project started when Bennett was asked to DJ at Glasgow club Optimo, where he delivered a set of Haitian Vodou music and heavily percussive African tracks (at ear-splitting volume, natch) and was delighted at the effect it had on the audience. It’s a feeling that still lingers—this is the third album under the Cut Hands name following a series of quick fire releases, some of which have appeared, like this one, on Kiran Sande’s London-based label Blackest Ever Black.
It’s been a strange time for Bennett, who has gained a marginally higher profile via the less challenging nature of Cut Hands, but has concurrently had to fend off misinterpretations of his past work. In 2013, he was even moved to make a statement that clearly outlined his personal beliefs. His take on cultural appropriation, and whether he’s practicing it in Cut Hands, is as forthright as you’d expect. In a 2011 interview with Sande, Bennett claimed that parsing out “world music” as a separate form was a “condescending and patronising” practice that was antithetical to the way he sees music.
All this adds up to a different form of confrontation to the one he practiced in Whitehouse; despite the “it’s-all-just-music” claims, it’s hard to imagine that Bennett wasn’t expecting a few pointed questions thrown his way regarding his intentions for Cut Hands. Where that’s taken him on Festival of the Dead is into a curious cul de sac, where he builds on what came before in tiny increments. It’s placid at times, even skirting around ambient when he rolls out the solitary tones of tracks such as “Belladonna Theme”, “Inlightenment”, and “Fruit Is Ripe”, which intermittently provide respite from the drill-like percussion elsewhere.