Hatori Hanzo – Dulcinea

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hatori Hanzo:

Appealing, but needs hook

Seth Leonard

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Kill Bill,” then you have at least some familiarity with Japanese Samurai swords. The hatori hanzo is a type of these blades, and an Asheville band has taken that name as their own.
Since they’re named after a legendary sword, one might expect these guys to cut through the din and deliver something really sweet, a la their album’s title “Dulcinea.”
Dulcinea’s tracks are well-played, their songs are bright and give the impression of simplicity but lack that quintessential guitar lick or catchy chorus to glue them into your mind.
But maybe they weren’t looking for that.
By well-played, I mean that tracks sound clean and the occasional bells or extra vocals round things out nicely. Danny West handles the lead vocals on several songs and moves from soft, almost anglo-inspired attitudes on “Katheryn’s Boutique” to a dark tone on one of the heavier tracks “When We’ve Gone and Died.”
West is a fine singer and creative guitarist to boot. I once saw him perform an excellent rendition of “I Need More Allowance,” a song from the fictional band “The Beets” from the Doug Funny cartoon series. This guy knows how to appeal to a crowd.
Alyssa Scott backs up West for most of the songs, but takes the lead on a couple of tracks, which deviate from the others markedly. “Disarray” is a welcome break from the chime and tingle of the first three songs.
West steps back and helps build the grunge guitar background that is the bed for Scott’s contemporary Alanis Morissette. “Lady in Waiting” provides another opportunity for her to showcase her fine voice.
Back to the softer tones and playful lines, her singing is left out in the open a bit more, but it doesn’t suffer without distorted guitar covering her tracks.
The production for the CD is excellent. Songs are balanced and tracks blend into one another quite smoothly.
One endearing quality that can’t be overlooked is the subtle variation in the track list. Sure, with just one listen through many people would say that some of the songs sound the same, but upon closer inspection, each song is unique.
“Leave” dances on the fringes of harder rock, but ultimately it is a tease. “Skinny” has lyrics that are tough to make out the first time through thanks to the odd pace of the song. Once you’ve figured out what is being said, you might still wonder what they mean.
Overall, Dulcinea is a competent product that should appeal to indie fans who like a relaxed, aloof feel to their tunes. Not everyone will feel confident pulling up to the stop light with this turned up loud, but there is certainly a crowd of live-oriented new sound hunters that can dig Hatori Hanzo’s new offering.
Salisbury Post intern Seth Leonard is a journalism stdent at UNC-Chapel Hill.