First impressions really do a number to your head. The first and only time I saw Jonathan Miller of Hand Sand Hands, he walked onto stage in a sharp suit with a briefcase. When he opened the case, his ragged beats filled the theater, and by the time he walked off, I was convinced that this guy had to be hiding plenty other tricks in there, far more than he could squeeze in that mere interlude. I’ve not seen Hand Sand Hands since, but his tapes would appear in Wuxtry and on my virtual desk at Flagpole, beached bottles on a deserted shore that, once glanced in, transported the listener to the hermetic worlds within. Turns out, after that year of fantastic travels through The Shipping Forecast and Good Luck With That in 2014, Miller had drifted into an odyssey of his own, from funerals in Minnesota to the ruins of Sicily. That journey — from grief, to self-doubt, to creative contemplation, to rebirth — unfolds in jigsaw segments on his glorious return Bad Mountain, and “Great Noise” offers more than a few pieces to the puzzle. But what are these enigmas of pocket-sized beats, synchronized strings, and dogs that could eat you alive? No, don’t look at me. And don’t look at the man with the briefcase, either. One of the joys of listening to Hand Sand Hands is figuring out which path to follow.

Bad Mountain is out July 7 via Arrowhawk Records. Pre-orders are available here.

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