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Though it might sound like it's a Kung Fu Hustle reference, Flying Hand is actually the name for a Santa Ana duo. But you probably won't understand that until you've covered your eyes with your hands during their live set. Their taut mosaic of distortion and polyrhythmic sounds bleeding from multiple amplifiers could easily be the work of three or four musicians. Peel back your blinders to notice how fast guitarist Temo Molina's hands move to create riffs, tweak settings on loop pedal stations and manipulate laptop backing tracks to keep the illusion of a full band alive. Meanwhile, drummer Christian Orozco forms a vortex of beats, his fists clenched around his sticks.
At times, the multitasking onstage is incongruous to slow-building instrumental rock and beat-making that thrives on the dynamic of tension and release. "I feel like I'm thinking too much onstage sometimes," says Molina, 24. "But it's getting better. As we play the songs more and more, I won't be thinking as much about the looping."
But Flying Hand's ability to conjure the spirit of a full band suggests they're pretty good at balancing electronic, progressive jam-band wizardry. Though the band formed just nine months ago, Molina and Orozco's chemistry stretches across seven years. They were playing and experimenting in local bands that emphasized their love for post-hardcore and acts such as Refused and Dillinger Escape Plan before they spent some time incubating their sound in the short-lived Santa Ana outfit Oceans With Shapes. After that band's break-up, Molina lost most of his desire to get back into the local music scene. Instead, he spent a lot of time constructing aimless laptop beats never intended for public consumption. "I'd be sitting there with headphones for hours making music on Ableton," Molina says. "I'd make these endless loops, sort of as a way to withdraw from the world for a bit."
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Eventually, the itch for human interaction crept up again, and he called Orozco to see if he'd be interested in trying to interpret on drums some of the tracks he'd created. Though he's a relatively quiet guy, 21-year-old Orozco is a whirling, muscular force behind the kit, modifying Molina's ever-evolving guitar loops with cymbal-crashing angst, powerful drum fills and jazz-minded syncopation.
"He just said we should add drums to it and play it live," Orozco says. "I always thought that was cool because I'd seen guys such as Thundercat and Flying Lotus do that."
He caught the attention of former Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Gil Sharone, whom he boldly hit up for drum lessons online. Impressed by his skills, Sharone took him under his wing.
With as much stylistic complexity as they've developed in the past year, Molina continues to push his multitasking talent into song structures that can wow in the studio as well as onstage. He can even go a little overboard with the looping, which he says was the inspiration behind the song title "Too Much." Of course, that's where a little helping hand from a sage teacher such as Sharone can make all the difference in the world.
"One of the things he always says is 'Keep it in the pocket, and all the technical shit will come later,'" Orozco says. "That's some advice we definitely do our best to take."
This column appeared in print as "Electronomical."