HELD (TriAngle Records)
TriAngle is swiftly becoming a byword for quality, with Balam Acab, oOoOO and now Holy Other making major waves. Maintaining his anonymity behind a kind of vampiric/ghostly appearance, on stage and in photo shoots Holy Other is draped in cloth, cowls and veils. That aesthetic is in keeping with a sound that is like a ‘spiritual visitor’ to earthly emotions. Held is slowness. Slowly crawling inside the tropes of pop, UK garage and R&B and teasing apart the guts and viscera of love and emotion, hyperextending them into beautiful abstraction.
In much the same way that Burial submerges the listener in an urban fog – not distant from the city at night, all neon lights and night buses yet somehow far apart from them – Holy Other creates music that is littered with familiar reference points (a house shuffle here, a sensual R&B bassline there) but are simultaneously worlds unto themselves. Opener (W)here begins with a bass that is more rolling, rumbling thunder than grimey basement wobble, while there is a creeping off-kilter metronome at its heart. U Now drags 2-step through dark sedated Vangelis soundscapes and Past Tension is a hissed-out perversion of stadium pop.
This music has been described as solemn, but Held possesses a fidgety energy that compels you to move your feet – injected with expansive cymbal crashes, explosive snaps and claps. The sheer extent of abstraction could run the risk of neutering any sexuality here. But Impouringhangs delicate, whispered lust from a ‘push and pull’ tempo that speeds up and slows down lending a playfulness and threat that is pure sensuality. Nothing Here’s ‘duet’ adds to this almost pornographic palette with deep breathy moans bumping up against delicate clicks and hisses, sounding almost literally climactic. Holy Other’s distinctive distorted ‘alienness’ conjures in us the furtive thrill of new mysterious experiences, with new mysterious bodies.
On the title track each element falls into place as slowly enfolding rhythms pile upon one another, building to a rolling silky groove. Mournful voices call back and forth – maybe that they love you, maybe that they loved you. Each voice is a lonely stranger. A brief slow down and false ending give way to a gentle piano chord progression, the clarity of which is so unusual and unexpected its simple beauty is amplified tenfold. The track ends with the multiplicity of voices reduced to two.
Holy Other is part of a welcome wave of musicians repurposing the landmarks and lexicon of pop, R&B, UK garage and house for a sound that is at once shrouded in ethereal mystery and nakedly honest. Like Kuedo’s Severant last year, Holy Other’s unashamed wearing of his heart on his sleeve – so deftly executed via with a thrilling reinterpretation of modern UK bass music – has created an album that for all its gloom is has its own powerful euphoric beauty.
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Words: Simon Garner