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James Holden & The Animal Spirits The Animal Spirits Border Community


Getting underway with a nondescript groaning – the aptly named Incantation for an Inanimate Object – and merging quickly into the flute-led Spinning Dance, The Animal Spirits is an album that wholeheartedly embraces prog-rock and jazz aesthetics.

But don’t let this put you off. Although James Holden has repositioned himself from machine melodist to band leader, the same channels of hypnotic rhythm and melody run through The Animal Spirits as they did through Holden’s acclaimed electronic work on his label Border Community. In a funny way, the link is trance – not the breathless hands-in-the-air variety, but the kind of trance you go into when the music you’re listening to sucks you under with its siren call. Astonishingly, The Animal Spirits was recorded in single takes, and the live instrumentation is definitely one of the reasons that the album feels vibrant and unpredictable. Crucially, though, this isn’t some leap into unknown waters. The gentle ebbing and flowing of The Beginning and the End of the World is just one of the many moments of melancholic bliss that underscores Holden’s ‘new direction’ as continuous with his previous work, rather than a schism with the past. Radiohead would be proud of the glittering Each Moment Like the First, a subtle hypnotic drum beat underwriting an upwards swell of soft synths. The title track is a thundering gallop with a rickety synth cart and a saxophone-flecked melody dragging alongside – artists like Brandt Brauer Frick reach for similar ‘organic dance music’ territory, but rarely with such heart and soul.

Aesthetically the trappings may have changed, but The Animal Spirits is James Holden in head-turningly impressive form, applying his mind to a new modality and conjuring up beautiful, baroque and beguiling results.