Review : Holy Othe - Held
PopmattersHeld is rather sad little album. Critically speaking, I mean that in a positive way. Solitude comes in many shades of grey; it can offer you some valuable me-time or it can deal you a crushing dose of loneliness. Holy Other walks this fine line from start to finish on his full length debut. Just when you think you can back the sound into the “chill” corner of the electronica room, it does something to remind you to reserve your judgment for later. Samples resembling all kinds of different moods are used for a singular effect—no small feat, I take it. The base elements of the music are even more tricky to pin down. Is this an ambient pad I’m hearing? Or is this supposed to make me feel something far more somber? All you know is that this won’t be a altogether smooth road. This makes Held a hard sell, but it’s still worth it.
Held is one of those albums where the moods and methods are a constantly moving target while the overall sound, somehow, comes out unified. Holy Other himself, according to his label’s website, seems hesitant to explain the album’s inspiration beyond vague hints at a crumbled relationship. Much like his compatriot Burial, Holy Other comes off as a private person who wants the music to speak for itself. And also like Burial, Holy Other has derived creative energy from urban solitude, be it good or bad.
The usual suspects—house, R&B, Gregorian chant—are lined up, get padded down and are then asked to slow down…sometimes mid-song. The opening track “(W)here”, complete with double meaning thanks to the parenthetical title, is propelled by bleeps and bloops that are at odds with the monastic samples. Push, pull, push, pull, where is here? So with that, welcome to the comforting confusion that is Held. From there, cards are dealt with even more subtlety. The pads on “Tense Past” can out-mope Moby. “Past Tensions” is desperate to repeal this mood, sending out a call in the form of a sample repeating “I want you.” Something tells me that things didn’t work out on that front. The radio-friendly start to “Impouring” in no way foreshadows the silent, dark corners in which this track eventually hides. “In Difference”, possibly one of the most emotionally compelling moments of the album, can’t resist building the track upon off-kilter rhythms while other electronic sounds share a reluctance for center stage. And it’s surprising that “Love Some1” is being pedaled as a featured track for Held, since its barely-there chord progression and overlapping vocal samples cloud any chance for mass appeal....full text
PrefixmagHoly Other makes it look easy. But peer a little closer into the steamy microcosms that this Manchester producer assembles and you'll see he's not just swirling random soundscapes into each other. He's engineering machines so tight and subtle that you didn't even realize how powerfully they were working on your brain until long after you'd peeled off your headphones.
Disassembling the paradigms of dance music has always been a central focus of Burial and his contemporaries, but while Burial selectively harvests the sounds that trickle out from the cracks in the club's back window, Holy Other is more concerned with mechanism than ambiance. On his first LP Held, rhythms orbit, tease, and contradict each other. Gutted vocals whimper, stutter and spurt as they dare you to find language in them. And when you can pinch actual words out of the diaphanous mewls, the record's true fragility is laid bare. By choking back the recognizable human elements of music, Holy Other conjures a yearning that makes you work to see it.
And when you do work at it, your efforts break through to something sublime. By the end of the record, ghostly amalgams of the human voice ultimately morph into real, alarmingly honest pleas: hold me. This is a dark, warm piece that sloughs off the sexier edge of debut EP With U to reveal a broken core: the simultaneous fear of and desire for intimacy.
Held is not the sound of the bleary underworld in the alley behind the dance club. It's the sound of you hating yourself in your room after you've gone home alone at the end of the night. And for all its delicate psychological workings and spot-on embodiments of that feeling's senseless, aimless guilt, it's completely mesmerizing. Wrap it around you and let its wounds seep into your own. ...full text
BbcHeld is the first album proper from this enigmatic producer – said to be from Manchester, although Gothenburg and Berlin have also been mooted – whose debut EP, With U, came out on Tri Angle last year.
The home of "witch house" acts Balam Acab and oOoOO, the label also signed How to Dress Well who, like Holy Other (and, for that matter, The Weeknd), appears to be involved in a project to remake RnB as a ghostly, ethereal soundtrack to the end of the world.
Unlike HTDW’s Tom Krell, however, Holy Other has yet to reveal his name or to remove the shroud from his head when he performs live. The anonymity matches the mysterious murk of the music, with its touches of not just RnB but the aforementioned witch house as well as dubstep and ambient electronica, although this isn’t cool synthesizer music so much as R&B, hip hop, pop and garage left in the cold night air.
The pace is slow, the mood is solemn verging on the sepulchral – that alias of his would appear to be a deliberate nod to the sacred properties of his favourite music (he even used to play a track called BOYZiiMEN) – and the atmosphere is glacial.
And it’s uniformly sorrowful. These are bass ballads for clubs where everyone sits around wearing headphones luxuriating in their own private misery. The tracks are instrumental but there are voices everywhere, cut up and tweaked or stretched out, leaving echoes of silence. Inpouring is typical of Held’s abstract quiet-storm funk with its aching keyboard chords and pitch-shifted vocals adding to the aural fog....full text
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