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  • Filed under: Review
  • 06/17/2013

Holden The Inheritors

The Inheritors is not the kind of Border Community release one might expect. At first, there's hardly a nostalgic melody, much less a steady beat on label boss James Holden's psychedelic sophomore LP, which punctuates the long silence that followed his 2006 debut, The Idiots Are Winning. Compared to the first album, it's tough to get oriented in The Inheritors' swirling, mid-fi stew. It takes him until "Renata"'s fuzzy synth riff to evoke the idealized prettiness most associated with the label—and even the beauty here is of a wilder, murkier kind. But it's worth being patient while listening to the LP. There were hints of something weirder and freer lurking beneath Idiots tracks like "Lumpette" and "Quiet Drumming"—but The Inheritors mostly sounds vast, like the kind of album it would take seven years to make.

Holden counts the KLF's Chill Out, Scottish céilidh music, and ancient pagan rituals among the album's inspirations. His intention might be to create a synthetic pan-British mythology of his own, but listeners are likely to hear more contemporary reference points. The album opens with the churning "Rannoch Dawn," whose relentless forward motion feels like Krautrock, even though its sawing strings and multi-tracked live drums have none of Neu!'s motorik steadiness. The flutes and tribal chanting of "||: A Circle Inside a Circle Inside :||" puts a finer point on things, calling to mind the early-2000s neo-psychedelia of the Boredoms and Black Dice circa Beaches and Canyons, a blown-speaker alliance of rough-and-ready noise tactics and de-bullshitted new-age mysticism. Things gradually move toward a more familiar idiom as the album continues—by the end we're swaddled in recognizably melodic surroundings and the occasional drum machine, although a destabilizing open-endedness persists. This is only very tangentially dance music, but its weirdness seems organic, not an attempt at a statement.

Mostly, Holden seems to be following the lead of whatever junky equipment is at hand, and shaping the results on the fly. This leads to considerable stylistic shifts; there's a taste of full-tilt Soft Machine in the blaring "The Caterpillar's Intervention," but such overtly musical gestures fade into the background of tracks like "Sky Burial" and "The Illuminations," which burrow experimentally into the sticky cone of a dusty solid-state amp. Its press release makes The Inheritors sound like something that belongs on Ghost Box, evoking the dusky, domestic glory of olde Albion. But in the end, Holden's new album is strikingly original; its innovation is a sound that's sweepingly dramatic, convoluted, and uncanny at once.

The album's best moments are the ones where that sonic impurity reinforces something genuinely moving, like the chaotic synth curlicues of "Gone Feral," which are half submerged by psychotic revving bass. The Inheritors is too sprawling to make an easily conveyed impression, but it all feels like part of a deliberate strategy of regression. The music here is bristly, primitive, and saturated—it's Border Community on the paleo diet, if the aural paleo diet consisted of flea-market equipment. Listeners won't walk away with a clear narrative about The Inheritors, which is designed for nonlinear exploration. It doesn't pay off all its risks—at times it gets too blurry to follow—but this album sounds like little else. That's a coup for a label that could easily be bound by its own aesthetics, and a challenge to producers content to be bound by others' expectations.

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