Holy Other – “Held (Album Review)”

It’s amazing that an artist can maintain a mysterious persona with their music alone. After unveiling a promising EP and a limited number of singles, producer Holy Other has given fans an ambiguous, late-night window gazer with his debut LP, Held. During the album’s brief play time, this gloomy string of songs evokes strong emotions without actually revealing anything about the artist at hand.

The soundscapes created on Held are quite a beautiful spectacle. Composed mainly of inarticulate, stretched vocal samples, smooth bass and eerie percussion, each song is peacefully filled with emotional tension that creates a free sense of floating along with a want to just give in. This feeling the album manages to create is an enchanting blend that is best created when the LP is heard alone and uninterrupted. Held is good background music, however, it is an exceptional soundtrack for pondering and bestows a reward of heavy sentiment to the attentive listener — (something other electronic acts can’t seem to always achieve.)

Those involved in the electronic music community will instantly realize the heavy influence a few acts in the field have on Held. The bleakness of Holy Other’s songs shine mainly due to the utilization of silence and underlying bass, a similar strategy to the production on The xx’s debut. The track “Tense Past” contains a lanky modified voice track that’s reminiscently used in the same manner of many cuts from Slow Magic’s memorable debut, ▲.  Much like Slow Magic’s “Corvette Cassette”, this incoherent sample is used to carry the song and ultimately defines the mood it gives away.

Holy Other’s most obvious influence however is producer/label-mate Balam Acab. Those familiar with the latter’s Wander / Wonder will immediately recognize the ambiguity that made it so interesting on Held. However, unlike Balam Acab, Holy Other never releases a moment of emotional relief after creating a dark, underlying tone for an extended period. This constant strain fearlessly creates an immense shadow that covers all of Held, something Wander / Wonder seemed to avoid.

Though it is sensitively powerful almost throughout, Held does contain certain moments that feel empty or underwhelming. Whilst they do not harshly take away from the album’s overall sentiment, these brief moments could use an extra something that is incapable of being professed since Holy Other’s musical building blocks are simply unconventional. In a sense, certain portions of the album are thin and need more elements to fill the sound that the style of the album demands.

While not perfect, the murky atmosphere that Holy Other’s music creates is significant enough to make this LP one of the most interesting releases 2012 has seen so far. Held shows a massive amount of potential for such a fresh artist, which makes his relevant colleagues and strong label a bonus to the possibilities for even more expressive but personally mysterious future releases. Don’t be fooled by singles or individual tracks, this album, as a whole, will sink you into a pit of comforting despair in a way that only Holy Other can accomplish.

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