Release Date: Aug 27, 2012
Record label: Tri Angle
Genre(s): Electronic, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Holy 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.
Holy OtherHeld[Tri Angle; 2012]By Will Ryan; September 7, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetHoly Other appeared in a shroud of sweat and smoke last year with an excellent Tri Angle debut, With U, an EP that, despite its obvious Burial comparisons, stuck around while others toiling in the no-man's-land of "post-dubstep," blog-based dreary eyed electronic got swept away in the cycle of daily site updates. Held's existence, alone, is a testament to Holy Other's longevity and Tri Angle isn't usually in the business of making bum investments. Holy Other's first LP arrives a little over a year after With U and it sees the English producer making some obvious and successful strides to distinguish himself.
As indicated by the cover art depicting a panned out shot of rippled sheets on a bed haunted by absent bodies, Manchester-born producer Holy Other's debut album Held builds on the bedroom territory of previous EP With U to reveal a bigger, messier story. Where With U was situated in the muddled aftermath of a relationship, Held is deep in the clutch of one. Or, more precisely, concerned with the natural push-pull impossibility of oneness.
Has the transitory phase of shrouding in mystery ultimately ever done an artist any favors? Wearing a cloth bag over his head on all his live sets, the Mancunian producer known as Holy Other has developed a reputation for being enigmatic, a shadowy figure whose dimly exposed by a beam of light that hardly diffuses the darkness of the stage. His silence is the sort of fiddly proposition that almost never fails – refrain from ever going into any specifics and let the music speak for itself, except for the small detail that its creator conveys this very explicitly. Because keeping yourself out of the process repels as much as it attracts attention, but at some point resisting to attach to an image becomes counterproductive to your art.
For my money, Holy Other’s debut EP With U was one of the finest electronic records of 2011. A sublime 20 minutes of spectral, vapourous tunes, to me it felt like the very essence of midnight at its blackest. Quite a hard act to follow, then. Understandably, the Manchester-based producer has decided against a radical change of direction.
You could probably guess what Holy Other's debut album sounds like without ever hearing it. That's not a bad thing. It speaks to both the surprising solidity of the Manchester artist's style and the general ubiquity of this sort of eyes-down, funereal fare. But last year's With U EP managed to stick out like a throbbing thumb amidst all the soft focus dreck and Held accomplishes the same trick in 2012.
It’s ironic that How To Dress Well comes off so much more ominously with their covers and titles than Holy Other, when what Holy Other does with his honeyed R&B samples is so much more chilling. Where Tom Krell personalized the samples with his own vocals, however shrilly recorded, Holy Other lets these chopped spits of coo circle each other in a hopelessly lost series of passes in the pitch-black void. These voices have no song in which to make themselves whole: they are fragments that never add up.
Held 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 ….
Holy Other are the frontrunners of the ‘drag’ scene that sprang from easy access to weed, Salem and a broadband connection. From their smoke-filled bedroom emerges ‘Held’, a wilfully evasive record of billowing minor chords and disembodied vocals even the most ardent SoundCloud commenter is sick of describing as “Burial-esque”. Still, to listen closely is to be enveloped; ‘Tense Past’ comes off like The Field on the other side of his ecstasy plateau, while the titular track’s porous synth and lethargic kick captures a moment of fleeting beauty, slurring into a piano-kissed stasis.
Between the aggression of the most polarizing sub-genre ever, dubstep, and the crawling sonic apparitions of witch house artists, there has been a recent flood of artists getting dark with computers. Trendy sounds generally have two distinct classes of artists: the innovators who help to define a trend and those who create with a similar sonic palette but lack the depth of vision that makes a trend popular in the first place. With Held, Holy Other has faded from genre innovator to become another peddler of insubstantial — albeit dark — background noise.
Often the most affecting albums are those you put on as background listening, intending to do something productive, and then all of a sudden the album finishes and you realise you've just spent the duration motionless, staring at a single ceiling tile. Held, the debut album by Holy Other, is one of those records. Blending the ethereal ambiance of Cocteau Twins with a nautical, melodic, post-dubstep sensibility, the Manchester, UK producer weaves a beautifully slow-burning blend of UK Garage and skewed R&B.
Artists often take advantage of anonymity. Emerging artists, in particular, could openly perform a grand speech in front of a crowd of thousands, yet wouldn’t dare show a face in association with their music. Are they acknowledging that mystery and disguise adds to the intrigue of a new artist as well as making use of the fact? Is Holy Other simply a shy retiring figure who’d rather drape a hood over his head and use his sampler as a shield, or is he in fact adding fuel to the fire by allowing himself to remain a shrouded figure? Usually this matters.
Debut album of ethereal soul from mysterious producer. Paul Lester 2012 Held 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.