Release Date: Jun 17, 2013
Record label: Border Community
A much-anticipated release, this sophomore album from James Holden arrives a staggering seven years after his lauded debut, The Idiots Are Winning. Always the weirdest on his Border Community roster, The Inheritors is a bold and exhilaratingly out-there release that takes you on a psychedelic journey that feels distinctly out of time yet is undeniably contemporary in its production. Throughout its 75 minutes, the album utilizes elements of prog (think Aphrodite's Child and Goblin more than the British scene), electronica, kosmische and pioneer style electronics.
James Holden has released hardly any music of his own since his first album, 2006's The Idiots Are Winning, but he hasn't been a wallflower either. Besides continuing to pluck new talent for his label, Border Community—which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year—he released one of the more deranged editions in the DJ-Kicks series with his 2010 entry of sun-blazed krautrock and pastoral electronica. But still, seven years since his last major body of work, it's safe to say that ears pricked up earlier this spring when word that emerged that he had a new album in the works.And what a return it is.
The press release accompanying James Holden’s long-waited sophomore record, The Inheritors, is hyperbolic to say the least. It proclaims the 34-year old Devon born man as an “unparalleled” producer who has “woven a rich aural tapestry” with this album and that “nobody is making electronic music as explorative” as Holden – and that’s just the opening paragraph. Get past the PR machine, and you find that while The Inheritors isn’t the pinnacle avant-garde electronic music it’s hailed as, it’s a damn fine collection of songs.
Around the release of his 2006 debut LP, The Idiots Are Winning, UK producer James Holden was asked by production magazine Future Music to list his top 10 pieces of gear. He's a space cadet in the interview, turning idly in a messy room. By my count he names eight items, three of which are stuffed animals, with a fourth being a shelf of children's action figures overlooking his computer.
It’s weird to think, as “Rannoch Dawn” frays and fries itself in your ears, that in some ways this is James Holden’s first real album. Weird because The Inheritors is, in all its shaggy glory, such an assured and accomplished piece of work (and, once you dig into Holden’s methodology, accomplished in a way you’re not likely to see in novices); weird because he’s been making music since the end of the last century, and even if Holden is working a field that’s less and less organized around the album, that’s still a long time; weird because The Inheritors works so well as an album that it’s a bit boggling that this is his first crack at it. And yes, weird because technically The Idiots Are Winning, from 2006, was Holden’s first album.
James Holden has been working in the outer limits of experimental electronic music for almost 15 years now. His Border Community record label has become a byword for ambitious and progressive electronic music over the past decade. Holden’s debut album, 2006’s The Idiots Are Winning, established him as a singularly wondrous and unique producer in his own right.
It has been seven long years since James Holden released The Idiots are Winning to widespread acclaim, with the Guardian dubbing it 'the most astonishing debut in electronic music since Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right To Children'. Comprised of essentially three tracks, ‘Lump’, ‘10101’ and ‘Idiot’, and a lot of messing about (see ‘Quiet Drumming Interlude’ and ‘Intentionally Left Blank’), it was a short but brilliant statement of intent which the ensuing years of radio silence only served to accentuate. Follow ups to explosive debuts have been the undoing of many an artist, a pitfall which can be side-stepped it seems by waiting for the best part of a decade to release the dreaded second album, as expectation is replaced by impatience.
Calling James Holden a producer might not be correct. He’s more of a playground engineer. Since putting out his first single at age 19, the English DJ has fallen in love with the work, play, and joy of making music. A serial remixer, he created the label Border Community as an arena for artists like Nathan Fake and Misstress Barbara to stab at the edges of what gets grouped under the “electronica” umbrella.
Typical: you wait six years to put out an album, then Boards of Canada (to whom your debut, The Idiots Are Winning, was compared favourably ) overshadow it. Label boss, DJ, remixer and builder of "hybrid analogue-digital machines" James Holden has never actually sounded like BOC, but this time around he shares their penchant for analogue gear and mantric, pagan repetition. At its finest – on the six-plus minute Gone Feral, say – this is unsteadily arpeggiating not-quite-club music, a bit Four Tet, a bit Steve Reich, and even a bit Heath Robinson.
It usually seems unsporting when an artist derides their fanbase. But in the case of James Holden – who has come pretty close once or twice – you can’t really blame him. By way of explanation, I present to you his Discogs page: a dumping ground for “friendly advice” from die-hard fans urging him to return to the melodic, trance-indebted style with which he made his name a decade ago, and lamenting the perceived decline of Holden and his label Border Community as they have strayed into progressively “weirder” terrain.
Back when I were a lad, techno was techno. The good shit sounded like a barn door banging in a Force-10 gale with deep basslines and some wobbly 303 lines thrown on top for melody. But machine music is constantly evolving: I can still remember people falling over when the first breakbeats were dropped in our local nightclub, a roomful of people on acid staggering about desperately trying to find a regular groove to latch on to.
It’s been seven years since James Holden’s debut album ‘The Idiots Are Winning’. And fourteen years since his debut single. But you feel it’s only now that James Holden is ready to really make a statement about his unique talent. And ‘The Inheritors’ is it.It’s an ambitious album – indeed Holden talked of creating a type of music that people had never heard before.