Album Review: Motion: Connected Works by Koen Holtkamp
Very Good, Based on 5 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Working as one half of experimental soundscapers Mountains, Koen Holtkamp's intricately processed guitar and synth sounds transformed into astonishingly patient and otherworldly layers of spectral drones. Beginning with the quiet grandeur of 2008's Field Rituals, Holtkamp began releasing solo work while his duo continued on, exploring more guitar-based compositions and wayside distractions on his own. These solo works always were in keeping with the meticulous composition of Mountains' painstakingly crafted waves of beautiful noise, developed and refined from themes that originated in live performance.
Koen Holtkamp may be primarily known as one half of Mountains, the psych-ambient-drone outfit he plays in alongside Brendon Anderegg, but he’s building up a body of solo work that, while not hugely distanced from the music he creates as a partnership, increasingly deserves to be viewed and judged on its own merits. Last years’ Centralia album was arguably the strongest Mountains album to date, rich in instrumentation and widescreen in sound. Their music has always projected an organic, topographical quality and it’s a trait Holtkamp also conveys successfully when working alone.
For all Koen Holtkamp’s work with organic instrumentation, both solo and as part of the duo Mountains, the musical results can so often sound alien in their beauty. Holtkamp starts with guitars, percussions, the stuff of more traditional bands, before treating them through pedals and computers. But there’s another element of the organic in Holtkamp’s music.
Clocking in at over 130 minutes, Motion – Connected Works is a massive instrumental collection of arpeggiating modular synthesizers and aggressive metallic drones. Much like the progression of Holtkamp's work with Mountains, Motion sees his experimental tones being pushed further and further into sharper, more aggressive territory. The album consists largely of works composed by developing ideas whose seeds were planted during live performances, a method of creation that Holtkamp seems to favour.
Koen Holtkamp — Motion (Thrill Jockey)Koen Holtkamp’s work, both solo and with Brandon Anderegg as the powerfully beautiful electro-acoustic duo Mountains, has always felt closely tied to the natural world. Part of this is the way he uses field recordings (of water, of bees, of leaves rustling in the wind), but even beyond that literal connection there’s something about his music that feels like something you could encounter in the wild, even when a piece shifts into a brain-boiling drone. In his recent solo work, Holtkamp has shown that his compositions retain that quality even when he does away with the field recordings; last year’s Liquid Light Forms was a densely hypnotic record assembled using modular synthesizers, but even at its most kosmiche it still felt in tune with the sensibility that formed “Hundred Acre” or “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.