Rising to popularity on the tail-end of the Witch-House era, Holy Other managed to surpass many of his peers and become one of the leading figures in the short-lived yet influential movement. Like Balam Acab and Salem before him, Holy Other ensured his music never suffered from cliché by injecting it with a distinct personality, an element which many other witch-housers lacked. The qualities that separated his With U EP from the distorted 808s and rattling saw waves that dominated Bandcamp throughout 2011 are revisited on his debut full-length, Held and the results are gorgeous.
To no surprise, vocal samples are heavily utilized on this album. However, rather than cutting lines out of a mid-00’s R&B tearjerker in typical post-Burial fashion, Holy Other takes half-syllables and stretches them out to breaking point – you can almost hear the sound of the mouth opening. On Inpouring, “Aw’s” and “Oh’s” soar over an unexpectedly complex drum loop, creating the feeling that they are the commanding the track rather than supporting it. Vocals are put to a similar effect on the more uplifting In Difference, in which harmonies loop around an appropriately sleepy, wistful beat.
This refreshing take on downtempo electronica is best displayed on title track Held. The 6 minute epic features a slow-mo house buildup, a gut-wrenching vocal loop and before it all gets too familiar, a piano riff worthy of the R&B ballads Holy Other might be sampling. It is a moment that gives the listener both an intimate glimpse of his emotional output as an artist and an indication of just where he might go next.
Although it may not be too ambitious a move by veteran standards, Holy Other’s ability to re-invigorate tired trends is likely to draw comparisons to other like-minded upstarts such as Purity Ring and AlunaGeorge.
Held is a record that can be surprisingly cathartic, necessarily depressing and occasionally even hopeful: it necessitates the notion of “mood music”.
Credit: Darcy Baylis