Holy Other - Held
The fact shy producer known only as Holy Other, (as he refuses to reveal his name to anyone), finally gives his strong following and many adoring fans in the media a debut album that has been highly anticipated after the hype of his previous release in 2011, With U. There is something very special about how Holy Other managed to seamlessly mix beats similar to UK garage on that EP, albeit slowed down to a crawl, with some ethereal vocal samples and filter it all through a thick lense of ambience and misery to create something new but still extremely familiar.
Held is his second release on the trendy Tri Angle Records and all the characteristics of a release from that label lie here such as sparse and haunting textures composed of cold synth lines, a clear nod to R&B and a load of cavernous reverb. Holy Other begins very strongly on this album with the brooding '(W)here' with his competent use of vocal samples at the forefront of the track. The track builds seamlessly with the drums growing to cacophonously fill the mix just for Holy Other to take the volume down and very effectively slow down in tempo whilst the original vocal sample remains, gradually evolving tonally with some clever pitch manipulation.
'Love Some1', one of the two tracks already released from Held as well as the title track, sees the mysterious producer toy with a more aggressive compressing style similar to Tri Angle records label mate How to Dress Well. The great thing about pretty much all the songs on this album but especially 'Love Some1' is how Holy Other refrains from what a lot of electronic producers are guilty of; writing two 1-bar phrases, one for the chorus and one for the verse, and then just repeating them incessantly in quite a lazy manner.
Tracks like 'Impouring' and 'In Difference' almost force you to tap your toe or nod your head they are so infectious and energetic but yet so sonically minimal with the odd fantastic synth tones and chopped up vowels only half discernable as words. Holy Other finishes in as strong a way as he began with the emotive 'Nothing Here'. The vocal sample on this track has some intake of breath left in at the end and acts as the percussion for the first half of the track, a very inventive use of a vocal sample if I do say so myself. I would say this is the producer's most ambitious track in terms of scale but it pays off massively. Despite its length, it definitely is the densest it terms of musical ideas.
There are some slight hiccups on Held such as Holy Other's forgoing of the garage-styled beats found on With U for more R&B styled percussion with the songs littered with handclaps and even triangle hits in places. Another small issue is that this LP, coming in at 35 minutes, is only 13 minutes longer than its EP predecessor. Call me old fashioned but for me an album should at least hit the 40 minute mark. Maybe I am nit picking because I genuinely didn't want this album to end. From start to finish there isn't a bad moment on this album really and I can easily say so far it is the best thing I have heard in a long time.