HOLLAN HOLMES: Emerald Waters (2022)
Updated: Jan 13
“The design of this album and Hollan's textural vision are the core of its oneiric reach”
1 Hydroelectric 6:10
2 Hell or High Water 6:47
3 A Ribbon of Life 6:00
4 Tales from the Abyss 7:15
5 The River 5:57
6 Taken by the Current 7:46
7 The Sublime Shimmer 5:48
8 Changing Course 8:00
9 Leviathan 7:49
10 Fathom 7:44
11 Emerald Waters 5:45
(CD/DDL/Streaming 74:40) (V.F.)
(Prog New Age & Berlin School)
Holand Holmes' second album on the Spotted Peccary label, EMERALD WATERS was inspired by a car ride with his father. Crossing a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, the American musician was absorbed by the creek under the bridge. «The water was crystal clear and had all the colors of the blue and green spectrum» he recalls of his vision. «It was unbelievably beautiful, and those ten seconds marked my entire life» The design of this album and Hollan's textural vision are the core of its immense oneiric reach. The multiple textures of rhythms twisting and untwisting from their prison-like embrace are built around a palette of arpeggios that fragment like mirrors that have trapped the sun's reflections. These rhythms are circular, like the swirling points of river structures, and are enveloped by the magic of synthesizers and their multiple possibilities, both melodic and creative. And Hollan Holmes is very much at home between these two possibilities. In doing so, 8 tracks out of 11 evolve on these circular bases in continuous progressions. And these spirals become spasmodic, making EMERALD WATERS an album that flirts with the lively circular movements of a Berlin School trapped in the beauties of an ethereal universe.
With its multiple rhythmic mutations, Hydroelectric sets the tone of this last album of the nice musician from Texas. A sequence of 3 rubbery marbles going up and 2 others going down structures a dramatic rhythm that will increase its pace as the sand runs out in the hourglass. At the very beginning, a trickle of randomly jumping arpeggios settles. Flute tones radiate an evasive melodic texture that the synth picks up with its undulating lines. The mythical electronic haze surrounds Hydroelectric which develops a more jerky structure as soon as the percussions get in, increasing these impulses of intensity and emotion which are also important cogs in this first track whose musical richness will be nourishing the 10 other tracks on EMERALD WATERS. So is the circular rhythm structure of Hydroelectric and so will be the vast majority of the tracks on this new Holmes album. Circular structures built on sequencer lines that keep creating more. Rhythms that roll in symbiosis, as if with a slight shift, giving these rhythmic spirals that go from dreamy to exhilarating. These Teutonic structures are wrapped in this seraphic decor whose great melodic lines belong to the New Age, perfectly balancing the lyrical texture of this very beautiful album, which is a logical continuation of the imposing Milestones, released almost 2 years ago.
Thus, Hell or High Water starts with a sequence of arpeggios capering with fluidity before adopting a more jerky circular movement. A good bass line invites itself and makes its chords vibrate with an extension sounding like false duck quacking. This spiral is still very ethereal with a layer of voice that encircles this rhythm fed by multi-layers of rhythm that are interrelated. This movement gradually lessens its vigor to float in a breeze whistled by a hazy synth wave. Here, we dance in our heads! Just like in A Ribbon of Life whose first chords fall in a jerky way, trying to create circles that struggle to close the loop. Magnetizing, this spheroidal structure is assaulted by bass chords falling as curtly as the initial keys while releasing a short ray of reverb. Nice synth harmonies get grafted onto this track that stays on its spasmodic motion while its harmonious texture is divided between more atmospheric passages. Tales from the Abyss is a vertiginous spiral whose lively flow can make you dizzy if you have the idea to follow this crazy dance with perfectly synchronized circles. It's with chords sounding like a guitar that The River proposes its circular structure. The track is enormously rich in its tonal palette and unfolds with a sequencer movement and another rhythm line set on tinkles. The bass weaves a complementary rhythmic tissue, bringing out the multiple rays of sonic stars that simulate the multiple sunny reflections on a water that is both calm and agitated. The melodic devices adopt the changing movements of the rhythmic structure whose philharmonic synth layers have that slight Tangerine Dream flavor. Constantly renewing the orientations of his structures, Holand Holmes gives a more rock vision to The River as soon as it crosses the limits of its second part.
A very nice title in this album which is followed by Taken by the Current. And the music fits quite well the meaning of the title! Always circular, the rhythm is supported by a good pulsating bass line, while the melodic structure is created by multiple shimmering synth effects and a delightful piano line that deepens the melodic texture of this track a bit more. It's with a layer of seraphic voices that The Sublime Shimmer enters the ears. A floating moment captured by this sequencer obsessed with the variable speeds of circular design that furnishes the ambient rhythms of EMERALD WATERS. Quivering, almost skeletal, the rhythm here swirls under a variety of melodies that transform according to the tonal colors of the synths. Simply bewitching and shivers guaranteed when The Sublime Shimmer dives into our introspection. Too short! This is perhaps also the origin of its visceral beauty. Changing Course is the only atmospheric track on this album, and it finds a way to offer a mirage of shimmering arpeggios that form a sequenced line that will remain alone in this meditative phase. The brisk, linear movement of the sequencer in Leviathan traces that of a train rolling downhill with a shimmering texture of sequenced arpeggios. Fathom counters by a slower, more hypnotic movement and a more musical presence of the synths. We are really in the Berlin School with these two tracks. The title-track concludes this magnificent Holand Holmes album with two rhythm lines that are absorbed by a synthesizer whose multiple layers and effects bring out the lyrical aspect of EMERALD WATERS. Available in manufactured CD as well as download on Spotted Peccary starting Friday February 14, 2022.
Sylvain Lupari (January 12th, 2022) ****½*
Available at Spotted Peccary Music