HOLLAN HOLMES: Milestones (2020)
“Milestones offers 10 short films for black screens where our imagination clings to all the threads of its immense mosaic”
1 Transmitter 5:01
2 One Giant Leap 5:17
3 The Truth Laid Bare 5:45
4 Slipstream 7:02
5 West Texas Backroads 7:06
6 Bulletproof 6:21
7 Inner Sanctum 7:13
8 The Phone Call 7:11
9 Something Wicked this Way Comes 6:50
10 Ayyappan 7:20
(CD/DDL 65:12) (V.F.)
(Light sequenced, Pacific School)
Woven between the threads of its guitars and the riffs of keyboards which superimpose their harmonic visions on nests of stationary rhythms, sometimes more sedentary, MILESTONES takes Hollan Holmes' career to an international level with this first album on Spotted Peccary. And when you know the quality of the productions and the excellent mixes of the American label, the music of the friendly musician Texan also reaches a whole new dimension. Structured around 10 titles of pure EM with atmospheres and spikes of emotion which are linked to circular sequences, which are sometimes in Berlin School mode, MILESTONES will surprise you with its musical freshness where the sounds, their forms and their intended, become elements of obsession.
Reverberating notes hesitate to structure a rhythm, leaving rather the sequences with harmonious bells that care to propel the rhythmic decor of Transmitter. And from then on, we notice by ear this mish-mash of harmoniously tenderly strung webs which cling to dark pulsations and to a line of pads in riffs' shapes. And it's the debacle of sounds in a musical context where the multiple lines and jets of synth trace as many harmonious filaments as draw rich panoramic decorations in this sound mosaic. The jumping keys of the sequencer and the gliding riffs of the Texan bard's guitar solidify a rhythm structure drowned under the weight of the atmospheres and the circular harmonies of Transmitter. There are a lot of sounds and of sequencer's propulsions around the 10 tracks of this album, but it's not all the rhythms that will make us dance. Take One Giant Leap and its opening shrouded in voices familiar to NASA astronauts. Despite the power and intensity displayed in a layer of buzzing, of pulsating sounds and of bits of harmony crumbled in an intermittent curve, One Giant Leap is cut in the abstract rhythm. A long filament of flashing sequences and a line of organic pulsations move under this diamond dress of musical pixels. The Truth Laid Bare sparkles in it attracts for an Experimental New Age. An electronic structure inflated by an oblong line of the sequencer, which will keep its minimalist vision, collects this fascinating odyssey where everything that looked noble and frivolous turns to a more experimental vision and where the astral voices become good synth chants. It's like if Enya had decided to do psychedelic cosmic rock! With its suspended structure sparkling like the thousand silver reflections of the sun on a pure lake, the calm and beautiful Slipstream brings us back to the origins of Hollan Holmes. It's a very good track which quickly became a companion of my sleep. West Texas Backroads continues this vision with a series of guitar riffs glued to a line hopping from its unbroken cuts. The echo weaves a sound wave where sonic particles radiate. There is also pulses from a bass line with notes that are tempted for big electronic rock. This floating line becomes a long spheroidal movement whose repetitions sculpt an ambient circular rhythm. Intense and quite moving at times, West Texas Backroads increases our level of obsession with good arrangements and an armada of twinkling stars that continues to sparkle in a more dramatic finale.
Very intense, Bulletproof exploits the meaning of its title wonderfully with an opaque musical tissue from which synth filaments are drawn closer to psychedelic values. The structure is hyper-pulsating, like most of the titles here, and throws the canvas of a bubbling base under the impermeability of the music. A title that deserves to be listened to again, given its intense cloudiness. Inner Sanctum is the kind of title that takes possession of our pair of headphones right on the spot. It's announced itself with sizzling chords of their rhythmic glow. The movement is slow and methodical. A swarm of sequences eat its back, redefining a peaceful hybrid rhythmic structure. From ambient, the title is turning for a nice astral rodeo which swirls with a slowness allowing to see all the sound particles merged in a very harmonious movement. The Phone Call is a title agitated by a line of sequences with convulsive pulses. The layers of astral voices and the tears of guitar are more audible in what is the most linear, the least complex title of MILESTONES. Something Wicked this Way Comes is a bit like the second skin of Bulletproof. Slower to get going, and exploring very beautiful melodious avenues, the title progresses with this stream of sequences that sparkle and shine in an envelope like Michael Stearns' M'Oceans. It becomes a good electronic rock still in suspension, even with the ferocity of its broth. Continuously exploiting these loops of sounds which jostle in syncopated rhythmic structures, Hollan Holmes adds a thin line of seraphim to the very beautiful Ayyappan. An ambient ballad where the sounds explode into fragments of melodies which go end to end so easily whereas its floating movement gets adorned with a layer of chaste voices. Guitar and keyboard chords have their melodious visions in this oneiric texture which caresses for a few lost seconds that of an electronic rock before reversing and bringing out again this very esoteric vision of Ayyappan.
We agree that Holand Holmes is in line with Robert Rich and Michael Stearns, but with a vision that makes his music more accessible. At this level, MILESTONES offers 10 short films for black screens where our imagination clings to all the threads of its immense mosaic. The sounds, the effects, the atmospheres like the rhythms and the melodies intertwine in an immense musical collage weakened by its surprises. Well, I have less hook on The Phone Call, but the other 9 titles here are treasures where the genre Pacific School radiates of its multiple capacities.
Sylvain Lupari (March 20th, 2020) ****¼*
Available at Spotted Peccary Music