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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

HOLLAN HOLMES: The Spirits of Starlight (2014)

“The Spirits of Starlight is a wonderful album of ambient rhythms that will awaken in you some of the best moments in Steve Roach's magic rhythmic patterns”

1 Impulse 7:06 2 Constant Velocity 5:47 3 An Uninvited Guest 6:19 4 Enduro 7:07 5 Pale Blue Dot 6:25 6 Scattered Across the Heavens 8:45 7 The Departure 6:25 8 The Spirits of Starlight 7:09 9 The Eternal Cosmos 8:03 Hollan Holmes Music

(CD/DDL 63.11) (V.F.) (Roach Pacific School)

This is another beautiful find than this time I owe to my FB friend Mariusz Wójcik who sent me the video of THE SPIRITS OF STARLIGHT. The skeletons and strings of hopping sequences, very inspired by Steve Roach's ambient rhythms, as well as the enveloping synth layers full of cosmic choirs had literally conquered me. A new name that gets in this list of good discoveries in 2015, Hollan Holmes is an American musician/synthesist native of Texas. The rock of Rush, REO Speedwagon and Journey, as well as the music of Pink Floyd, has guided his first steps towards a rock group at the dawn of his adulthood. He discovered afterward the magic of electronic music with Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis before to find really his style in the music of Robert Rich, Richard Burmer and Steve Roach. Names and influences that will be the cradle of this album. A very beautiful one, very lyrical, where the Texan transcends the clearly more esoteric style of his first 4 opuses with a thick cloud of motionless rhythms which sparkle and crackle such as flying sparks which always refuse to die but prefer to be born again in the fire of other embers.

Impulse invites us to discover the charms of THE SPIRITS OF STARLIGHT with a superb structure of ambient rhythm where our two hemispheres dance in countercurrent on a growing line of sequences whose tones sparkle as much as they dance. The rhythm is linear and oscillates with a velocity full of restraint, under subtle pads of choir and of which the ghost harmonies sculpture a cosmic adornment. Another sequencer line emerges one minute later. More throbbing, it melts and fades in this rather ethereal decoration and pulls the strings for a lively rhythm. And as a sonic butterfly, the envelope of astral serenity that filled the opening of Impulse metamorphoses into a nervous rhythm with some lively jerks which flicker in the filamentous spirals of other sequences of which the blinkings, as wriggling as subtle, get lost into stroboscopic dusts. There is a constant battle of ambient rhythms throughout this album and the winner are our ears. If the movement of sequences is sometimes lively and jerky, the synth layers which float in paradox introduce other structures with their slow impulses which redirect the traffic of the rhythms in more esoteric zones. And it's clearly more visible in Constant Velocity which distances itself from the batch by its approach clearly more funk/tribal. Like Steve Roach and his aboriginal beats but livelier here. The percussions add a new dimension to the music of Hollan Holmes. They bind themselves here, with an attractive organic fragrance, within a rippling line of sequences which makes its keys flickering in the desert winds of the synth lines of which the slow movements are weaving an encircling contrast between a passive and ambient rhythm. Winds which sometimes give the impression of roaring out, illuminating even more Steve Roach's influences on the music of Hollan Holmes.

We always stay in the field of ambient rhythms even if An Uninvited Guest is sculpted in the ambiences of Tangerine Dream, period Green Desert. Here as everywhere in this album, the movement of sequences is fluid and raises several contrasts with other evanescent lines which make the harmonious rhythms flicker and battle in nice synth layers filled of astral choirs. It's magical, like it's very soothing. Enduro swims in a pound of sequences as much as in the paradoxes of Impulse. The sequences are lively and cut out the atmospheres with fast snip of scissors in a kind of paper of sound, while another line of sequences rises and falls peacefully in order to forge a rhythmic ear-worm pleasant to the ear. One of the other charms of THE SPIRITS OF STARLIGHT is this constant metamorphosis of its structures and this no matter the envelope of time. Pale Blue Dot is the stormiest track here. A line of very irradiant sequences shines like a thick cloud of fireflies in a jar too small and of which the oxygen becomes scarce. Another line of sequences makes its keys waddle lazily, forge two lines of contrasting rhythm which little by little evaporates to make room for more celestial harmonies. We arrive then in the more ambient and really serene phases of this album, except for the title-track. Scattered Across the Heavens, The Departure and The Eternal Cosmos are small jewels of meditative music very inspired by Brian Eno, Harald Budd and especially Michael Stearns for the very cosmic approaches. Those are beautiful and intense moments which are more in the repertoire of Hollan Holmes' first albums. The title-track is simply delicious. It mixes marvellously these very ethereal spaces of the three ambient tracks with lively sequences which rise and fall in the corridors of astral roller coasters. This is like pure Steve Roach, from Now to Empetus. Yes, quite a nice find that this Hollan Holmes! Thank you Mariusz! THE SPIRITS OF STARLIGHT worths definitively the whims of your ears.

Sylvain Lupari (May 30th, 2015) *****

Available at Hollan Holmes Bandcamp

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