James Holden - The Inheritors

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  • James Holden has released hardly any music of his own since his first album, 2006's The Idiots Are Winning, but he hasn't been a wallflower either. Besides continuing to pluck new talent for his label, Border Community—which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year—he released one of the more deranged editions in the DJ-Kicks series with his 2010 entry of sun-blazed krautrock and pastoral electronica. But still, seven years since his last major body of work, it's safe to say that ears pricked up earlier this spring when word that emerged that he had a new album in the works. And what a return it is. Named after a novel by William Golding, The Inheritors quickly bewitches with an audio headspace that's very much Holden's own. If there's anything in his past that bears the sonic identifiers on display here, it's the wobbly analogue bliss-outs of his DJ-Kicks rather than the neo-trance at the heart of The Idiots or his famous "A Break In The Clouds." Forged from single takes on his modular synth with no overdubs, The Inheritors has the blurry, delirious effect of an eighty-minute heatstroke. Holden's described some of the work here as a new kind of rave music, one that alludes to ancient English historical practices like pagan rituals, and there's certainly some kind of peculiar cosmic spiritualism linking these fifteen tracks. Holden has long been associated with various incarnations of trance, and he's still after that state, though he uses a different approach. The album is a collection of analogue workouts that buzz and heave through a vast spectrum of sounds, which Holden stitches together into a work of astonishing coherence. Just listen to the way Etienne Jaumet's saxophone freakout at the end of "The Caterpillar's Intervention" gives way to cathedral-like tones and scrapes of static on "Sky Burial." Or how the ambient swirl of "Illuminations" decays into the half-submerged cracklings of "Inter-City 125." "Seven Stars," meanwhile, is the sort of 3 AM catatonia that might have graced an early Nathan Fake LP, but sounds here like it's been left to bake in the heat until its melodies seeped away. The title track takes these distorted blasts and elongates them into a kind of burnt techno that almost resembles Fuck Buttons. All of these tracks eventually build toward the cathartic galaxy sprawl of "Blackpool Late Eighties." At eight-and-a-half-minutes long, it's by some stretch the record's longest track; it also sounds most like what fans of "A Break in the Clouds" might have thought Holden would sound like come 2013. It's peaceful and distantly serene, but with flickers of dissonance rubbing away at the edges. Those contrasting textures are part of what makes The Inheritors perhaps the year's most revealing and intriguing album yet.
  • Tracklist
      01. Rannoch Dawn 02. A Circle Inside A Circle 03. Renata 04. The Caterpillar's Intervention 05. Sky Burial 06. The Illuminations 07. Inter-City 125 08. Delabole 09. Seven Stars 10. Gone Feral 11. The Inheritors 12. Circle Of Fifths 13. Some Respite 14. Blackpool Late Eighties 15. Self-Playing Schmaltz