- Marshall Allen once told me that he and the other members of Sun Ra Arkestra tried to make their instruments sound like synthesisers. On his last album, The Inheritors, James Holden seemed to be trying to make his synthesiser sound like a free jazz ensemble. An LP of towering ambition and epic proportions—it was Resident Advisor's album of the year in 2013—The Inheritors's crackled with an energy that felt far more alive than something that could be summoned from a circuit board.
By assembling a band for his latest album, The Animal Spirits, Holden has given that energy human form. Long-term collaborators Etienne Jaumet of Zombie Zombie and Tom Page of RocketNumberNine are among its members (as are Marcus Hamblett, Liza Bec and Lascelle Gordon), with Holden leading on synth as the group's live instruments and software mingle.
Studio set-up aside,The Animal Spirits carries a number of ideas from The Inheritors. As with The Inheritors, the tracks were all recorded in one take, and move from euphoric melodies to intense improvisations. But this album is a fuller realisation of Holden's vision, as kaleidoscopic as the prog rock LPs to which he's clearly indebted.
When "Thunder Moon Gathering," for instance, reaches a peak of discordant saxophone and deranged drumming, the band sounds not so much wired as downright possessed. Ideas of ritual magic are made explicit in both the title and portentous chants of "Incantation For Inanimate Object." Holden's far from the only artist to reference the occult in his music. But where Demdike Stare, Shackleton and Forest Swords evoke a sense of dread, the music here is Dionysian in spirit. It can be giddily euphoric and blissed-out, as demonstrated by the rippling tones and saxophone pirouetting over "Go Gently Into The Earth."
It's those feelings that make The Animal Spirits dance music, though not in the conventional sense. Its rhythms have more in common with prog and jazz—a change likely helped by the gnawa music Holden encountered during a trip to Morocco in 2014—than the progressive house of early singles like 2000's "Horizons." If The Inheritors was the sound of the former trance artist undergoing a spiritual rebirth, The Animal Spirits is as close as he's come to transcendence.
01. Incantation For Inanimate Object
02. Spinning Dance
03. Pass Through The Fire
04. Each Moment Like The First
05. The Beginning & End Of The World
06. Thunder Moon Gathering
07. The Animal Spirits
08. The Neverending
09. Go Gladly Into The Earth