When an artist leaves seven years between albums, you expect something good; if you are smart, you also expect something different. In both respects, James Holden does not disappoint on The Inheritors.
His first LP The Idiots Are Winning set the bar for minimal techno, ready for immediate play on a dance floor near you. The Inheritors is a quite different beast while still being unmistakably Holden.
A glance at the cover and the track titles suggests that there is something pagan going on here and there is indeed a certain trance-like aspect to his layered synths and delirious distortion.
In places ambient, it also feels somehow more organic than his previous album, touching on the post-rock and Krautrock influences which feature in his more recent DJ-Kicks mix album.
The Inheritors sounds like it has been made from offcuts of sound, as if all the little synthesiser noodles, random noises and distortion deemed not fit by producers for the final cut have been assembled into a work of art.
For example, on “The Caterpillar’s Intervention”, a frenzied saxophone solo is wrapped around a pulsing beat as the track reaches its climax, and in “The Illuminations”, overlaid analogue synth riffs bubble and swirl in joyous harmony.
In places this shifting soundscape reconciles into something more rhythmically driven before the sea of blissed-out synths and distortion close over, returning it to a more abstract form.
The title track has an immediate groove that crackles along with serious purpose, “Gone Feral” brims with arpeggiated melodies that cascade around a building central beat, while “Renata” combines driving chords with thudding live percussion to great effect.
All three tracks are pretty dance-floor-friendly, and it is no surprise that both “Renata” and “Gone Feral” are already released as singles. The album is packed full of hauntingly emotional melodies and complex rhythms, making it seem quite timeless; some tracks would not seem out of place in Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, while others seem poised precariously at the cutting edge of dance music (not that you can necessarily dance to them).
A brilliantly interesting album, although perhaps not one to put on while you get ready to go out clubbing.
The Inheritors will be released on June 24th on Border Community.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!