HOLY OTHER’S HELD
Boy, were we excited to hear this record. Topping our list of the best albums of the past year was Holy Other’s previous With U EP, which turned this current trend of chopped and screwed pop music on its head. It was dark, deep, and devoid of any sharp edges or abrupt falloffs. As shrouded in mystery as Holy Other is, we were very, very afraid that we had heard the last of his one-of-a-kind flavor of experimental electronic music. When the above featured single, “Love Some1”, started getting some airtime in the claustrophobic corners of the internet, we realized that the artist wasn’t just an anonymous one-off project, bound to disappear quietly forever, but was actually someone’s livelihood. When it was announced that Holy Other’s debut full-length album Held was to be released in the US on August 28th, we solemnly cleared our schedules.
While it could be argued that Held may not be as foundational as the With U EP was, Holy Other has undeniably undergone a freakish growth spurt since the release of his debut EP. The “gothic R&B” vibe is still very much a cornerstone of his sound, and can be detected from the moment human gasps for breath are heard at the outset of the opening track, “(W)here”. Holy Other still crafts avant-garde deep house jams out of creeping basslines, hip-hop percussion, and pitch-shifted vocals, and most of them are still very, very disturbing. The choir of carefully culled soul singer samples, in particular, on Held never once strays from the array of ghostly, inhuman moans featured prominently in his earlier work. The evolution of Holy Other, however, lies in tender dirges like “Past Tension” and the epic title track, wherein the duality of the moody tone of his work is perfectly showcased. Much like the occasional break in the clouds that could briefly be glimpsed during the latter section of the With U EP, the cleansing light of the celestial bodies cannot be kept away from even the darkest moments of Held. Though the overarching mood of the album is incredibly morose, redemption can be found amidst the downtempo disarray. After all, what are shadows without light with which to delineate them? Holy Other’s newest release, Held, at first blush appears to be short, shallow, and shrouded in that whole scene populated by the likes of Balam Acab, Bondax, and How to Dress Well. Upon a closer examination, however, the album mirrors its cover artwork (and the recent actions of Holy Other himself): a giant leap beyond the confines of modern R&B music and a baby step into the warm public light. If any of you listeners subscribe to the chillwave, downtempo, witchhouse, or R&B scene, do tha right thing, and pay what it takes to get your very own copy of Held, the latest form that Holy Other has taken. Get it via iTunes or wait for the physical release on September 4th, and if you have the pleasure of attending any of his live shows during his upcoming North American tour, go easy on the guy. We hear he’s quite shy.