James Holden & The Animal Spirits Band – MIRA 2017

From a pagan place

The British DJ/producer and synth melody’s clairvoyant takes new fellow travelers as a bandleader to perform his third unconstrained full-length album, “The Animal Spirits,” to MIRA 2017 Festival audience on Friday, Nov 10th at Fabra i Coats – Fàbrica de Creació, Barcelona. The live band set will come with Dan Tombs on the generative visuals.

By using ‘unconstrained’ means Holden keeps on the free-spirited steady ride, divergent as he pointed out with the previous “The Idiots Are Winning” (2006) and “The Inheritors” (2013). Moreover, he leaps from gravitational dance into some outer-date field as an apologist of musical legacy. This time for good, with turning point limit ahead, not yet overpassed. Yes, it sounds like he thinks the submission of everything to time, the unstoppable dictatorship of what is up or down is overrated. His career confirms it. From being top dawg DJ on the progressive and trance scenes in the early ‘90s, highly required re-mixer for the first row acts (Madonna, Depeche Mode, New Order, Mercury Rev…) and strictly electronic trailblazers like Nathan Fake or Four Tet, he decided to launch his imprint, Border Community. He had a reason. The Oxford University Maths graduate modeled a new set, away from the constricted functions of DJing to channel a more expansive interface with music. An intercalation past-present output with the same attitude he used to switch knobs, buttons, pads, and faders in dominion: improvisation. “The Animal Spirits” album was recorded live with all group performing at once; single takes in one room at Holden’s London Sacred Walls studio in Summer 2016. Any post-production was not allowed, no overdubs, no edits by self-imposed dogma from the bandleader.

As a simile for the context, let us remember Canterbury Sound put the progressive rock in psychedelic orbit circumvallating avant-garde jazz improvisation. The trend-setting producer makes similar thing by taking his knowledge in electronic music to open a new window over the unknown of challenging progression, calling explicitly jazz legends Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders as inspirational figures, which goes to say at least Sun Ra and John Coltrane in pursuing. A compound of musical influences is what electronic shaman Holden ritualizes to enter this new featured world, “something like a spiritual jazz band playing folk/trance music.”

Same talent for the propulsive melodics that made him a star with his earlier techno-ish work, but this time created from his self-customized modular synth and software to adequate machine to the human pace of drums (Tom Page) and percussions (Lascelle Gordon). His always strident solos have counterparts blown on brass (cornetist Marcus Hamblett and tenor saxophonist Etienne Jaumet). The rendition of Krautrock links mostly in its folky variants and La Monte Young’s The Theatre of Eternal Music appears in drones with windy flutes by multi-instrumentalist Liza Bec, who also waves to the Eastern resound. The result is heretical for those who miss former DJ/producer James Holden in anthems like “A Break In The Clouds,” the same ones who got surprised from being unaware of “The Inheritors” turning supposed. It is a statement of the freedom of creativity, a genre-blending, transferred through perceptive and identified claims that rejoice fluidly for the glory of the universal music. It is worthy, up to those open-minded.

By the way, with “The Animal Spirits” James Holden corroborates a message he signed, sealed and delivered to the electronic community: being a pagan is not that bad, it takes you to different and enriching soundscapes. It did arrive at Flying Lotus among many others and has Floating Points as a faithful promotional allied with whom James Holden collaborated in “Marhaba” EP (Eglo Records, 2015), featuring Gnawa Morrocan musician Maâlem Mahmoud Guinia. Listen and enjoy the diverse.

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