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Bob Holroyd: re:Ambient

October 22, 2012

Composer Bob Holroyd takes some of his existing works and hands them over to others to remix on his latest release, re:Ambient. Given Holroyd’s own diverse musical scope as a starting point, the infusion of fresh takes on the source material creates a mixed ride that glides smoothly through up- and downtempo zones. On the upside are Saul Stokes’ jaunty post-rock version of “After.” Acoustic guitar notes ring out and smooth string sounds blend with field recordings. The mood stays joyful throughout and the beat is infectious.  Holroyd’s own rework of “Crusts of Dust” gears itself up into a Berlin-style groove, energetic and angular. (Let it be noted that I’m a relative newcomer to Holroyd’s music, so my impressions are of these pieces alone, not the manner in which they relate to the originals.) The post-rock structure informs several of the pieces here, perhaps best defined by the two takes on the track “Parallels.” The Album Leaf’s rendition has something  less of a “rock” pedigree, boasting a gentleness that rides on a beautiful piano line over hushed drones and electronic percussion. A tone like a melodica takes up the melody at the end, a very nice touch. Scottish “ambient-rock” group Mogwai take a more directly electronic route. A coarse-edged sequencer line opens over a growing, pulsing backdrop and big chords. This one feels deeper, dimensionally, and the layers add on in a nice organic fashion. On the less beat-driven sides are Venona Pers, surrounding their charge, “Absence,” with deep, echoing atmospheres, the simple repetition of phrases slowly prying open a space in your head and heart. The backdrop of gathering sounds builds gently and its hold on you gains impact as it goes. Steve Roach’s contribution takes up the most time stretching out a gorgeous 12-minute version of “All Colours Pt 1.” Hints of Roach’s tribal work find their way in. (Is that the ocarina I hear, lending a little tenuous air?) Clatters of percussion lift up airy drones and washes. A processed voice weaves through the sound. Eluvium’s “Beachcomber” finds a good spot mid-stream. Hazy drones and minimalist repetition stretch out over a bass line describing just enough of a melody to feel like there’s forward motion. I quite like the pure density of sound here and the dovetailing of phrasing. The deeper the fuzzed-out sounds go, the deeper the bliss.

re:Ambient has spent a lot of time on loop and also on shuffle. I like the flow Holroyd’s put together here as is; it makes sense and is just a pleasant ride. It’s also good, though, when the pieces are mixed. It’s like discovering new colors, new interplays of sounds. Whether new to Holroyd (like me) or a fan who wants to hear how other musicians pay their deep respect to this very talented artist, re:Ambient is a great listen.

Available from Bob Holroyd’s web site.

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