As spring reveals itself after a grim winter, there has been no seasonal change that’s been more welcome here at OBLADADA. Goodbye to long dark months filled with all sorts of heaviness. Feeling like endlessly pinballing through the pandemic, ranted at Brexit, and horrified at events in Ukraine and elsewhere, even worrying about putting the heating on, it’s easy to overlook the good stuff.
Despite all this noise, we all deserve to find the time to lose ourselves in the things we love. James Holden’s music definitely fits this bill.
Whilst he’s perhaps best known as a DJ, his music has moved in a fascinating arc. Early tracks like Lump and Triangle Folds Inside Out are stunning slices of vectorized dance music. Albums like The Interiors play out like German kosmic music of the 70’s peppered in dreamy electronics. Extended collaborations like Outdoor Museum of Fractals with Camillo Tirado and Luke Abbot, zone in on the patterned bliss of Terry Riley, whilst this last album, the group effort of The Animal Spirits is like psychedelic jazz/folk rock wafting through the forest.
So, after a 5-year gap, James Holden’s new album, the unwieldly titled Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities, immediately feels like something to completely go with. A 65-minute-long escape pod of music, unfurling in a twisting and corkscrewing, that seems to be focussed on an unapologetic sense of open-minded joy.
Much of the info around the album talks about it being a look back to Holden’s earliest days in 90’s rave culture, dusted in nostalgia but ultimately still in awe of the freedom and optimism of those heady days.
Across its 12 tracks, it immediately feels like an atmosphere enhancer, an instant party accessed via the play button. The brief opener You Are In A Clearing is like a howling ambient sunrise before Contain Multitudes settles into an initially somehow muted and flattened groove. Over the next 9 minutes it slowly builds into an expanding bulbous mass, before fanning out into extended filmic piano and tabla fragments.
Common Land drifts in, in oily pools, bouncy rhythms and heat hazed saxophone, whilst Trust Your Feet is gooey reflections dissolving into flutey gorgeousness. The Missing Key feels like a strange retracing of the previous track that’s being pulled in completely different directions…
Somehow, it now feels sufficiently deep in the album to finally float a while in ambient smears and glowing clouds as In The End You’ll Know builds. Out of the calm eventually comes a beautiful strobing drum track bending around lysergic electronics.
It’s by this point the album seems to take off, whatever earth-based shit you might have been doing before you hit play is now a distant memory. Continuous Revolution is agitated drums wrapped in celestial choirs and lightspeed momentum, and Four Ways Down The Mountain moves in lopsided spirals…
Worlds Collide Mountains Form is littered with live instruments, droning strings, drums and thumping bass aligned into celtic mist. The Answer Is Yes is a strange bell tinged plod through moorland mist, and Infinite Fadeout seems to gather all the loose threads and fragments so far, into some dazzling intergalactic zoetrope, before fading into static bliss.
The whole things ends with one more to raise the roof, and the woodblocking electronic tetris of You Can Never Go Back perfectly does just that.
Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities ultimately gives the sense that over time, whilst it’s immediately great, is only going to get better and better. Each track feels like a microcosm of a particular facet of dance music. The whole album is a high-definition VR fly through of the entire story. The details in the sound, the way things animate and change texture and form are brain popping. There is even the minor fact, the album is released at the end of March (31st), which also around the time when the clocks go forward in the UK. Evenings get longer, and in general, we all start to dream of warmth and greenery…
Whilst for now, it’s the soundtrack to dreamy happiness, you just know with a bit of heat and sunbeams, this album is going to elevate into moments of joy so potent, that it may well knock you off your feet.
Hugely positive and welcoming music – get lost in this.
Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities is released on March 31 on Border Community Recordings