Koen Holtkamp – Motion: Connected Works

But then you’ll stick this record on and you’ll be lost, or rather, suspended like a prehistoric fly in amber, in a powerful collection of tracks that do little else but emanate an incredible sense of presence.

 

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So how to describe this album? And in so doing, where to start? To be honest I don’t really know.  I can tell you about the things that originally put me off about listening in though; maybe that gives an idea about the turn around that went on in our house. Which, in turn, gives you the impetus to go and check this album out.

Motion: Connected Works is a record that went from one condemned to the recycle bin to being an essential cornerstone of my soundtrack for March, 2014, (CE). Why? OK; let’s start with that list I alluded to. First, there’s the fact that it’s a double album – and it’s a retrospective double at that, made up of over five years’ worth of work. Somehow that just makes you think you’ve got a duty to matriculate, and deconstruct five years’ worth of Holtkamp’s non-Mountains work (and thinking) in an hour or so. That kind of  “duty” has the knack of both hurting your brain and sapping your soul; and anyway if I’m honest, the only doubles I can take these days are my old Cosmic Jokers or Amon Düül records, and that’s only because I can get all spaced and hippy. Then, there’s a cover that says very little at first glance. For the record, it’s a photo of some pebbles set in concrete or some other long fossilized sedimentary rock. For sure it’s nice and evocative but, without playing the record, it could mean or signify anything. At first glance it’s a load of pebbles. And pebble photographs aren’t renowned for capturing my imagination. Third, every track’s bloody long.  Be prepared for some fifteen minute wipeouts called In The Absence of Gravity Please Note the Position of The Sun. Or, Loosely Based on Bees. Everything is long and portentous sounding; though it seems light relief is given by the opening three five/six minute pop skips called Between Visible Things, Vert and Crotales. You know, to break you in easy. And don’t those titles just capture the heart?  At this point, the point when you haven’t put the record on, you would be forgiven in thinking that this may be a bridge too far.

But then you’ll stick this record on and you’ll be lost, or rather, suspended like a prehistoric fly in amber, in a powerful collection of tracks that do little else but emanate an incredible sense of presence. The layers of sounds – from high, Klaus Schultze-like synth clarion calls, processed drones that sound like the landing note for the Mothership or guitars put through all manner of electronic shredding - are handled and presented with a bravura that is breathtaking. There’s no sense that Holtkamp is performing to an audience, but neither is there any notion of this record being at all indulgent. Rather Holtkamp’s created a sound that can carry on regardless of any human interaction. Putting this LP on is like suddenly opening a door and being confronted with a fully formed sound that continues long after you’ve shut the door and carried on your way. It’s incredible; just listen to the way the opener on CD two, Hudson Static (Live At Shay Stadium) starts. Or the way Loosely Based on Bees builds up to this emotional tour de force which than creates a high pressure template for Make Haste. Incredible.

Breathtaking. That is this LP in a nutshell; incredible layers of drones and electronic nonsense I don’t have the wit to describe, or comprehend. There’s a sort of mid space level between the halves of your brain that this kind of music really takes root. The real shock is the last track which rips all that up; Free Birds is a recording of birds in a cage and despite the track’s intention of creating subtle, random rhythmic patterns that should eventually soothe, it is disturbing in its sparseness.

Now, let’s have another gander at that cover. You know, once you know the music, the cover works brilliantly. It’s a subtle visual marker; highlighting the power, patience and tensile strength of this music. Music that’s not going anywhere, anytime soon, and music that will be about to confound you long after you’ve gone.

Appearances can be deceptive.