James Holden - At The Controls

Ever since he created the infusion back in 2003 with the singles "Nothing" and "A Break in the Clouds", James Holden became a name that we have been hearing more and more. Not that he was constantly trying to accomplish that, quite the contrary. He was doing what he wanted to do and not carrying too much about being in the public attention.

Nevertheless, he concentrated his efforts in other actions – he set up his own Border Community label that although it hasn't released so many records, it is now one of the most inventive and forward-thinking record labels of modern electronic dance music. Since the foundation of Border Community, James Holden has developed a passion of finding outstanding talented individuals and gathering them into the same roof - like a mentor. Hereby I speak of Nathan Fake, Peter, The MFA and several others which altogether contributed in the rising of a music community without borders and an affinity for everything that goes out of the average.

"At the Controls" is Holden's third proper mix album and it is released on the UK based record label Resist, after the previous Balance 005 chapter and Fear of a Silver Planet. It contains two 60 minutes episodes separated on two CDs and it's probably defining a new stage in the artist's process of reaching his musical maturity.

It starts smoothly with Apparat's track "Woden" that sets the gloomy atmosphere and contains only some high riffs, broken drum patterns and indistinctive vocals. Very effective though. Following, the rhythms is shaping up a bit with Plastikman's "Cor Ten" and Massive Attack's "Trinity Dub", carefully not too speed up it too much and to introduce the beautiful vocals of Kate Wax. The guitar strings of "Anita Berber", by Death in Vegas, are maintaining the quietly tone a few more minutes until Peter genuinely breaks the silence with his massive distorted bomb called "Some Polyphony", probably one of the most impressive tracks on this compilation. The next track "Metro Pop" from Vox Sola sounds a little more optimistic, and together with "Hotter Now" by Issakidis makes a brief appearance in front of the following one, which is one of Holden's most recent productions – significantly called "Lump". You can distinguish here the haunting fuzziness of Holden's recent tracks, the electric chord distortions and reverberations. Forward, the overall sound on the CD is gradually lowering down until the end, culminating with another remarkable Apparat production, this time a remix of Nathan Fake's track "Charlies House". The mix closes with the violin sounds of "Angels On Your Body" by Lucky Pierre followed by the joyful and dreamy track "Perlandine Friday" by Christ Horne. The last closing minute ends the CD in the serene environment of "Rivers Of Sand", track produced by Austrian singer Christian Fennesz. Impressive!

The second CD starts with maybe the most positive and cheerful track on the entire compilation – "Opening Titles" by Meta. 83, sustained further by the memorable soundscapes of "Gebrünn Gebrünn" by Berlin artist Paul Kalkbrenner. If you have expected for this compilation the sound that James Holden might play in a club or anything close to his previous compilations, you might be a little disappointed. In fact it isn't anything much that at all, he tried to find a balance between different types of music, and not necessarily dance music. Malcolm Middleton's track "Solemn Thirsty" which is dominated by guitar landscapes and wonderful vocals stands out on this second mix. Its inclusion brings into the mind of the listener one of the most important aspects of living – love. Furthermore, the same disconnected feeling is kept with "Xtal" by Aphex Twin for another four minutes. Another Holden production is making its appearance with the familiar incoherent sounds, this time co-produced with Jon Tye in his Milky Globe guise, called "Sun Spots". The track "Lottotron Reboot" produced by Swiss artist Water Lilly adds some 90s nostalgic disco feeling on the mix, continued in the same manner with Jonathan K's remix of "Trans Am - Cold War". The CD ends with the experimental sounds of "Every Day", another Richard David James production, this time in his AFX pseudonym and released back in 1995.

Instead of making a superficial club oriented compilation and that will get dusted in a few months like most of the bollocks released today on the market, James Holden chooses to do rather a sophisticated mix album that will surely stand the test of time. Once you will get it, it will make pleasure listen to it after 10 years as well and it will be once of those CDs that you won't like to borrow to your friends unless you know them very well. At the Controls combines 32 different tracks, stretched into 2 hours of eclectic sounds, which brings into focus Holden's unquestionably talent of making an impact on the listener.

James Holden - At The Controls


Resist Music




March 27 2006


May 27, 2006 at 11:02 PM CEST


Andrei Rusu

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