Review Summary: Holy Other's effortlessly atmospheric slow jams are arresting and further solidify Tri Angle's position at the vanguard of the witch house scene.
If 2010 was the year of the "hipster occult", 2011 looks to be the year where the music born out of that triangle-laden movement starts to be taken really seriously. Melding throbbing bass with plinking synth lines and digitally altered vocal samples, With U
, the debut EP from the anonymous Holy Other, fits neatly into the ill-named "witch house" subgenre. Yet it's also something of a rarity in that camp - the bass kicks don't clip, and, more importantly, these tracks aren't really that spooky. Sure, they're dragged-out and make significant use of sub bass and reverb, but they're more ethereal and mysterious than anything else. "Touch", which made considerable waves upon its release this past spring, is almost a love
song, what with its repetition of "I've been looking for your touch." The longing is real, even if the voice expressing it has been pitch-shifted to death. And that cover art is perfectly vague - is it "just" a bedsheet (already brimming with implications), or is that really a face behind the covers? And if it is, is it alive
Okay, maybe I was wrong - With U
is kind of creepy. But Holy Other takes their cues less from the chopped-and-screwed hip-hop and juke beats that were such enormous influences on Salem and oOoOO and more from '80s R&B - the EP's title track, defiantly clean production aside, wouldn't sound terribly out of place on Love Remains
, the justifiably acclaimed debut from R&B revisionist (and Tri Angle labelmate) How to Dress Well. Indeed, when Holy Other's brand of shadowy, deconstructed pop works - and on With U
, it almost always does - it's enchanting. Opener "Know Where" is effortlessly atmospheric, its disembodied vocal samples and loping beat ensconcing the listener in an arresting and subtly unsettling environment. It doesn't really go anywhere, per se, but that's not it's purpose - rather, it's a beautiful piece of spectral navel-gazing, formless and sinuous all at once. "Yr Love" is similarly successful in its hypnotic repetition and eschewal of traditional song structure for ambience. It's lovely, it really is, but on a 23-minute EP, one can't help wishing for something a bit more substantial - that is, memorable
. But if With U
is ultimately too slight and amorphous to live up to the promise of "Touch", it does establish Holy Other as a highly promising producer and helps to continue solidifying the validity of "witch house" as an actual subset of music worth listening to instead of just another flavor of the month with an unfortunate moniker. Just don't bother losing any sleep over it.