Holy Other makes it look easy. But peer a little closer into the steamy microcosms that this Manchester producer assembles and you’ll see he’s not just swirling random soundscapes into each other. He’s engineering machines so tight and subtle that you didn’t even realize how powerfully they were working on your brain until long after you’d peeled off your headphones.
Disassembling the paradigms of dance music has always been a central focus of Burial and his contemporaries, but while Burial selectively harvests the sounds that trickle out from the cracks in the club’s back window, Holy Other is more concerned with mechanism than ambiance. On his first LP Held, rhythms orbit, tease, and contradict each other. Gutted vocals whimper, stutter and spurt as they dare you to find language in them. And when you can pinch actual words out of the diaphanous mewls, the record’s true fragility is laid bare. By choking back the recognizable human elements of music, Holy Other conjures a yearning that makes you work to see it.
And when you do work at it, your efforts break through to something sublime. By the end of the record, ghostly amalgams of the human voice ultimately morph into real, alarmingly honest pleas: hold me. This is a dark, warm piece that sloughs off the sexier edge of debut EP With U to reveal a broken core: the simultaneous fear of and desire for intimacy.
Held is not the sound of the bleary underworld in the alley behind the dance club. It’s the sound of you hating yourself in your room after you’ve gone home alone at the end of the night. And for all its delicate psychological workings and spot-on embodiments of that feeling’s senseless, aimless guilt, it’s completely mesmerizing. Wrap it around you and let its wounds seep into your own.