Sunday, October 3, 2010

Holkham Drones - Luke Abbott

Holkham Drones

Luke Abbott
Border Community Records.

SCQ Rating: 67%

Plenty of moments on Holkham Drones attest to Luke Abbott’s ability to cause elation in both our limbs and mind. A flurry of tones stir up and bedazzle listeners into a cocoon of barely distinguishable details before a procession of glassy notes steals your attention. From completely spellbound, you turn euphoric. Tricky sleights of hand like that one, from ‘Trans Forest Alignment’, are no doubt why James Holden signed Abbott to his exclusive Border Community label, but they also position Abbott at the gateway where only the most insightful electronic artists have passed through. He’s no Richard D. James and he isn’t quite yet Kieran Hebden, but Luke Abbott calls to mind the sensitivity those artists’ can impart through the unlikely means of harsh beats and alien synths.

Not much sounds outwardly pretty on Holkham Drones; in fact, the record feels incredibly self-conscious about overlaying too many ear-pleasing sounds at once. A healthy percentage of these tracks begin in only the partially constructed stage, whirring like machinery (‘More Room’) or gurgling like a chemistry experiment (‘Sirens For the Colour’), and Abbott – as mad scientist – slowly creates beauty out of these awkward collisions. It’s a ballsy approach to innovation, guiding listeners through every sonic manipulation, but it works so long as Abbott has an ace up his sleeve. That sleight of hand works wonders on the title track, a swollen coda gently streamlined to its pristine essentials, as well as on the techno rhythm that meets a shoegaze-worthy summit on ‘Brazil’. By squeezing harmony out of resistant forces, Abbott achieves an off-kilter hypnosis that not only sounds purely analog-based, but renders these tracks cozier than you’d initially believe.

Holkham Drones’ episodic momentum can only bring listeners so close and, at sixty-odd minutes in length, it requires rigorous levels of patience. Abbott’s processes are easier to respect than love, meaning those tuneless warm-ups that bookend some of his tracks will likely merit the skip button after a few spins. Still, weak moments aside, Luke Abbott has one tremendous thing going for him: he’s the only guy that sounds like Luke Abbott. In the world of electronica, individuality is a rare gift indeed.

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