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Holden
The Inheritors Joe Clay , June 27th, 2013 09:50

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Back when I were a lad, techno was techno. The good shit sounded like a barn door banging in a Force-10 gale with deep basslines and some wobbly 303 lines thrown on top for melody. But machine music is constantly evolving: I can still remember people falling over when the first breakbeats were dropped in our local nightclub, a roomful of people on acid staggering about desperately trying to find a regular groove to latch on to.

But even after all I have seen and heard, I was still completely unprepared for the level that James Holden has taken things to on his second album, The Inheritors, the Devon-born producer and Border Community head honcho's follow-up to 2006's The Idiots are Winning. If Holden was already starting to push the boundaries on his debut, The Inheritors is techno music not so much fragmented as smashed into tiny pieces; rocks ground into sand and cast into the ether. The Inheritors draws as much on ancient Pagan rituals, the repetitions of Steve Reich, Elgar's pastoral majesty, prog-rock, krautrock and Aphex Twin at his wilful best, as it does from the output of Detroit's techno pioneers.

Holden has cited the KLF's Chill Out as an influence on The Inheritors, a fact immediately apparent in opening track 'Rannoch Dawn', where droning synths that sound like the segment of that seminal ambient record with the Tuvan throat singing are underpinned by pounding tribal drums. You also wouldn't bat an eyelid if a 'world music' bore told you it was the result of a group of musicians from some remote part of Africa being given access to an analogue synthesiser. 'A Circle Inside a Circle' follows and is just plain peculiar, six minutes of psychedelic synths, a freaky melody and pagan chanting; a motif that is repeated later on the album on tracks like 'Delabole' and 'Circle Of Fifths'. After that bewildering opening salvo, 'Renata' is more accessible and in line with the work of fellow Border buddies Nathan Fake and Luke Abbott, with digital blips and twisted arpeggios overlapping a subtle 4/4 beat that builds into a crashing crescendo. It's approaching normality but is still barely on speaking terms with the peak-time dancefloor.

And if you think that The Inheritors is going to settle down from here on in, think again: 'The Caterpillar's Intervention' is completely bonkers. Imagine Battles and Four Tet scrapping in a hessian sack, a glam stomp embellished by a saxophone freak-out from Zombie Zombie's Etienne Jaumet and mournful howling. It's strange to think that the mind who conjured up this demented racket was once remixer of choice for Madonna and Britney Spears.

From skronking jazz we're straight into the oscillating white noise of 'Sky Burial' and the delicate, analogue bleeps of 'The Illuminations'. 'Inter-City 125' is an even more off-kilter take on the minimal, jazzy techno purveyed by Aphex Twin on I Care Because You Do. 'Gone Feral' is a growlingly aggressive counterpoint to 'Renata', while 'Blackpool Late Eighties' is an epic, droning slab of heartfelt, melancholic techno more in line with what Holden was doing seven years ago.

Clocking in at over 75 minutes, The Inheritors is an exhausting, complex and disorientating listen, but one that will stay with you. Once upon a time, Holden used to bridge the gap between bedroom and club, but now the most suitable location to take in his music would be in the middle of the woods, a windswept moor or a stone circle. It's the boldest of sonic statements. The title is borrowed from William Golding's 1963 novel about Neanderthal man, but I have my own theory  - "The Inheritors" are Holden, Kieran 'Four Tet' Hebden, Nathan Fake, Luke Abbott and their peers. They have inherited Detroit techno's legacy and are fucking with it until it is barely recognisable from the source – the scorched, decayed title track in particular is potent fuel for this theory. The lineage may be getting harder to trace, but it's definitely there.

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S.
Jun 28, 2013 3:10pm

Holy heck. The rest of the world is going to have to fight pretty hard to knock this out of my "Top 5 of 2013" spots. What a fantastic LP!

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Simon
Jun 30, 2013 8:00am

Yeah...great album. I particularly love the close-out track "Self-playing Scmaltz".

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Tim Clarke
Aug 6, 2013 5:59am

Yep. This is fucking BOSS.

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Oct 24, 2013 2:57pm

What a great review. Perfectly sums up the textures and feelings of what is a brilliant album. An album that stands up to repeated listens. Exe

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O
Dec 26, 2013 9:16pm

This album is visionary - Holden has reached a new level...

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Chryssy
May 30, 2016 12:26am

Definitely one of my all time favorites. Brilliant.

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