Luke Abbott Luke AbbottHolkham Drones
The cover looks like it could be on a hypnagogic album, one of the latest crop, with the already-habitual range of blurry colours, almost in relief—to produce the obvious psychedelic effect—and with the imprecision of the memory of a dream. But Luke Abbott has never been a dream traveller, nor is he especially obsessed with 80’s pop music. The image on the cover isn’t even from that decade of hairspray and conservative governments (it’s a year ahead): it corresponds to “The Magic Sea”, a short art film directed by J. Ron Chapman in 1979, in which the same three shots of the beach at Marsden Bay are passed through different colour filters. The soundtrack for that short film, it is explained, was electronic, analogue, primitive, ingenuous, and delicious, which is what Luke Abbott is trying to recreate now in an “Holkham Drones” that is already distancing itself from the first impression of the lovely cover, showing us its true reality. Like Four Tet , who formerly released on the same label—Abbott debuted on Output before being rescued by Border Community with “Tuesday Ep” (2008)– and also like his boss James Holden, he is interested, and maybe even obsessed, with the possibilities of the analogue synthesiser, 70’s German kosmische recording techniques, and with the hypnosis that a good album on the Brain label could cause. And maybe this, Luke Abbott’s first album, will finally be an important piece on the current hypnagogia map; it’s not too different from Oneohtrix Point Never, deep down, but with the difference that the first is substantially close to Klaus Schulze, while the second is closer to Michael Rother and Harmonia. There is a slight nuance of difference.
In reality, “Holkham Drones” is an album that is the product of the interest of former dance producers, who are also minimal renegades and house auteurs with pop inclinations, in space music—not so much in the old scene in itself, but rather in how it can be linked to their conventional discourse. “Triangle Folds” by James Holden, which beats like the enormous heart of his recent “DJ Kicks”, still sounds like Holden, like trance with microscopic details and baroque melodies, but it has the suction power of a kraut black hole like those of Harmonia (remember that Holden spun a Harmonia song, to the amazement of many people, in his mix “At the Controls”). This is the type of production that has been established in the Border Community family, from Avus’ latest single ( “Poppy Ep”) to the latest minis that Abbott had already given us, warning us of what was coming, in “Whitebox Stereo Ep” (2009), and which here reaches a revealing point of aesthetic maturity. It is a type of sound that works in itself, like a beehive, prudently removed from other centres of creation. Returning to what I was saying before, although it may seem hypnagogic, and at moments may even be so, it isn’t really. It is closer to revival than to sleepwalking recreation; Luke Abbott doesn’t recreate sounds of the past from vague memories, but rather from in-depth knowledge: he and his friends have listened to those albums very well, they have looked for the machines, or the simulators, to do it, they have mixed them with their method, and given them the compression and the layer of digital paint that makes them modern, clean. And they also want them to work in a club, not just as background music for an afternoon of opium.
“Holkham Drones” oscillates between two poles of sound activity. There are horizontal moments, the ones that if they have a rhythm, it’s a pulse like a Geiger counter, like a wave stretched and multiplied. “Dumb”, for example, which closes the album with a slight touch of uneasiness, or like “2nd 5th Heavy”, which opens it making it clear from the first moment that here there is a fanatic cult worshipping modular synthesisers, vintage sequencers, and primitive space music. Later come the other moments that act as a counterpoint, which, in the same way that wild goats always head for the mountains, head towards the club to be played (and happily resigning themselves to fill the minutes of the first hour). They are pieces with redoubled house-brand percussion, as if the drumming patented by James Holden in his remix of “The Sky Was Pink” or the best moments of “The Idiots Are Winning” were prolonged infinitely: all of this is summarised in “Whitebox”. And between one extreme and another, the album trots in both directions, sometimes more towards one pole, and other times more towards the middle ( “More Room” is like a tightrope walker that is walking the rope without ever falling, and it has an almost childlike melody, like Isan, which works very well), solidly establishing an aesthetic program that Luke knows how to present properly and develop well. It is, therefore, finally, a fellow album of another important moment of the year, “There Is Love in You” (Four Tet): the advance of the pastoral (or the earthly, if you like) to the far-off and astronomical. It is an album that starts off small and expands as far as the eye can see.
Luke Abbott - Whitebox Luke Abbott - Soft Attacks