In our furor over the powerful twangs of traditional instruments like the electric guitar, there are many instruments which get overlooked. A lot of them are from the “classical” persuasion by which we mean “they used to be central but now mostly appear in experimental contemporary music”. That might not be a bad thing over; some of those instruments find great strength in their new found (read: 50 years old) roles, freed from their traditional capacities and positioning within traditional music. Take the cello for example; it transitioned from a deep and often backing instrument, through its role in jazz and blues groove section, to an instrument today that enjoys great flexibility and variety in the less-than-mainstream fields of post rock, art rock, noise and more (think of This Patch of Sky for example).
Perhaps no one musician has contributed to the cello’s prominence and presence in the field of experimental music as Randall Holt but the name might not even be familiar to you unless you’re well versed in the Austin musical scene, the post rock landscape or other experimental/jazz circles. But the fact remains that he totes one of the finest pedigrees in the market. He collaborates or has collaborated with the likes of Thor Harris (drummer for Swans), Jonathan Horne (another of Austin’s elite of hardworking musicians, also the guitarist for The Young Mothers), Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, and Adam Rudolph, one of the most important jazz composers and percussionists in the world. In 2016, Holt was ready to foray out into the world by himself with a haunting and beautiful album titled “Inside The Kingdom of Splendor and Madness” and boy is it a ride. We’re proud to stream the full album here today to celebrate the album’s physical release, on cassette and CD, so head on over below for a taste and we’ll talk more after.
Where to start? Perhaps on “Wandering: Mountain pass”, one of the more harrowing tracks on the album. Here, Holt shows off his experimental side as his cello takes us through a wide range of abrasive but strangely accommodating sounds and progressions. Even though it’s a different instrument, it reminds one of Sarah Neufeld‘s (Arcade Fire) work on her collaboration album with Colin Stetson (also of Arcade Fire and EX EYE, a group who might be relevant to our needs here and should consider working with Holt, if we may say so ourselves). Something in the range of sounds which the stringed instrument produces here, the abrasive approach to nature’s hardships, and the emotional gamut (focusing on melancholia but going beyond) reminds us of that creation.
There are other approaches to be found on the album though, some of them more or less experimental. Perhaps the most crushingly mesmerizing track on this album is “Revolution Weariness”, a poignant and deep cutting exploration of depression and a slow unfolding of introspection. The album has plenty more moments like its intro but something on this track just clicks to score our skin deep and bring forth pain and tears. Bottom line, if you’re looking for something new and challenging, Holt’s album is all for you. While it was released digitally in 2016 as we said above, it’s more than worth your time two years later. The physical versions become available tomorrow, so head on over here to pre-order them. If you have the mindset for it, you won’t regret checking out this album.