Premiering new music from familiar faces is one of our favorite things to do. Not only does it give us the chance to highlight more incredible songs and albums, but it gives our readers another opportunity to discover an artist they may have missed the first time around. Which brings us to today’s premiere and another chance for us to spotlight the incredible work of cellist Randall Holt. Back in April, we highlighted the re-release of his album Inside The Kingdom of Splendor and Madness, a glowing example of why he’s been one of the go-to string players in underground experimental music and post-rock. For his latest project, Holt has teamed up with experimental guitarist Jonathan Horne of incredible groups like The Young Mothers (seriously, check these guys out – they sound like Battle Trance collaborating with John Zorn‘s chamber ensemble alternating between jazz-rap and avant-garde metal). If you’re unfamiliar with either musician’s work, Wires provides an exceptional entry point produced with finesse by experts of their crafts. The album is a sublime combination of drone, modern classical and post-rock that sees each musician elevating the other’s performances to newer heights.
Across seven brilliant tracks, Holt and Horne perform awing music in perfect harmony. Though there are a myriad of sonic comparisons appropriate to mention here, the most complete analogy I can offer is “Earth as a guitar and cello duo playing droning post-rock in the vein of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.” It’s as if the duo perfectly synthesized Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I & II with Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven while bringing a classically-trained perspective to the conversation. Fans of any of the aforementioned genres or bands will find a truly enthralling album full of exploratory sounds that allow both Holt and Horne to shine in their own ways. Yet, at the same time, it’s a sleek album full of modern ideas that are effortless to listen to, like the sonic equivalent of Sailor Jerry sleeves peeking out from a designer three-piece suit.
Commencing the proceedings is “Mvmt 1 – A Margin,” which encapsulates the album’s ethos perfectly. Slow, methodical guitar builds reminiscent of Dylan Carlson weave through a consuming landscape of GY!BE-style cello landscapes, intertwining to create a seamless marriage of neofolk, modern classical and post-rock sensibilities. There are also prominent themes of post-minimalism throughout the album, best exhibited by the epic “Stumbling Past the North Star.” The term “cinematic” is thrown around often when post-rock is the topic at hand, but avoiding the term would do a disservice to the vast sonic landscape unraveled by what’s arguably the album’s strongest track. Horne and Holt craft immense tension in perfect unison, eventually building toward an explosive climax that’s impressively smooth and all-encompassing in its payoff. Whereas most post-rock aims for the abrupt crescendo, the duo here pulls off the same level of emotional intensity with subtlety and finesse. Finally, “Mvmt 7 -Amend” is a robust march that finds the duo toying with their sound further, incorporating more noise and exuding an overall more foreboding presence.
Wires is an extraordinary collection of works that show both mastery of the genre it works in while also defying these styles’ traditional formulas. There’s certainly something here for fans of any of the genres mentioned throughout this post, and even those initiated with these genre movements will surely find value in the album’s expansive, enticing soundscapes. As we mentioned earlier, there’s really no excuse this time around if you ignore the immense talents of Holt and Horne; they’re both experts of their instruments and composition who deserve a great deal more praise and attention than they appear to have received thus far.
Wires is available 7/27 via Self Sabotage Records. Order the album on vinyl here.