I was ill for much of last week. The sort of illness that befuddles the brain and makes concentration even less of a given than usual. I couldn’t read as much as I would have liked, I certainly couldn’t write anything I found remotely satisfying, and anyway the laptop screen just seemed to further distort what was already off kilter for me; worst of all for me I couldn’t go out…I love to walk…last week I had to tolerate not doing so. I short I didn’t enjoy my own company as much as I usually do. As a result I spent quite a bit of time lying around listening to music. Even this, though, was frustrating with me often dropping into sleep or half sleep; finding myself at the end of albums before I’d even listened to them.
Despite this, however, there were a couple of albums that came out of last week with my opinions of them enhanced; one of which was this one from Surya Kris Peters. First of all let me say that this does not come as a particular surprise to me. His previous album, The Hermit, was one that I came to relatively late last year; but in time for it to make my end of year ‘essential‘ list. It is an album that I find very easy to like, being the sort of person that likes (make that ‘needs’) time away from others.
In some ways ‘Holy Holy Holy’ is more of the same. As essentially a compilation of a few EPs Surya Kris released digitally over the last year or so, it would be a surprise if they were appreciably different. However, while the tracks here do have a certain insularity to them, there does seem to be something of a different atmosphere here. Perhaps rather than ‘different’ I should say more varied.
Album opener ‘Leise Versprechen’ very much reminds me of the gentle fragility of ‘The Hermit’. It replicates that beauty and encourages the listener to really settle into the album. This is not a complicated track with its simply played keyboard, that is mixed in a way to make it seem like a conversation…all this being over a misty drone-like backing track giving something of a sublime feel.
This is followed by ‘Tanz Der Wasser/ Ñufer’, which again is a gentle insular track with a mesmeric cycle of electronica that seems to get deeper within you with every listen. This is contrasted with some very delicate flourishes of sound around what is a quite dominant central theme. This could easily have been a clash of sounds that would have been distracting and mutually atonal in the wrong hands, yet here Peters seems to have found something of a balance…yet it feels like a different sort of equilibrium from that found on ‘The Hermit’…there is less solitude here…the balance seems more between reality and unreality (I’ll come back to this).
After these two tracks the guitar focus on ‘Schorfheide Blues’ comes as something of a shock at first. You are somehow jolted out of your reverie and given a much different sore of soundscape to contemplate. When listening to this last week, I found that this track stopped me from drifting into that sort of half-sleep you often get when you’re tired but where you mind is working too hard to let you full succumb. Yet while this track is louder and faster, it still has a melancholia, albeit one that is far more defiant.
My favourite track on side one though is ‘Soirée à Lunéville’, which sounds like an excerpt from the soundtrack of a seventies thriller or spy series, probably set in the South of France. There is something gallic about its sound, yet also something sunny and sumptuous. It’s a very short interlude but, for me, plays a big part in the overall feel of the album.
Final track on the first side, ‘Nachtschattenspleen’, felt very much like my state of mind last week. There is a liminal quality to this track, it feels like it is stuck between waking and dreaming with elements of the music that are both calming and disturbing. Most of all, though, it is never settles without being unsettling…I hope that’s understandable.
I really like side one of ‘Holy Holy Holy’. I like the more varied approach which means that it is worth having in addition to ‘The Hermit’, by this I mean that your would play them for different reasons. Yet it is side two that really stands out on this album. Comprising a single track, ‘Modular Mono Logic’, I think I really like it because it really gets room to develop slowly for me. Again it has that half asleep/ half awake feel to it where the rational and non-rational meet. For me this is where the ‘Holy Holy Holy’ of the title might be, given that religious experience is also a mixture of these to elements (with apologies if I’m over thinking this ).
After around nine minutes that tone of the track changes from a lovely repetitive drone to something more upbeat, yet still remaining within that interstitial space. Here something happens for me every time I listen to it, I begin to hear Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. I’ve no idea whether this is deliberate but the musical phase meets my brain in such a way that I hear it every time, and it catches be by surprise every time…and then it is gone again just as quickly. This tells me about the way this music does have that element of hallucination within it, whether intended or not, and it requires close listening to really appreciate it. You are doing it a real disservice if you have it on in the background.
This, then, is an album that is every bit as powerful as ‘The Hermit’, yet is bringing more diverse elements into the mix to create an overall feeling that fits somewhere between the real and the imagined. It is an experience that becomes deeper with repeated listens and rewards time spent with it, I look forward to exploring it even further.
‘Holy Holy Holy’ is up for pre-order, limited to 300 black vinyls with silkscreened art and coverprint-inlay due for February despatch. Click here to order.