When last we checked in with Peter Hamlin (The Holocene), the artist was gleefully pulverizing up old cassette tapes and re-presenting them as modern art. His wife and mum didn’t understand his work, but we did. Fast-forward a season, and Hamlin has begun to evolve into a composer as well as an experimentalist, while preparing for the arrival of his first child. It’s amazing what a little success can do!
Not that The Holocene has made the Top of the Pops just yet ~ the Scars CD-R is released in a ridiculously low version of ten ~ but he’s now recording music with enough hooks for the finicky mainstream to recognize. While the first few releases were beguiling, the new album is powerful, sporting a harder sound through heavier instrumentation. Opening piece “Destroy / Destruction” contains the mangled feedback of drums and guitars, topped by the battle cry of a metal-clad rocker. After this startling introduction, Hamlin turns his scientific eye to the study of craters and volcanoes, enhancing his 4-track excursions with sedimentary layers of pedal-delayed guitar. “Caldera: Yellowstone” could easily be mistaken for a lost Aiden Baker demo, with chopped-up voices and wandering chords tripping over the edge and landing in the sun-drenched, multicolored algae of a beautiful but dangerous lake.
In previous excursions, Hamlin extracted chaos from form, but here he comes full circle, imposing form upon chaos. While his sampled and added sounds remain abstract, his abstractions now form patterns. In “Crater: Chicxulub”, the ending wraps around to the beginning, while the middle rises to a distinct center, then withdraws. A circle emerges, reflecting the craters and volcanoes being scored.
“Caldera: Wilmington” is by far the album’s biggest surprise. A naturalist lectures on the wonders of the Venus Fly Trap. Tape splices hiss and spit like disturbed animals. Massicated engines of bass roar their disapproval. Something is about to be eaten – perhaps the naturalist. “Crater: Taupo” is the most accessible, due to a central riff, words that one is surprised to be writing about a track from The Holocene. And bonus track “Plateau: Maple White” (originally titled “I Was Lost” and featured on Waxen Wings General Noise Compilation) hints at a possible future in drone. Multiple paths seem wide open for Hamlin, a versatile performer who has already traveled far beyond his humble roots. (Richard Allen)