Koen Holtkamp ~ Voice Model

coverThe word “percolate” is used to describe the year that passed between recording and release, but it’s also a fine word to describe the beginning of this bubbling album.  The opening minutes sound like waking up, stretching one’s arms, and welcoming the twinkling sun.

Most know Koen Holtkamp as half of Mountains, but the composer is more than capable of holding his own.  While his bright synth and piano form the core of these tracks, welcome guests include Nina Mehta on flute and Josh Millrod on trumpet.  Their presence, especially late in these two side-long pieces, enhances the warmth of the recording.  As the twinkling subsides, bright sonic waves begin to cascade.

A great deal of movement is apparent in these tracks, simply titled “Scene I” and “Scene II.”  Pieces and patterns are always in motion, yet never collide.  Instead, they perform an instinctual dance, deftly stepping to one side or another in other to protect the fluidity of the performance.  The first scene rises like the sun, growing in warmth, until digital drones develop like  solar flares; but at the very end, the sparkles return.  Listening is like following the course of the sun from rising to setting in 18 minutes.

The second scene begins in harsher fashion with a rush of static, then quickly backs into a series of animated pops and beeps.  Then the melodies awaken, like the calming presence of parents watching their hyperactive children.  Each element has its place, and neither seeks to overwhelm the other.  But as the piece develops, different percussive elements enter.  Struck chimes and bowls become the focus, and when the flute arrives, the piece becomes pure mediation.  In light of the opening moments, it’s easy to suggest that “Scene II” represents the calm that can be found in the midst of chaos.  When only four minutes remain, Millrod enters, producing a sense of bliss unimagined only a few minutes before.  It’s a beautiful trick of the ear, and a lesson for the listener.  The piece ends with campfire crackles and pops, but the impression remains: peace can be found, and with a bit of concentration, retained.  (Richard Allen)

One comment

  1. Pingback: ACL 2016: Top Ten Ambient | a closer listen

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