James Holden & Camilo Tirado/Luke Abbott ‘Outdoor Museum Of Fractals/555hz’ (Border Community)

Terry Riley-inspired meditative double-header from inventive duo

What a talent James Holden is and blimey, what a refreshingly honest tech geek too. Not content with anything off-the-shelf, he’d rather build his own gear, which includes a bespoke modular synth and a pair of specially created chaotic sequencers. Which of course he does with the best of them. From Faust and Kraftwerk’s pioneering forays into early keyboard valve technology to Bernard Sumner’s first DIY mail order synth, the true innovators have always found a way to make just the right sound.

While Holden’s 2006 debut ‘The Idiots Are Winning’ was heralded as a new high water mark for electronic music, it was his follow-up, 2013’s ‘The Inheritors’ that laid bare his experimental leanings. The free-jazz chaos theory formations of tracks like ‘The Caterpillar’s Intervention’ put a galaxy of space between that and his early trance remix work for big-name stadium DJs and the likes of Madonna and Britney Spears, and left many mouths agape.

Here, he shares a platform with labelmate Luke Abbot, the similarly gifted and dancefloor-savvy psychogeographic/electro-acoustic composer. A dual effort, it furthers the pair’s explorations into the improvisational possibilities of electronic music. The brace of tracks on offer extend to well over half an hour apiece, and were originally conceived in response to a brief from The Barbican in London and Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw venues, who in April 2015 invited Holden and Abbott to participate in their Hello Terry Riley event in celebration of the American minimalist composer’s 80th birthday.

Taking their inspiration as much from Riley’s rigorous compositional methodology as from the Zen-like atmosphere and spirit of his works, Holden and Abbott’s goal was not to create literal soundalikes, but rather to immerse themselves in the challenge of composing a similarly hypnotic, slowly unfolding piece of linear music. A challenge which they’ve both risen to with show-stopping aplomb.

Holden’s ‘Outdoor Museum…’ is complemented considerably by co-pilot and tabla master Camilo Tirado, a personal guide to the Indian classical tradition that originally inspired Riley. Together they explore melodic trajectories in symbiotic partnership as Holden’s intricately varying arpeggios are triggered by the percussive input of Tirado’s pitched tabla drumming, transcending the familiar repetitive loop formation of electronic music as they spiral out into endlessly unfolding, dizzying complexity.

The mystical frequency of 555hz forms the backbone of Abbott’s beautifully contemplative extended offering. A multiplicity of harmonically related arpeggios and drones are layered and resonated through a modified 26-inch gong as he explores, by studied increment, a sequence of transportive wave-like peaks and swells that could sort you out for days.

And if you think all that sounds as though it might demand a great deal of your attention, you’d be right. But doesn’t great art always do that anyway?

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