We’re halfway through the year and I’m about to write another review for another excellent sort-of-post-dubstep EP from a relative unknown making use of thickly nocturnal synths with distant and obscured vocal samples. It’s a more prevalent and longer lasting trend than much else in electronic music right now (an argument could be made for 80s nostalgia, but who has the energy?). It’s the kind of trend that comes to define genres that are more concerned with aesthetic checklists than quality. Luckily electronic music has never been that stuck up about what’s meant for headphone consumption versus what’s meant for the dance floor. Besides throwing “post-dubstep” and “witch-house” around, as the case seems to be with Holy Other, this music still manages to stand on its own.
The vocal sample has become the stylistic degrees between many post-dubstep artists, though the best still aim for mood and ambiance. On his debut EP, With U, the Berlin-based producer doesn’t leave the home, opting to skip the metropolis for the sheets. The rendered destination seems both conscious and unconscious. The album title and sleeve might suggest it’s with company, but there’s still a pining reclusivity that builds on post-dubstep’s penchant for loneliness. There’s a physical immediacy that permeates the grimy darkened synthesizers, tending to precede the vocals to the punch and throwing up some tactile confines while the syncopated throbbing voices waver in and out of notice. Holy Other’s slowed BPM makes him a good fit beside Clams Casino and Balam Acab on Tri Angle with a similarity in production approach to a few LA-based artists like Lorn, or locked-in hip-hop leaning dubstep artists such as Pariah as opposed to those that gravitate toward more abstracted arrangement such as (you know who) Burial. Though Holy Other manages that at times as well.
Centerpiece “Touch” might be the best thing here, preceding with its wispy ghost of a vocal and oddly timed kick before jumping into halting 2-step, a droning subterranean bass synth grounding a stuttering wordless femm vocal favoring texture next to the repeated “I’ve been looking for your touch.” Around the halfway mark the synths start to stretch for the ceiling and the vocals recede into faint echos while the drums slow to a crawl, giving the track a widened bodiless outlook. It’s a surprisingly patient song as is reflected across the whole record. Holy Other favors subtlety without giving into the confines of minimalism, which has probably never done dubstep any favors. The tempo changes are drastic, but not disruptive – the samples and synths shifting and evolving, widening and narrowing across a track.
With U likes its slow jam bedroom synthesizers too. Opener “Know Where” breathes with layers of chopped percussive vocals over a slowed stomping 4/4 before settling into a bouncy sweat drenched synth melody that most recently recalls How To Dress Well or Junior Boys’ last come-on of a record. “Yr Love” has one of the most bodied bass synths on the album and the title track rotates a single measure of some chiming AM-radio keyboard. There’s a shiftless implicit atmosphere to With U that does well to support the obscurity depicted on the album sleeve. The shape of bodies turning the sheets into an abstracted unidentifiable landscape.