James Holden: The Idiots Are Winning
Border Community

Border Community head James Holden brings an irreverent and idiosyncratic sensibility to melodic tech-house on his full-length collection The Idiots Are Winning. What's most compelling about the material is that it at times threatens to veer out of control, as Holden seemingly allows room within the tracks for the machines to misbehave and even gain the upper hand. Rejecting an overly clinical and sanitized style, Holden often opts instead for digital dirt and unpredictability. By gracefully floating a panoramic synth melody over a bubbly skip, “10101” strikes a normal enough pose but it's the exception to the rule. In smeary clodhoppers like “Corduroy” and “Idiot,” bleepy ostinatos move in and out of sync, blurring and then coming into focus. A skeletal stomp grounds “Idiot” but it too teeters on the edge of collapse as Holden showers it with shifting layers of bleepy melodies. Adding to the wooziness, the instruments morph too with synths shape-shifting into faux-harpsichords and back again. In “Flute,” clockwork patterns try to maintain their grip on a fixed tempo but eventually are besieged by a plethora of rootless noises and melodies that threaten to destabilize it while “Idiot Clapsolo” almost runs out of gas altogether. Holden further sidesteps conventional techno with a couple of Aphex-styled cuts. Distorted vocal effects in the opener “Lump” and “Lumpette” make them sound like tracks that escaped from the Richard D. James Album sessions. The Idiots Are Winning is a captivating outing that's marred only by “Intentionally Left Blank,” a two-minute momentum-destroyer that's a needlessly perverse gesture Holden should have omitted.

January 2007