Hologram: Hologram+

Near the Parenthesis: Of Soft Construction

I'm starting to think that every n5MD product should come stamped with a shiny ‘Quality Guaranteed' sticker, given how consistently solid its output has been the past year. These two new releases, though radically different in character, certainly maintain the high quality level.

San Francisco-based Tim Arndt made a strong impression with his mid-2006 Near The Parenthesis debut Go Out and See (Music Made By People) and now extends the album's luminescent character to the equally solid Of Soft Construction. The collection's ‘emotional electronic' style is quintessential n5MD: deeply-layered material teeming with delicate piano melodies, glistening electronic atmospheres, quietly propellant beats, and occasional voice and radio station samples. Eleven finely-wrought and lustrous transporting lullabies are the result, with nine in the five-minute range and a couple of lovely placid interludes breaking the flow. A veritable wonderland of clicking beats and warm tones resounds amidst ripples of electronic gleam in “Trailing” while “Sitting in a Room” rather anomalously adds bass-heavy funkiness to the sparkling flow. Throughout this sophomore Near The Parenthesis effort, Arndt assembles mobile masses that, interestingly, are simultaneously heavy, in their density, and airy, in their brightness.

Japanese quartet Hologram—bassist and vocalist Saori Yokoyama, guitarists Kensuke Takahashi and Tsubasa Ehara, and drummer Go Hidaka—eschews histrionics for finely-calibrated post-rock on its fifty-minute, North American debut. The secret weapon is Yokoyama whose warm female vocals lend the group's sound a distinctive edge: the slow-motion setting “XX” turns dreamy when the soft, four-note cascade of her voice joins in, and “HARU” likewise exudes a more heavenly aura whenever her delicate singing surfaces. A glockenspiel brings additional sparkle to the lulling “asagiri” while “moon” alternates between tasteful quietude and more euphoric aggressiveness without sacrificing the song's fundamental elegance in the process. The album isn't without its aggressive moments—the otherwise well-behaved “bird,” for example, dedicates its second half to heavy guitar-driven psychedelia—but Hologram largely opts for atmospheric moodscaping in place of dynamic extremes. Hologram+'s restrained post-rock is hypnotic in the best sense of the word. Not revolutionary, perhaps, but lovely nonetheless.

December 2007