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Francesco Tristano

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Hollan Holmes: Incandescent
Hollan Holmes

Texas-based ambient-electronic composer Hollan Holmes cites figures such as Steve Roach, Richard Burmer, and Robert Rich as key influences, and truth be told it's easy to draw connecting lines between his fifth full-length release Incandescent and the work produced by said artists. But, as we'll see, in a couple of striking instances Holmes's album also distinguishes itself from the recordings of others.

Holmes, who works in the film and animation industry by day and creates ambient-electronic music by night, began his sonic journey when he acquired his first synth, a Moog prodigy, in 1982. His debut release, A Distant Light, appeared in 2010 and was followed a year later by The Farthest Fringes, Phase Shift in 2013, and The Spirits Of Starlight in 2014. Dedicated to the late Richard Burmer, who died in 2006 (the new album's “Valley of the Rocks” even includes a piccolo part composed by Burmer), the sixty-eight-minute Incandescent documents Holmes's ongoing maturation as a composer and sound designer.

That Holmes is a member of the sequencer-driven synthesizer community is evidenced by epic settings such as “First Light” and “Letting Go,” their radiant journeys starlit by twinkling patterns and galaxial flourishes. Such pieces clearly suggest that Holmes's music is strongly rooted in the ambient-electronic tradition established during the ‘70s by Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, among others. Holmes isn't averse to pushing his music into new areas, however. The sounds of rain and thunder that frame “The Year's First Rain,” for example, represent Holmes's first incorporation of field recordings into his material.

But it's with “Earth Song,” “Incandescent,” and “The Inevitability of Change,” majestic cloudscapes of plaintive mood and ethereal character, that Incandescent truly begins to set itself apart from other recordings of its kind. Its most remarkable moment, however, arises with “Interstellar Lullaby,” the album's most beautiful setting, one whose melodic design best showcases Holmes's gifts as a composer. Material of such soul-stirring calibre puts him in a class by himself.

June 2015