James Holden & The Animal Spirits – The Animal Spirits

by sfe medusa


I know I have a habit of getting into something and whole-heartedly believing everything else is irrefutably and deeply connected to it. The first step is knowing your shortcomings. Alan Watts, the prison-industry complex and oil have all been subjects of such idiocy of mine.

James Holden’s latest release, The Animal Spirits, a collaboration with the live band of the same name, is a new projection target of my interest in AI and the future of tech. Even the album artist’s title “James Holden & The Animal Spirits” sounds a little bit like a children’s tale of a little boy who is actually a circuitboard that gets lost in the woods and is raised by nature. “Mother Nature Board”, or something. Enid Blyton would be loyally on board, was she knocking about.

And perhaps I’m paying too much attention to titles now, but Each Moment Like The First does the same to me that Phantogram’s Don’t Move or -M-‘s remix of C2C’s Mojo does, which is recreating the feeling of meeting someone or realising something that makes your head swell, like grasping what special relativity is, or seeing the film Catfish for the first time.

The album starts with the sound of trying to raise up a huge paper Chinese dragon; lifting something dead from the ground. Its antics are seen through a fixed frame, a screen to another side that we are physically detached from. It doesn’t surround you, it’s presented to you as a one-way street, and feels constructed by code. The fireside chanting sounds like a meticulously planned theatre production rather than stumbling across a rural opening in the wilderness where Holden is stroking the backs of trees with his knee.

Pass Through The Fire incorporates subtly shifting rhythms, it develops from a spinning disc into a full-blown rotating helix, and it pains me to make such a naff comparison but its energy is reminiscent of that bit in Deathly Hallows when Haz and Voldemort have that mega showdown:

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After this, the little lost circuitboard in the woods starts to know you. It reprograms itself into an iterative feedback loop, calculating what you want to hear and when. It gets organised, the armoured little shit.
The slightly overindulgent swells of The Beginning & End of the World is rousing at first and then just sounds to me like Big Data. The music becomes a feral entity, raging down a wind tunnel.

It ends in a celestial shoot-out, meteorite spray catapulted then trailing through the air, trajectories of thrown-out fishing lines and flares.
It feels like someone making someone making music.