San Holo steps out of the DJ booth on his evolutionary debut LP, ‘album1’
After a year of pouring himself into his debut album, the aural journey San Holo has built for the music begins with a sigh. The feeling comes in the form of a rare and distinct sound in the dance music world of digitized bombast; a single crystal clear strum from an electric guitar. It’s not a weary sigh, or an exhale of calm before the storm. It’s the sigh of an artist coming to the satisfying end of a deeply personal journey of creation, and the beginning of a new chapter for his fans and everything else in his ever growing orbit. After a building a label of fresh creative talent and fueling the rise of future bass, San Holo’s album1 is a debut that could have felt the weight of the electronic music industry world on its shoulders. Instead, it sounds and feels like something much different.
Spanning twelve tracks, album1 is a tight and concentrated collection that’s all feeling and no filler. That first guitar strum on the opening track “everything matters (when it comes to you)” is soon flanked by twinkling bells and swelling strings, and the live instruments only expand from there. Guitars can be heard everywhere in the music – electric guitars drenched in atmosphere, acoustic guitars strummed meticulously. The addition is nothing new for Holo, with the instrument playing key roles in past releases like “Right Here, Right Now” and “I Still See Your Face. Here, the instrument often stars and feels unleashed in a way that’s immediately earnest and emotive. Post rock sensibilities and textures is everywhere, and sonically defines and differentiates the body of work from anything San Holo has done before. The breathtaking arena filling power “surface” even features notable post rock outfit Caspian, and yet solo cuts like “show me” prove that vein isn’t a product of the LP’s guest features.
After repeated listens, what truly surprises is the authenticity of the record. San Holo’s identity is never lost in all the wistful beauty, with trademark distorted subs and thundering 808s still powering the tracks forward. Songs like the duskus-assisted “forever free” bring the producer’s signature crunch and grit with bitcrushed four to the floor energy, while Bipolar Sunshine serves buttery vocals over classic Holo vocal chops. The brisk trap-infused pace of “love (wip)” contrasts with the simmering melancholy of “worthy” in a way that lends the album to full front to back listening in a music scene increasingly inundated by one and done singles. In a statement posted to social media prior to the LP’s release, San Holo spoke of his hopes for the project:
“I want you to be able to listen to this album for yourself and create your own stories, memories, and experiences linked to the music […] To me, one of the most exciting things of making music is expanding my own taste and giving listeners an opportunity to expand theirs.”
That ethos of expansion is felt keenly across the entire body of work. Every track is a puzzle piece of a vision equal parts uplifting and cathartic, with the artist’s progression towards deeper beauty and introspection calling to mind Porter Robinson‘s seminal Worlds album in its authenticity and sincerity. album1 isn’t a phase or an experiment, but a story told from the heart of an artist ready to create fearlessly. The ability to create this singular statement of evolution into epic and soaring texture is magnified by San Holo’s sonic stamp on every production, no matter how massive or contemplative. The album invites the listener to soundtrack their lives, not just their Friday nights. album1 is sunset driving with the windows down and aimless walks through bright city streets music before any “future bass” designations. With his debut long player, San Holo has bloomed into a builder of worlds and stories for his fans to immerse themselves within. The journey is of his own design and only just getting started – and if album1 is an indicator of things to come, it’s gonna be one hell of a beautiful trip.