Old Man Diode brings poetry of Rick Holland into “disco” territory

October 27, 2011

It’s not really “disco” per say. “Off-beat,” “odd,” “quirky” and “infectious” all work to describe “Open Blue,” actually subverting the genre that is now the ancient precursor to what one might consider today’s dance music, which, in the nineties entered more intellectual territory thanks to pioneers like Aphex Twin and Autechre and other IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) artists. “Open Blue,” certainly fits into IDM and is the lead single off the up-coming collaborative album by Old Man Diode and Rick Holland by the same name (due Nov. 21 on the UK-based indie label WW Music). After working with ambient music and art rock pioneer Brian Eno (Eno collaborator/poet Rick Holland corresponds on craft – An Indie Ethos exclusive [Part 1 of 2]), Holland recently shared a video to this latest work, which also features the vocals of Beth Rowley.

I admitted to him that I do not usually get excited by follow-ups to music I was already impressed by, as cynical skepticism often takes hold and becomes a large, stiff barrier for anything to break through. In some way or another music must evolve and change or rise to another level to impress me further or in a different way from what I heard in the prior work. Color me impressed (full screen for maximal effect):

The slow-burn gorgeousness of the gravity-defying visuals of this video work well to draw the viewer in, not to mention the pretty visage of Rowley hanging off the wall with one foot. The images mesh strongly with the music, which offers a great departure from the more cerebral work of the master tunesmith that is Eno. It is not a comparison of better or weaker— easy terms to bandy about. Though delivered more musically by Rowley’s sing-song voice, Holland’s words still feel spoken and maintain an evocative, intelligent impression.  Add Old Man Diode’s (aka Jo Wills) distinctly artsy dance-like sound, and you have something with the DNA required to please a cynical music snob such as myself.

I can certainly appreciate an almost deadpan delivery of dance music that seems to try to tear itself apart from the inside out. The rhythm recalls the break beats of Aphex Twin, as a steady synth pulses, providing the glue to the scattering rhythm. With the expressive coo of Rowley’s voice above it, the cake is complete. I found some nice remixes on Old Man Diode’s Soundcloud page. Here is the highlight:

Holland noted that the album is indeed collaborative, with the vocalists also participating in fulfilling the ultimate results. “I have known him [Wills] for many years now, he was one of the first people I ever wrote with specifically for music and I knew this project would be genuinely collaborative, opening the process up to all of the really special vocalists he had in mind,” Holland said via email. “We understand each other and our languages overlap enough to make working together really easy and fulfilling and also enabling each guest writer to fully engage in the writing process. Every track in the project is fully collaborative, with some startling talents.”

According to a press announcement, other collaborators featured on the album include: Chris James, lead vocalist with Stateless, Onallee from Roni Size’s drum and bass troupe Reprazent and multi-instrumentalist jazz composer and vocalist Andrew Plummer.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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