It feels not long ago, though it is more than two years, that The Holy Family appeared with their self-revelatory debut. At the time I was quite taken by surprise and was happy to parade my foolishness in response. Having attempted to digest that first record as well as doing some homework, the context of the Guapo connection makes more sense to me now. Like David Smith’s former band, The Holy Family are concerned with the ambition to move on further from the rock format (can something be post-prog?), but where Guapo and other bands in The Holy Family orbit have, at times, overflowed with ideas and novelty, Go Zero as an album seems to hinge on singular ideas stretched to the point of obsession or fixation.
Musically that is – the contextual narrative ideas presented to Go Zero’s audience are somehow too much for me, I’m reluctant to engage. A reference to unfamiliar world-building fiction, some esoteric concept of inverse time, my head is already stretching. There are rabbit holes aplenty for those that want to follow David Smith there: the figure of the multidisciplinary artist lost in the craft; music to guide us forward into our past, a knowing and resetting implicit in birth… Go forth and dig if you feel so inclined, but the music is enough, and that is where I’m staying for now.
Where the self-titled album was in the business of ‘phantasmagoric journey’, Go Zero comes on more like a fever, or withdrawals. Eldritch and unsettling unhappy midnight burbling, with the seeming purpose of turning the brain to homogenised slurry. That is a short and mildly flowery bit of verbiage, but do not underestimate the impact of the nine or so minutes of Crawling Out and Bad Travelling. I have tried to approach them in a variety of sets and settings and haven’t found one that makes them less heavy. This is certainly more menace than I expected from The Holy Family, and frankly, a strange way to start an album, where many bands are concerned with engaging the audience.
the seeming purpose of turning the brain to homogenised slurry…
From here on in there is a little more light – strangely given the content (‘Chalky’s eyes had been eaten by flies’) – and in allowing a play of rhythm, the conspirators come across as a little less malevolent. The Watcher brings more love but in a sort of detached fondness, a floating eye that smiles. But wait, ah ha! At once the detective is back! Hell Born Babel with its funk and strut becomes hardboiled in mis-step layering. Everything leaves a trail with a lysergic lack of scrubbing away, and the depth of detail opens endless paths to get lost in.
And those paths bring us to The Go Zero Suite, which in its three parts ranges further, the songs allowed to move beyond one idea – less monomania – but still tied together with constants. There is more on which to hang the listener’s musical expectations as over fifteen-ish improvised minutes, the music grooves and develops. Ultimately taking us towards twinkly bliss and rest, the promised revelation of birth, although as the notes have it ‘big time discombobulation is [still] occurring’.
After the previous record’s adventuring, Go Zero as a whole is a strange piece. The challenge of its opening movement cautions against mushroomy closed-eye dreaming, while clearly speaking to such befuddled and amazed states. In some respects, it seems short of ideas, but there is undoubtedly richness in the cosmic schlamm [or ‘slop’ if you prefer]. The Holy Family continue to exist purely on their own terms and seem willing and able to use any means to travel wherever they please, so long as it’s somewhere strange.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes