A piece of work that makes me feel unschooled, like there should be some points of reference that I’m able to draw on to convey to you, the reader, what it sounds like. But I suspect that all comparisons are questionable here, and perhaps to tell you the story and the feel is more appropriate for this ‘phantasmagoric journey’. Does it help if I tell you that David J Smith was at the helm? That Kavus Torabi, Emmett Elvin, Sam Warren and Michael J. York contributed? That I thought of Pink Floyd and Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore, Comus and GNOD and The Future Sound Of London? That will only tell you about my own limited window on the world.
The Holy Family seem to speak of the ambiguity of knowledge – Philip K Dick’s dubious, poisonous revelation, the toxic gnosis that undoes as it teaches. The ‘acid casualty’ freely invoked in accompanying notes is our guide, a charged figure, as after all don’t we love that Syd character for the second-hand glory and hubris? The purpose is perhaps to celebrate the darkened seeing we once glimpsed, and the ghosts that went ahead of us into that mist.
What is it? A detective story? A manifesto? If words are the key The Holy Family tell us of their wandering soundplaces that ‘these stylistic forays are married with relentless dream logic into one unifying kaleidoscopic vision’ and for all its unmanageable enormity and challenge, this is indeed both relentless and unified. The whole is built on fluid instrumentation, a wisdom, only what is needed for each scene. Not sure what is there at the bottom of the kaleidoscope, but we can keep looking.
What do you hear? – Gentle harmonic swells and bright drifting voices establish the space. Tune in. The narrative eludes from the start – what would it be to take in the whole story? All blurred in the echoing layers. A disjointed noir-ish dance of piano against bagpipes, pulls back reeling from incipient psychosis. Promises an unwelcome seeing, the funeral within the skull. Now folkish derangement, beauty and the threat of dissolution. Coming-apart becomes inward-turning bliss in the pastoral tale of Inward Turning Suns.
The Holy Family offer a democratisation of gnosis…
Elements rise to the fore but always in the mist. Its radiance falls on your closed eyelids, scattering light. Renewed purpose in distorted guitar and more urgent rhythm slips into Floydian cool. Deep dread dubs draw us into a more menacing space, recalling the late-night sleaze of Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore. Wilfully indigestible as one thing, each passing scene has enough to overwhelm. Any self-preserving mind turns away but once you have ingested the substance, you are committed.
The energy grounds and flows in the dust, grandiose voice builds and leans into much heavier material than the psych-prog work that so far would have suggested (I think I’m hearing A Chronology For Survival by Neurosis). Into ominous clangour, all rude bass, stabbing piano, rattling synth and cymbals, that shimmer away into inattention. The Inner Edge Of Outer Mind, not far from the ‘event zone’ of Nova Swing (M. John Harrison). We take our straining eyeballs for a long walk in that forest. Resolves. And wheels turn again. Into bliss again, Future Sound Of London sparkle and avian industry.
Bleak pronouncement, and back in the tumbling dub. We are in the depths of the journey now, an alphabet of ergotism, communion that burns through unholy sacrament. Hanging in the Chasm it could be we are home, before our detective protagonist returns in urgent funk-work, a strangely prosaic return to the genre. Not to leave us all the way out there is, perhaps, a small mercy from the ‘family’, although the mournful closing speaks more of exhaustion than arrival.
Like all seekers after seeing that seek to speak it, The Holy Family offer a democratisation of gnosis. Which is not an offer you get every day.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes