James Holden couldn’t be on more of a hot streak if he got blasted with napalm at a high school track meet. His very own Border Community label blossomed out of the void in 2003 armed only with a handful of singles. Most of them have since gone on to major club success, astounding expectations and building an empire from the ground up. Though it’s primarily a deejay-oriented label, slowly the odd EP and full-length is beginning to peek through and Kraftwerk be damned if audiophiles aren’t meeting these collectables with the same caliber of praise and respect as the singles were by “the scene” and its sea of hangers-on.
Petter’s well-used ambient trance Six Songs EP from 2004 and Nathan Fake’s IDM goes shoegazing debut LP the next year first got heads turning with thorough critic praise and usage on all the big compilations of the day. The label appeared on worldwide radars as one to keep your eyes on. Holden’s own premiere full-length venture in ‘06 only sweetened the deal, with his signature style of slow building, circuit bending progressive. As the third long-player Coloured In Memory lands in stores and collections, this momentum shows no sign of waning.
Toronto ex-pat Jacob Fairley made an immediate splash for Border Community under his Fairmont pseudonym with his introductory four-track single “Gazebo” in late ‘05. The title track from that 12-inch made all the rounds on the back of a steady chugging beat and a wonderfully playful plinky melody. It immediately landed on literally dozens of samplers and DJ mixes, more than any other single issued with the Holden seal to that point. In fact, it was such a success, spawning several repressings, reissues, and a catalogue of remixes, that there was essentially no choice but to follow it up with more. Coloured in Memory does the job thoroughly.
Jake Fairley, who claims a couple albums under his given name, actually debuted his Fairmont alter ego back in 2001 to show his sensitive side. He didn’t nurture it though, only managing a couple singles and a full-length on Traum Schallplatten within the span of a few months before temporarily retiring the project. 2002’s Paper Stars definitely showed promise, but with Coloured In Memory in hand, the difference is night and day. The production value is richer and fuller across the board, leaving Paper Stars sounding like a bunch of half finished ideas by comparison.
Nothing from ‘02 can even approach the opening “Fold And Saturate”. Following the “Gazebo” 12-inch lead, it’s another fully realized techno chugger with moaning, arpeggiated synths, playfully bouncing subbase, and an ice-cold vocal refrain. The subsequent “Darling Waltz” takes a more ambitious approach with an embryonic synth lead that evolves from a humble bassline accompaniment to a face stabbing, fist pumping lead, and back. And whatever it does, “Mobula” does it better, with a liquid garbles and warps that play in and about the steady four-four beat like dolphins flying in the push before an ocean liner, occasionally finding the right kind of symmetry and divinely clicking into newfound peaks.
These cuts are easy to point to for evidence of Jacob’s progression of skill over the years, some of us play Guitar Hero, others actually practice music, but it’s his genre-bending experimentation where he shows his maturity as an artist. “All Good Things” is directed straight at the chill stage with softly echoing percussion, sunrise strings, and mild acid comedown tweaks over an off-time but purposeful hip-hop beat. There’s no way that track would support a higher BPM. “1995” is equally impressive, accenting a lightly skittering trip-hop like beat with Boards Of Canada style vocal cut-ups, moody subbase, and depressive, melted synth changes. Throw in a guitar solo on “Calm Before The Storm” and you’ve got genuine post-rock, with sullen masculine vocals mourning love lost over a proper bass bassline and swarming electric ambiance. That one is downright moving.
“I Need Medicine” gets my nod for album highlight, with its warbled and mutated “if I don’t get a sip, then I loose my head” vocals and throwback trance pads that pin down Lord Of The Rings epic progressions from grinding to baby smooth. That’s where Jacob really lets his uncanny knack for off kilter melodic layers loose, adding up to the centerpiece being destined for massive success in the scene and beyond. It’s really in the eye of the beholder, though, ‘cause there are so many standouts to choose from.
Coloured In Memory is favourite track after favourite track till time and social status loses all relevance. Fairmont has clearly tapped into the tribal soul, the root energy of techno still as vibrant today as when Bruce Haack stumbled on it in 1983. The bar has been raised. Holden’s third immutable victory in a row makes him the center of one of the new hotpots for radical advancement in the field of danceable electronic music.
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// Notes from the Road
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