[25 July 2006]
At the age of 26, most people are still working to establish themselves. Whether beginning the long climb up the corporate ladder, searching for a soul mate, or settling down and starting a family, these people are just starting to carve a niche for themselves in society. Conventional 26-year-olds are not prolific, internationally recognized experts in their chosen professions. Will Holland, a 26-year-old Brighton, England-based producer with six solo albums, two albums with his own jazz-funk orchestra, and numerous collaborations, is anything but conventional, and his outstanding music testifies to this fact.
“Quantic” is a word which, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, refers to “a homogenous polynomial having two or more variables”. It is also the name Holland uses when recording music either as a producer or as the leader of his funk ensemble, the Quantic Soul Orchestra. Listening to the DJ’s work confirms the appropriateness of the moniker. As the latest Quantic album, An Announcement to Answer, proves, one of the most striking features of Holland’s production style is his ability to harmoniously blend diverse musical variables into a homogenous, pleasing sonic mixture.
On first listen, Quantic’s music does not seem to warrant comparisons with complex mathematics. After all, what is most immediately noticeable about the music is its accessibility. Holland’s tracks pulse with danceable rhythms propelled by funky grooves and tight beats. The music’s overt energy, however, belies its intricate craftsmanship. Throughout Announcement, this craftsmanship takes center stage and elevates the album above countless other electronic records influenced by world folk music.
Announcement opens with the track, “Absence Heard, Presence Felt”. Holland depicts this title musically by creating a tender, repetitive string melody that plays over a disappearing and reappearing drum beat. The track introduces one of the main unifying themes of the album, the musical practice of call and response. The album’s title alludes to this theme, and songs like “Politick Society”, in which the solo vocalist alternates with a group of singers, provide examples of call and response in action.
One of the album’s guests, Portland-based MC Ohmega, identifies Quantic as “one of the few to bridge gaps/ Between Afrobeat [and] hip-hop”. Although his statement is true, it fails to fully capture the expansiveness of Holland’s sonic palette. Songs like “Ticket to Know Where” demonstrate Holland’s affinity for Afrobeat and hip-hop, but other tracks show that the producer’s musical vision encompasses much more than these two styles. According to Holland, “Every track documents what was happening in my life at that time.” When Holland was writing Announcement he was traveling the globe, working and record hunting in Puerto Rico, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Ethiopia. Consequently, Announcement is an album jammed full of musical snapshots from these different locations, from the tribal percussion at the opening of “Blow Your Horn” to the Caribbean rhythms of “Sabor”, a track which also features renowned Puerto Rican percussionist Tempo from the Candela All Stars.
Electronic music often has the tendency to sound cold and harsh, but on Announcement, Holland has avoided this pitfall and actually created an electronic record that is warm and inviting. Holland’s style is due in no small part to his dual role as producer and instrumentalist. In addition to mixing and editing all the music on the album, he recorded several of the instrumental parts himself, performing on guitar, bass, percussion, piano, and accordion. Holland is intimately involved with his music; consequently, Announcement has a truly intimate feel. This intimacy stands out in a genre often dominated by computerized sounds, and it, perhaps even more than Holland’s meticulous craftsmanship and incredible musical breadth, makes Announcement a truly exceptional record.
Quantic - Not So Blue [from 2002’s Apricot Morning]