Koen Holtkamp blends live recordings with studio sessions to form an interesting and engaging ambient experiment.
Koen Holtkamp has gained a respectable cult following for his various projects, which range from film scores to experimental groups such as Mountains. Now, he's releasing an EP of original music under his own name, Gravity/Bees. Like Holtkamp's previous work, the two tracks here blend ambient tones with formal experimentation. Generally, it works -- the songs function on an intellectual and visceral level, and succeed in being both pleasantly accessible and thought-provoking.
Side A, "In the Absence of Gravity Please Note the Position of the Sun", has roots in a live 2008 solo performance. Holtkamp layers the recording of that show with studio instrumentation, filtering it all through pedals and delay effects until it's impossible to tell what was originally "organic" and what is supplementary studio material. Holtkamp stacks pulsating synth upon pulsating synth, gradually building an impressive collage of sound. Violently plucked acoustic guitars and thumping percussion flesh out the piece, and -- somewhere and somehow, according to Holtkamp -- so does a glass of gingerale.
Side B, "Loosely Based on Bees", has a more immediately intriguing kernel of an idea at its center. Holtkamp recorded the daily activities of a beehive on a friend's roof and then set about layering instrumentation into the mix that would imitate and supplement the bees' drone. It's a wonderfully inspired idea, and Holtkamp effectively creates his own single-member hive by the song's end. Even if the listener approaches unprepared by the backstory, "Loosely Based on Bees" remains a relaxing, hypnotic slice of ambience. Both tracks here warrant extended listening, and both further bolster Holtkamp's reputation as a man of original ideas and commendable talent.