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Album Review
Lay Hollow

Lay Hollow
by Howse

Tri-Angle Records

Review Date
25th June 2012
Reviewed by
Martyn Pepperell

With his debut EP Lay Hollow, Tri-Angle Records signee Howse (Nathaniel Oak) constructs vividly environmental electronic music. Working with one foot in the world of manipulated art music field recordings/noise/drone and the other firmly placed in the ultra modernist club landscapes of footwork and jungle drum and bass (which was the footwork of the 90s in essence), the five songs encased in Lay Hollow serve as a bridge between the hyper intellectual and hyper physical. Filled out by a sonic depth which belies Oak's young years (age: 22), Lay Hollow suggests the beginning of what should be an extremely promising career.

Track one 'Other Ways' kicks off with night time jungle field recordings, riddled with bird calls. Augmenting this with shiny synth sweeps, stuttering drums and a billowing sub bass bounce, 'Other Ways' recalls the energy captured by intelligent/artcore jungle drum and bass producers such as Doc Scott, Photek, J Majik and Lemon D in the mid 90s. Yet, cut down to the four so minute mark, impacts with a succinct edge often missing in the works of that earlier era.

On track two, 'VBS' faint haunted ghost calls meet 808 drums, female moans and distinctively Chicago footwork rhythm programming. Pairing things down to their bare bones, 'VBS' builds on the throwback artcore jungle vibe of 'Other Ways', much like the works of Philip D Kick, reframing it within the footwork form for the new decade. With track three, 'Old Tea', things dive firmly into the environmental school of music for a short moment, giving the illusion of oceanic ambience, before tribally framed drum grooves catch the wave, riding a bed of moaning souls and faint conversational field recordings into a crunchy explosion followed by strict bass underpinned rhythm, unusual tone and murky vibe. A steady shift of dynamic between maximal and minimal and then, a fall.

Track four, 'Depths' maintains the environmental route, making use of shuffling, twisting sweeps of sound. Giving way to a deep drone contrasted with bubbling melodies, a ruptured drum and bass style beat matched with footworkesque percussion rolls becomes central, driving the arrangement to deeper places. Pitch shifted voices rise and fall within the mix, and the piece plays out in a wavy manner. Pulling the pace down a notch, things are swiftly bounced back up into high gear on 'Fete', the concluding cut on the EP. Using a bouncy bass powered club beat, Oak buries his precise rhythmic snap in a sea of fuzzy, drony haze, night time field recordings and emotive, soaring synth. Texturally euphoric and sonically upwards in lean, mid way through, 'Fete' explodes, tearing at the edges as the rich melodic arrangements are submerged in a downpour of noise and bass. Eventually, the clouds clear, leaving in their wake a simple series of night time wilderness noises.

Twenty two so minutes long, with Lay Hollow, Oak accomplishes a true feat, completely transporting the listener to a future from a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.


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