Vinyl Vlog 194

Vinyl Vlog 194

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the In The Garden LP by Holy Sons.

Even at first sight, those who are familiar with Holy Sons – the solo pet project of Grails drummer Emil Amos – will know that In The Garden is an important release for the artist. Why? Well, they’ll know it must be of particular importance; In The Garden is Holy Sons’ fourth album for Partisan, but it is the thirteenth to bear the project’s name. Because Amos is so prolific, the label has always picked and chosen which albums they’ll release since first signing the artist in 2005 – in fact they’ve only released four (three studio albums and one reissue), leaving Important Records, Chrome Peeler and Thrill Jockey to pick up the other six albums which were also released in that time. That said, it stands to reason that there’s something special about In The Garden, and that possibility is the first thing which may inspire potential listeners to pick the album up. When they do that, they’ll find themselves handsomely rewarded as soon as they begin listening.

It might sound a little trite or baiting, but the only way to really express the sensation which comes from listening to In The Garden is to call it dreamy. From the moment “Robbed And Gifted” open the album’s A-side, there’s an ease and abstract air about it reminiscent of that which comes to many people with sleep; lines like “Every dream awake is just one state of mind/ Pulling away and ruled by time/ The pendulum swings and brings me things/ Replacing whatever it took away” play out with a sort of exhausted and detached calm which is the definition of drowsy attestation. Likewise, the sort of runny, lilting music which backs those sentiments has a calming, pacifying sense about it which might not make eyelids heavy, but will certainly cause listeners to first find and then sink deeply into their favorite comfortable chair.

After “Robbed and Gifted” has eased listeners into In The Garden, Amos is clearly intent on not doing anything to jar or otherwise unsettle his audience here. All the songs which populate the album’s A-side (“Denmark,” “Original Sin,” “Double Negative”) follow a similar thread to the album opener – each keeps to a poetic, sort of depressed angle (a personal favorite is the “I’m looking for an exit o entrance to the end” plaint in “Original Sin”) and is good enough to win listeners who want to hear some quality millennial college rock, even if all the songs stay as far as possible from any and all lo-fi intimacy. By the time “Eyes Can See Clearly” swishes in to close the side with some piano and multi-tracked vocals of a style pulled straight out of a Paul McCartney song, all those who might be hooked by the drama and romance that Amos is stuck on will already be in for the pound over the penny and ready to make the transition between sides to keep the mood going. That is not to say listeners will be ready for a change by the end of In The Garden‘s A-side, just that they’ll be locked right into it and ready for more.

…And while the B-side of In The Garden is undeniably an obvious counterpart to the A-, it immediately registers as a different sort of beast. As soon as “Behind Glass” begins and opens the side, listeners will note the presence of electric guitars where once acoustics were the standard, and will be instantly intrigued. Of course, in the volumes upon volumes of work that Amos has produced before, the singer tried on several different sides and ideas – but this departure from form while still operating within the paradigm set on the album from the beginning is fairly unusual. It’s for that reason listeners’ interest will be renewed here and, as the B-side progresses, Amos takes care to ensure that he never lets that attention languish. Here, strains of Pink Floyd pass through the artist’s hands (check out “Pattern Gets Cold” for the best Floyd song to come along in years – even if no member of that band has anything to do with it) as well as a chilly take on CSNY (“Too Late”) and even some pretty obvious Seventies AM radio inspiration (find “It’s My Feeling”) with a fluidity and ease that is simply unbelievable; no effort is made or required to shift gears between songs, nor are there any truly difficult or ill-advised turns along the way – it all comes simply and, after the title track plays through to close In The Garden, one gets the impression that the singer has simply walked away to decide what he feels like doing next because he’s reached the terminus of this idea. That is not to say that one gets the sense he didn’t enjoy making the album while he was doing it, just that it’s done now and he wants to move forward.

And what does one project will come next from Holy Sons? As usual, no impression is left at the end of In The Garden regarding where Emil Amos’ muse will take him next but, also as usual, that’s part of the fun of seeing the end of a Holy Sons album: projecting what may come. That tradition remains intact here and, per usual, the end leaves listeners ready to run through the album again and again to try and figure out the answer. [Bill Adams]


The In The Garden LP is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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