Fortean Times – The Holy Soul (Damn You)
Ever heard an album from a band you’d thought had all but put the cue in the rack only to be knocked out of your seat? The Holy Soul has been slogging away around Sydney for a decade or more as one of those acts playing the all-too-familiar Game of Diminishing Returns.
You know that one. It’s where, through a combination of fickle fandom, demographic-driven media, venue turnover and diverging member interests, a band fades from view like the white dot on an analogue TV screen.
Appearances are deceptive. There’s been a bit happening in the background. In terms of getting onto the mainstream radar, however, The Holy Soul have been perpetual victims of their own nature. People like to grasp the familiar and The Holy Soul has traded in a strange mix of blues-rock that’s impossible to pigeonhole. So let’s all resist trying.
Here's the short version: “Fortean Times” (it’s named after a magazine chronicling the paranormal) is one of the most absorbing, freshest-sounding and great Australian releases I’ve heard in a very long time.
And it’s been a very long time between drinks. The previous “proper” Holy Soul release (ignoring live recording collaborations with Damo Suzuki of Can and David Thomas of Pere Ubu) was the excellent “Damn You, Ra” LP in 2009. A “best of” LP and a second European tour were sandwiched in there somewhere.
Cred, they have plenty of.
“Fortean Times” chronicles a year’s worth of jams and writing that culminated in five days of recording under the firm but adventurous production hand of The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard in rural Victoria.
The first thing to say is that it sounds magnificent with a shitload of presence and plenty of space in which to breathe. You’re in the same room as the band and a lot of attention has been focused on getting the bass and drums of Sam Worrad and Kate Wilson sounding just right.
The next thing to say is that the songs are top-notch. Stylistically, this is a band that turns on a dime and the players are all working from a position of strength because they know each other’s style intuitively.
But back to the songs: The martial opener “Family Magician” is a strong attention-getter but gives way to side trips like the grinding paranoia of “There’s a Hair On The Soap” and the jaunty “Alone Party” (where shades of Tom Verlaine’s solo work pervade Jon Hunter’s guitar licks.)
There’s enough ennui running through “Monthly Report” to drive a decade’s worth of public sector reform and if you can’t detect the wry, black humour in this and many of these songs then you need a mind makeover.
Diversity is a byword. “Pentagramma” is a meandering aural trip. “History Pt II” mirrors the sort of ‘60s groove that Kim Salmon’s ingrained in his post-Scientists work, while the dynamics of the title track underline The Soul’s rock credentials. Props to Hunter and vocalist-guitarist Trent Maddern who work up a storm.
Dunno if Triple J will play it but you, I and The Holy Soul shouldn't really give a fuck. Just buy it and find out for yourself.