Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 07.08.10
chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb + tech•no \tek-nõ\ n
In 1999, at 19, British electronic-music prodigy James Holden released “Horizons,” a hyperspeed trance production embedded with a fist-pumping euphoria that’s light years from where his music is currently. As one of the U.K.’s brightest and boldest techno minds, the genre-defying label !k7 has handpicked Holden to contribute the latest DJ-KiCKS, a series of mix-CDs that’s seen installments from many of electronic music’s most talented stars.
Though “Horizons” is more than ten years old and trance no longer holds the appeal it once did, the track is still an indicator of the Oxford graduate’s talent. It encapsulates the nuance and understated intensity that spans Holden’s work. That said, Holden never sits still for long, and on this mix—in a similar style to the output from his indie techno label Border Community—he navigates through 20 of the most challenging and varied digital compositions to be found in one place.
In the first 15 minutes, he swings from field-recording atmospherics (Piano Magic’s “Wintersport/Cross Country”) to blissful Balearica (Music Cargo’s remix of “Disco” by Grackle) to dubby techno breaks (Mordant Music’s “Olde Wobbly”), and it feels completely natural. Then, from Caribou’s “Lemon Yoghourt” on, the selections settle into Holden’s current forte, a mix of emo techno—syncopated tribal rhythms and droning shoegaze melodies—like his exclusive contribution to the mix, “Triangle Folds,” and indie-electronic experimentation, like that of L.A. sound engineers Lucky Dragons. House and techno’s telltale four-on-the-floor thump finds its way into the final quarter of the mix, but in a manner too subtle to inspire the vertical knuckle sandwiches made popular by Jersey Shore, and this is a very good thing in our book.
—Joshua P. Ferguson