Artist: Holden
Title: The Idiots Are Winning
Label: Border Community
By: Illya Zubaryev | 20 November 2006
  1. Lump
  2. Quiet Drumming Interlude
  3. 10101
  4. Corduroy
  5. Flute
  6. Idiot
  7. Lumpette
  8. Intentionally Left Blank
  9. Idiot Clapsolo
  10. Quiet Drumming

Holden "The Idiots Are Winning"Holden "The Idiots Are Winning"

Out Now on Border Community

Unless you've been living under a rock, you should know who James Holden is. The wunderkind behind the Border Community label, an ever-evolving musician and DJ, he is known around the globe by virtually everyone who has a keen interest in electronic music. The Englishman has impressed famous producers, DJs, critics, labels and clubbers time and time again since his early Oxford days as a young student playing with the free Buzz tracker. Achieving surprising, sudden fame in 1999 with progressive house tunes Horizons & 'Pacific' released on the highly regarded Silver Planet record label, James began his exciting journey into the world of music. Flying through and redefining genres, amassing a vast portfolio of remixes and credits, defining new musical threads and trends; 7 years have now passed since 'Horizons' and much has changed.

Far from a teenager, but still growing as both an individual and musician, not everyone is happy with new paths James chooses to take. Nevertheless, it's historically evident – brilliant minds are often misunderstood and criticized. One thing's for sure – James is one of the only artists that has always evolved and stayed true to himself, his desires and goals, changing the world of electronic music all the while. The artist formerly known as James Holden may have dropped the first name, but as Holden's 'The Idiots Are Winning' EP is released, the recognition, anticipation and excitement are ever-present.

The EP clocks in just under 44 minutes and although some have mistaken it as such, it is not Holden's debut album. For that LP, we'll probably have to wait until late 2007. All the same, this is the biggest release to come from the Border Community camp and from Holden himself in a long time; a collection of productions that James created over recent years. The first track is easily recognizable – 'Lump' has been a fan-favourite for quite some time and this new full length, original mix is very pleasing to the ear as well. Although possibly more enjoyable within the context of a DJ set in a club, there is so much detail, creativity and layering of different sounds, it is great for home listening too just for sheer replay value. The next track is simply a short interlude of peculiar 'Quiet Drumming' as the title suggests. It may make one wonder and question its placement and content in near frustration at first, but later on our curiosity is satisfied. '10101' is the next track and it has been featured in mixes and DJ sets by Holden in the past, but not nearly as much as 'Lump' and as devoted listeners will notice, it is a very complete, full length production now as opposed to past "preview" versions. A very melodically infused track, '10101' features almost trance-like reverberating synths that float in dramatically amongst definitive Holdenesque sampling, effects and instrumentation. The track builds very well, layering as time progresses, and has a more pleasant, ambient feel to it.

Satisfyingly, the mood changes dramatically with the next track, 'Corduroy'. Although it is often difficult and unfavorable to pick specific genres, Corduroy definitely has major techno elements, but is still very fresh and inventive. Although the tempo is not overly high, the synth lines are modulated cyclically and rapidly drone about, creating a restless mood and the sound that defines this track; a tonally recurring sound palette revolving around a few keys with bass lines that steadily whirr in behind giving the track definition. Furthermore, the sample and sound choices, along with the effects, are as imaginative and interesting as ever, although sometimes the repetition of certain samples (i.e. clicks and beeps) could annoy listeners. Next, we have a change of pace and mood once more in the form of 'Flute' which clocks in just under 5 minutes. A track that is very much an ambient, progressive affair, it has many atmospheric sounds and samples. The drum track for is very unconventional and the 'Quiet Drumming Interlude' is in fact a preview of it – sounding like a live recording of one drum sticking hitting another in combination with little pops, clicks and smooth, soaring noise. It works in superb accompaniment with the rest of the sounds, most especially the bass synth. Little strange high frequency noises, synth stabs and effects are also all over the place and the overall feel is quite organic and interesting.

The next track, 'Idiot', is the masterpiece of the EP in my view. The track has been featured by Holden in his mixes and sets for a while now, although pitched up and faster than this original mix. The synth samples remind one very much of the sounds of the Nintendo game system, but it doesn’t make the track sound bad in any way. The first thing one may notice is the tempo of 'Idiot' chugs along quite slowly but this allows all of the details in the track to be fully exposed with great clarity and creates a longer, more interesting and progressive listening experience. The drum track is heavy and powerful with very little but the 4/4 kick drum as a constant, although interesting pops, clicks, pads and more appear throughout to fill any void that the stripped down beat may have created. The bass line is slow in its movement and comes in and out of the track, providing great climatic definition. All of the synth lines interplay wonderfully, creating a very harmonious and melodic arrangement for the signature sequences of the track; with certain passages and notation sounding almost akin to beautiful classical music in nature. For me, this track is the most emotionally powerful and has massive replay value. Now, we come to the last four tracks of the EP and they are quite different.

'Lumpette' is basically a pure, acapella version of the vocal track from 'Lump'. It can be summed up as very bizarre, effects-ridden singing without words. With the content and short length in mind – there is little doubt that it is a functional sound piece that can be used by DJs in mash-ups and such a.k.a. a "DJ tool". The next track will perplex pretty much everybody as it is simply just over 2 minutes of nothing; silence. Unless Holden goes on record to speak of what it's all about, the purpose and point behind 'Intentionally Left Blank' can only be speculated. Moving on, we have 'Idiot Clapsolo', a track which is fairly prolonged and expands greatly on parts of 'Idiot'. Basically, it's a drum track with tons of wild, quality samples and sounds along with an array of interesting effects. Finally, we have 'Quiet Drumming', which is yet another functional track, but one that is almost too minimal and strange for anyone, possibly only usable by DJs and producers who want a little "metronome track" of sorts. Similar to the 'Quiet Drumming Interlude', this track contains the drum track from 'Flute', but this time expands upon it. This track sounds very organic and definitely live or improvised in a sense; providing a fitting artistically creative conclusion to 'The Idiots Are Winning'.

One very nice thing about this EP is that despite similarities between all the tracks and the overall conceptually concentrated realm of 'The Idiots Are Winning', there is great variety and ingenuity in Holden’s productions, which makes it more accessible to different listeners. With that said, this EP and Holden's new musical direction in recent years is definitely not to everyone's liking. However, I think that is exactly the kind of thing that proves Holden's great individual free thinking and musical genius. 'The Idiots' that '…Are Winning' seem to be those that simply repeat what has been done before, while feeling afraid of the unthinkable, the risqué; caring only about mass approval or sales, which although they may get, does not make them musically inventive, progressive or maybe even real, honest individuals. It is artists like James Holden on the other hand and musical releases like this one that push the envelope and move the scene forward into the uncertain, exciting and evolving future of dance music. James Holden definitely has no creative bounds, while still making music that can tear up a club, but also please home listeners.

Thus, despite its strange idiosyncrasies and some risqué, merely functional sounds, this is an absolutely top notch creation, no matter how many people will buy it, love it or hate it. The inclusion of functional tracks alongside the grand, full length productions also makes this release accessible to both a popular and niche market at the same time - something that rarely happens in one release. Now, one can only imagine what the future may bring from Mr. Holden after this. 'The Idiots Are Winning' is an EP incomparable and fundamentally perfect in its nature, content and ideology. Brilliant – musically and artistically.

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