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koen holtkamp - Field Rituals
This long awaited debut album comes to us from Koen Holtkamp, one half of revered New York recording duo Mountains. Having had a brief taster for his work as part of the 'A Room Forever' record label / art project earlier this year, we already had some idea of the luxuriously warm drones and field recordings that would make up his full-length, but 'Field Rituals' really has turned out to be an album of quite exceptional scope and beauty. We've always been engrossed and charmed by field recordings, whether on the purist level perfected by the likes of Chris Watson, or via the atmospheric backdrop splicing utilised by so many contemporary composers, but it's a subtle art that very quickly turns to cliché in the wrong hands. Holtkamp definitively falls into the latter of these two camps and avoids those traps, feeding in narrative and found sounds into his emotionally pregnant arrangements and placing emphasis on the approachability of his music, always balancing out experimentation with familiar sounds, technique with compositional simplicity. Sure we've heard field recordings, synthesizers and guitars before, but rarely have these instruments been injected with a lightness of touch and such a delicate ear. 'Field Rituals' takes cues from the classic ambience of Brian Eno coupled and the intimate grandeur more usually exploited by Arvo Part, but it's the slow-burning pace of the album that's its single most important facet, revealing an artist confident enough to let us into his soundworld without hesitation or compromise, one step at a time. Sublime music, a massive recommendation.