Boomkat Product Review:
Koen Holtkamp (Mountains) embraces the lush maximalism of ‘70s ’Process Music’ and mannered ‘80s pop minimalism as Beast, making a radical but logical departure from his atomically-detailed modular synth recordings released by Type, Thrill Jockey and Umor Rex over the past decade.
Joining the Pre-Echo label for this stylistic change of wind, Holtkamp presents the most rhythmically focussed material in his catalogue of solo and collaborative works. The dreamy fluidity of his more granular, diaphanous sounds is now shaped into cascades of mind-melt harmonic contours urged by piquant, pointillist patterns with mesmerising results.
This change in direction stems from a finer realisation of live light-to-sound techniques, using 3D lasers to represent every aspect of the performance - from modular synth to VSTs and the shifting patterns of his “Color Phase” light installations - in a way that artists have been pursuing since Tony Conrad’s earliest experiments and far beyond. However, it’s really only now that Holtkamp has managed to exert such a filigree level of control over his instruments, and with deliciously, synaesthetically sound effect.
On the first of two Beast volumes we hear this ‘Process’-oriented approach at its rawest and most hypnotic in three parts edited from real time performance; firstly in Yesterday with a gloriously effervescent yet precise side of chattering Reichian percussion and brownian electronic squabble that precipitates Can-like rolling breaks and beautifully moody bass synth swells with ‘floor-reedy urgency, then with the more pastoral swell and bustle of Today, and in a duskier projection of creamy harmonic washes and needling rhythmelody called Tomorrow which distinctly resonates in the air with Crepuscular ’80s belgian pop-classical gestures.
There’s no doubt Holtkamp is entering a crowded field with this sound, but the clarity of his execution and naturalistic development of each piece’s symbiotic, synaethestic bind of rhythm, harmony and spatial dynamic is little short of breathtaking and self-evidently worthy of your time, even if you think you’ve heard it all before.