A documentary soundtrack shows a subtle side to Holden's sound.
The film, called A Cambodian Spring, follows a group of activists from the Boeung Kak community of Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh, as they attempt to wrest their land and their homes back from government- and World Bank-backed developers. The director, Chris Kelly, asked Holden for permission to use "Self-Playing Schmaltz," a track from 2013's The Inheritors. Holden ended up composing all the music for the film. The Prophet 600, with which "Self-Playing Schmaltz" was made, became the mainstay of the soundtrack.
A Cambodian Spring OST begins and ends with versions of "Srey Pov's Theme." Long-held tones fade into each other, sometimes merging into minor chords. It is the sound of deep and epic melancholy. Another three-part theme is dedicated to the Buddhist monk Venerable Loun Sovath. Each part incorporates a gentle droning of just a few notes, but as the album progresses and the stakes get higher, polyphonic melodies are draped over each other, slightly out of sync, until the final part of "Monk's Theme" crescendos into lush, falling scales over an ever-growling drone.
Heard on its own, this album is a meditative experience, anxious but not out of control. In the documentary, however, much of it fades into the background, as soundtracks often do, giving the subjects room to speak. In this respect, the "Solidarity Theme" series stands out. Buoyant arpeggios accumulate into so many victorious waves of sound. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, the "Disintegration Drone" series makes use of a dying Hammond organ to achieve a repellant rasping effect.
Set over the demolition of the activists' homes, this metaphor—the failure of musical equipment to the crumbling of buildings—brings to mind William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops. The album's second-last track, "Self-Playing Schmaltz," is recontextualized to sound more than ever like a deranged pianist delivering a solo on an untuned instrument. This soundtrack runs the gamut of emotions. The listener is guided, through both the music and the film, into a vulnerable state of mind that might make them reconsider the ways things should be.
Tue / 12 Feb 2019
01. Srey Pov's Theme
02. Monk's Theme Part I
03. Downturn Medley
04. Solidarity Theme (Villagers)
05. Monk's Theme Part II
06. The Villagers
07. Disintegration Drone I
08. Solidarity Theme (Release)
09. Monk's Theme Part III (Exit)
11. Disintegration Drone II (Torn Cone)
12. Disintegration Drone III (Death Rattle)
13. Self-Playing Schmaltz
14. Srey Pov's Theme (End Credits)