But even for a label one might call reclusive where new releases are concerned, Holden and the gang have been increasingly withdrawn of late. Three releases in 2009 and none before this month in 2010. All of which sets the stage for Luke Abbott's debut album for the label, Holkham Drones. After getting his start on Trevor Jackson's sadly defunct Output Recordings, the Norfolk producer found an ideal home with BC on 2008's Tuesday EP. Following last year's excellent Whitebox Stereo, Abbott's "Soft Attacks" served as a mesmeric entry point early on Holden's DJ Kicks earlier this year. Also included here, the track kind of sounds like an updated Vangelis re-write for a pivotal Road Warrior scene, and stood out amongst the disorienting, heat-dazed Krautrock that defined the mix.
So it's fitting that Holkham Drones itself is marked by that very brand of blurry, whirring electronica and kosmische. Perched somewhere between Boards of Canada, Cluster, Jesse Somfay and current-day Caribou, Holkham Drones is indeed more daze than dance, an immersive and often expressively beautiful tonal drone record that plays best without break or skip. In many ways, it serves as a sidepiece to Holden's DJ Kicks, a sweetly symphonic arch that defies descent. Though it varies in tempo and timbre, it plays out as a long pulsating blaze rather than an articulation of peaks and valleys, advances and retreats.
Abbott plays with light and shadow in central melodic motifs, allowing him a fluidity that evolves engagingly against all his static and crisscrossing tonal patterns. Opener "2nd 5th Heavy," for example, sifts across a vintage melody right out of Cluster's Sowiesoso, cut in contrast only by fast-pitched drones and a stumpy machine beat. "Whitebox" is more shuttered and dark, a quick-hitch warbler that would've been right at home in the label's early days. "Sirens for the Colour" coasts along astral synth lines and minimal rhythms—an almost dewy first-light hymn—while both "Hello Tazelaar" and "Brazil" recall Nathan Fake at his most velveteen, subverting their jumpy beats with melodies you could almost sing in the shower. In fact, as "Dumb" closes in a dim hypnotic twinkle, it's hard not to hear Holkham Drones as one of the deftest summations of the many impulses and influences Holden and co have been tracing since their start. Or in seasonal terms, a soundtrack worthy of summer's close fade, sorry for passings but reveling in crisp cool new things.