Bob Holroyd – ‘The Cage’ reviewed

Ambient and avant-garde, this is dexterous and dense, as introspective as it is expressive.

Fitting for a composer whose resume includes soundtrack work for The Dark Knight, Lost, True Blood and The Sopranos, there is a sense of the cinematic and visual to Holroyd’s newest work.” I had the idea that instead of trying to escape this Cage” he reflects. “I should enlarge it to include all emotions, feelings experiences and people – if EVERYTHING is in the Cage then I am more free than if I were keeping all influences out.” He’s not exaggerating, this is a sense for the inner reaches of the cognitive challenges carefully collected over the course of the album’s twelve tracks; it is as introspective as it is expressive.

This is an album of emotion, the soft touches on Falling Together feel soft and safe, the loud dynamics of Into The Light austere and angry. Ambient and avant-garde, this is dexterous and dense, inviting the intellect to instigate the music, the journey each of us fall as we escape our own cages. He has been credited as a world fusion, experimental, chillout and electronica artiste, bringing many of these flavours to this new project, often interweaving and interchanging on the same track.  A true composer’s album, this is the work of a painter completing their process, allowing the esoteric imageerings of the listener to follow the work as it is being played.  There’s a sense of the Ravi Shankar here; slower than the musical mainstream, but more moulding and rewarding. In other words, a sound pattered museum for the ears.

This is a work that invites to partake on a journey, whether it is the pointedly named Enough or the seismic acoustics of the air in Wing Clipped. Holroyd has evidently listened to his Eno, Possibilities perhaps a spiritual relative to the Roxy Music guru’s An Ending (Ascent). Harrowed and haunting, Into The Light feels like the aural equivalent of an existential ascent; for those who dislike albums with preconceived notions may not follow this readily, those of us who hold time for atmospheric textures of light and space will find much to enjoy here.

This is an album that takes its time, three of the tracks are more than six minutes, none racing through with blaring guitars, but key-scaped touches of piano and melodic playing. If There Ever Was A Time is nicely measured, a plain piano opens the road to an orchestrated ensemble of air tight ambience, backwards sounds a welcome effect to the affectual air the instrumental undoubtedly intends, a perfect closer for any dynamic directorial piece, perhaps a future Michael Mann closer. The closing title track widens on sustained organ drones, amazed the waves that bring the listeners to the end of the celestial region they have journeyed. Sensual, seismic, seemingly soulful in segued solitude and sanity, this is a solemn stance.  Contained on a CD, this journey is a cage in title only; otherwise, it’s a box of tones textured and savoured for the palette of the coalesced ear.

Bob Holroyd – ‘The Cage’ was released by HML Records, 9 March 2018

 Eoghan Lyng is a writer, part-time English teacher and full-time lover of life. 

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