Review of Electronic Music by Hollan Holmes: Milestones

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Wildering Haven
It feels exciting, like walking on thin ice, it can feel so transparent, with note-by-note realizations utilizing hypnotic rhythms and extensive use of the sound-design capabilities of his instruments with repeated pitch, filter or effects changes creating genuine spacescapes. Holmes is creating or discovering music using different tone qualities that breaks free from existing ideas, electronic space music made with software synthesizers and sequencer layers. Human voices are never included except for the second track. Use this music to explore the unknown, fulfilling the urge of hearing something completely different, as though from a faraway planet nothing like Earth. What you will hear are daring new sounds with a Berlin School theme of astronomy and science fiction.

Submitted: February 22, 2020

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Submitted: February 22, 2020

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Review of Electronic Music by Hollan Holmes: Milestones
 
Spotted Peccary Music https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/milestones/
 
Electronic space music made with software synthesizers and sequencer layers, human voices are never included except for the second track. Use this music to explore the unknown, fulfilling the urge of hearing something completely different, as though from a faraway planet nothing like Earth. What you will hear are daring new sounds with a Berlin School theme of astronomy and science fiction.
 
It feels exciting, like walking on thin ice, it can feel so transparent, with note-by-note realizations utilizing hypnotic rhythms and extensive use of the sound-design capabilities of his instruments with repeated pitch, filter or effects changes creating genuine spacescapes. Holmes is creating or discovering music using different tone qualities that breaks free from existing ideas.
 
I had the opportunity to exchange email with Hollan Holmes about Milestones and his creative process. He said that Software Synthesizers (Soft Synths) can make sounds no one has ever heard before, and he uses those sounds to describe human emotions or to tell a particular story in very creative ways. Also, working with soft synths is both very efficient and intuitive (most of the time). "Sound design is something that makes up half of my interest in all of my musical endeavors. It's very important to my overall music making experience. Eric Persing and Richard Devine are among my favorites. Joel Thomas Zimmerman (Deadmau5) comes to mind, as well. They're an inspiration, because they create sounds that are original, very unique and very emotive."
 
“In the last few years, we've seen an explosion in software synth technology. The main attraction is that they're very cheap when compared to their hardware-based counterparts. However, it's so much more fun to play with hardware synthesizers, especially the modulars, because they're tactile; you can touch them. Physically twisting a knob is so much more fun than pushing a mouse around on a computer screen. Each realm has their advantages and disadvantages. The old vintage modulars were problematic, they would drift out of tune and you couldn't save patches. Software synths pretty much eliminate those drawbacks.”
 
In reviewing the first track, what comes to mind is music brought by aliens from outer space. “Transmitter” (5:00) pulses with cycling patterns that build at a moderate pace with a strong beat sensations of flying, floating, cruising, gliding, or hovering and providing an amazing kind of acoustic atmospheric resonance.
 
“One Giant Leap” (5:17) kicks in by building layers of the pulsing cycling patterns with historic recordings of actual voices from NASA woven into the mix as an homage. “Okay Houston, I am on the porch…” Imagine, they must have heard these strange noises during the Apollo 11 mission, when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, uttering the famous words “...One Giant Leap For Mankind.”  He knew he was going to be walking on the moon, he had time to think about it, about the moment when human destiny experienced a major milestone. When asked, Armstrong said that he did not pre-plan what he would say and came up with the phrase only after the landing.
 
Experimental droning, pulsating sounds giving it an avant-garde feel, with melodic cycling patterns that pulse with added electronic ambient vocalisms drawn to a more mechanical and electronic sound, by using synthesizers to create new sounds to accompany and enhance these electronic realizations on a continuum of spatial imagery and emotion pure atmospheric minimalism, this is the travel and exploration leg of the journey. “The Truth Laid Bare” (5:44) 
 
Imagine a celestial sunrise, sparkling sequencers weaving layers that build a genuine sense of awe and wonder, the wave forms of electromagnetic emanations from various stars and constellations for the sonic textures of this album. You can hear something happening right at that moment somewhere in the universe that  has tremendous atmospheric qualities. While the journey continues, so does the beauty --  “Slipstream” (7:02). A slipstream is the area immediately behind a moving object in which a wake of gases or water is brought along at velocities comparable to the speed of the moving object.
 
West of the Pecos River is often referred to as "Far West Texas" or the "Trans-Pecos", next to the Llano Estacado, a vast region of high, level plains extending into Eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. Holmes tells of his personal feelings about the vast territories where he lives. "While I love my Texas, I do not love her heat. I'm definitely wired for cold weather. I guess my dream home would be somewhere in Western Wyoming or Eastern Idaho. I have a thing for mountains and clear rivers. Both are deeply inspiring and peaceful places. Maybe I would spend Winters in Southern Utah, Arizona and West Texas. The Desert Southwest is crazy beautiful to me. I was born in Dallas, Texas. From there I moved to Wichita Falls, then Abilene, then to my current location of Euless, so I've been in Texas all my life. The land is what inspires me the most. I love the Hill Country of Central Texas, but I find most of my inspiration in the rugged lands of West Texas. While West Texas may seem more connected to Country and Western music, I think there is a connection between that land and more electronic based sounds. The possibilities are endless. It's about how the land makes me feel."
 
To the east of the Llano Estacado lies the “redbed country” of the Rolling Plains and to the south of the Llano Estacado lies the Edwards Plateau. West Texas receives much less rainfall than the rest of Texas and has an arid or semiarid climate. Much of West Texas has rugged terrain, including many small mountain ranges, while most parts of the state are at or near sea level. The sound on this track, “West Texas Backroads” (7:05),  sounds to me like pulsating sequences of woven melodic keyboard patterns, celebrating how the chords were layered into hypnotic, minimalistic rhythms, futuristic science-fiction themes that represent an end or a milestone of the journey.
 
“Bulletproof” (6:21) is about graduating high school and thinking we're going to live forever; that nothing can stop us; that nothing bad will ever happen to us and that feeling of freedom and energy and that we can accomplish anything. Patterns emerge from deep space sounds huge atmospherics more about color, not chords or melody, or just the tone, but also incorporating various other sounds. I’ve always found that really interesting. Listening, I imagine rowing a boat all by myself into the pitch-black sea, or in outer space maybe?
 
The Inner Sanctum was a radio mystery program that was broadcast from 1941 to 1952 and in the music of this track I see no direct references to the dramatic word-plays with sound effects from that series. The name, Inner Sanctum, refers to a sacred place within a church, or to a private or secret place where few are admitted. Now that sounds more like this music, with its terrifying depths and coiling darkness related to space or otherworldliness, emphasizing texture, ventured into the world of electronic music, which is something that listeners will find fascinating. “Inner Sanctum” (7:12) reveals secret layers built upon a basic pulse, going deeper, opening into an electronic choir of immense dimensions and surrounding the audience in a cloud of sound.
 
“The Phone Call” (7:10)... A fantastic tour through a beautiful one-of-a-kind cave with layers of electronic pulses and tones woven into a melody of mystery and great expanse, an aggregate of multiple sounds and trance-like rhythms that evokes a sense of spatial imagery and emotion or sensations of floating, cruising, flying and other transportative sensations.  All of us have received at least one phone call in our life that changed us. Holmes was getting a phone call at work one day in the early ’90s from his wife's place of work, informing him that “We don't know what happened, but the paramedics are working on your wife now and they're taking her to the hospital.” That was an hour of uncertainty that he'll never forget. She had suffered a seizure, but is fine today. 
 
The words used in the title “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (6:49)  are about 9/11. That was a milestone that definitely changed many of us. The title originally comes from a line in Macbeth, spoken by a witch in Act IV. Those words were also the title of a popular Ray Bradbury novel published in 1962, a story about a travelling carnival that comes to town a few days before Halloween and two youngsters, Jim Nightshade with his friend William Halloway, who have a nightmarish experience, and this track follows that strange dream with dark slow huge sounds, tranquil, hypnotic and moving, a feeling of contemplative spaciousness with lots of reverb and echo, haunted by some tentative bumps in the inky blackness.
 
In electronic music, it’s hard to exaggerate the importance of all of the deep space plus melodic sounds, hypnotic, droning rhythms, and shimmering keyboards. The sound of this final track consists of ambient elements combined with short, repeating sequenced runs of notes, which gives the music a rhythmic element; this piece is brisk and energetic. It is a beautiful tribute to a wondrous legend. “Ayyappan” (7:19)  is a legend in various regions of India, with some variations in the story. Ayappan is a hero usually shown with a bow and arrow upraised in his left hand, while in his right he holds either a bow or a sword diagonally across his left thigh, or sometimes in a yogic posture wearing a bell around his neck, and sometimes riding a tiger. He is also sometimes called Hariharaputra, and said to be born from the union of Shiva (The Destroyer) and Mohini (Goddess of Enchantment). Ayyappan the warrior deity is revered for his ascetic devotion to Dharma, which is the ethical and right way of living. Ayyappan’s military genius and daring yogic war abilities are used to destroy those who are powerful but unethical, abusive and arbitrary. Ayyappan has also been portrayed as the child of a priest whose father was murdered by the fearsome outlaw Udayanan. The outlaw also kidnaps a princess. Ayyappan then makes a daring rescue of the princess, where he kills the evil Udayanan. 
 
There was a time when electronic music was said to sound flat. Early electronic musicians began by emulating existing sounds, that was all they knew, now we are in a new era of ears where we can invent or discover sounds never before heard, using processing effects including reverberation, phase shifting, flanging, and ring modulation, plus so many new technologies that come along which don’t differentiate between musical sounds and sound effects. Listen and discover that synthesizers can be used to create entirely new sounds instead of mimicking other instruments. Unlike sculpting or painting, when working with music it is possible to listen to music the way we listen to the sounds that surround us in our daily lives, like rowing a boat into the darkness. Being able to keep going is what matters, right?
 
1Transmitter
2One Giant Leap
3The Truth Laid Bare
4Slipstream
5West Texas Backroads
6Bulletproof
7Inner Sanctum
8The Phone Call
9Something Wicked This Way Comes
10Ayyappan
 
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPr3fw3qB3g
 
Album: https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/milestones/
 
Artist website: http://hollanholmesmusic.com/
 
FULL INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST HOLLAN HOLMES
 

"Each of our milestones in life adds to our growth in so many ways. My growth as a composer involves, in no small way, experimentation and each album is an attempt to grow and improve and hone my craft to the very best of my abilities. Music, however, is much like any art form in that it is subjective and that is the risk with doing anything creative. However, I made a promise to myself before I made my first album that I would only make music for me and no one else. While it is my sincere hope that others enjoy what I'm doing, my goal is to make the kind of music to which I personally want to listen.

"Milestones is entirely software-based, with regard to production. While I continue to explore hardware-based performances, this one was done using soft-synths and an array of digital effects and processing. One of the most exciting things about what I do is in the creative process of sound design. It isn't uncommon for me to come up with a sound that interests me so much that I build an entire song around it. Sound design is very important to my work. Certain emotions are best conveyed by certain sounds and I am constantly trying to be mindful of this. Also, what processing is applied to a sound is actually a huge part of my methodology. It is among the most exciting things I do while making my music.

workstation“I relied primarily on Propellerhead's Reason to create my 7th album, “Milestones,” although Presonus Studio One IV was also used. Many plugins were used, as well, such as  Spectrasonics' Omnisphere, Native Instruments Kontakt, Heavyocity's Gravity, Arturia's V Collection and so many others. My go-to effects plugins include Valhalla Room and FabFilter's Pro-Q and Timeless-2, but many others were used, as well."

I had the opportunity to explore ideas about the creative process by way of email with Hollan Holmes and I have some notes to share with you now about his music and about his newest release, Milestones, available February 21, 2020 from Spotted Peccary Music. (https://spottedpeccary.com/)

What is it about the electronic sound that attracts you to soft-synth technology?

It's incredibly expressive! You can make sounds no one has ever heard before and use those sounds to describe your emotions or to tell a particular story in very creative ways. Also, working with soft synths is both very efficient and intuitive (most of the time).

In the last few years, we've seen an explosion in software synth technology. The main attraction is that they're very cheap when compared to their hardware based counterparts. However, it's so much more fun to play with hardware synthesizers, especially the modulars, because they're tactile; you can touch them. Physically twisting a knob is so much more fun than pushing a mouse around on a computer screen. Each realm has their advantages and disadvantages. The old vintage modulars were problematic, they would drift out of tune and you couldn't save patches. Software synths pretty much eliminate those drawbacks.

What events would you care to identify that have moved you to create Milestones?

Some events were personal, some were ones that affected all of us. “The Phone Call” is sort of both. I think all of us have received at least one phone call in our life that changed us. Mine was getting a phone call at work one day in the early 90s from my wife's place of work, informing me that “We don't know what happened, but the paramedics are working on your wife now and they're taking her to the hospital.” That was an hour of uncertainty that I'll never forget (she had an epileptic seizure and fell and split her head open, but she's fine today). One event that changed us all was the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The song, “One Giant Leap” is about that human milestone. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is about 9/11. That definitely changed many of us. “Bulletproof” is about graduating high school and thinking we're going to live forever; that nothing can stop us; that nothing bad will ever happen to us and that feeling of freedom and energy and that we can accomplish anything.

Who have been some sound designers or specific works that have influenced your work in general or Milestones in particular?

Sound design is something that makes up half of my interest in all of my musical endeavors. It's very important to my overall music making experience. Eric Persing and Richard Devine are among my favorites. Joel Thomas Zimmerman (Deadmau5) comes to mind, as well. They're an inspiration, because they create sounds that are original, very unique and very emotive.


Eric Persing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Persing
Richard Devine https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Devine
Joel Thomas Zimmerman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadmau5

Where were you born, where do you live now, and how might that have influenced your work?

I was born in Dallas, Texas. From there I moved to Wichita Falls, then Abilene, then to my current location of Euless, so I've been in Texas all my life. The land is what inspires me the most. I love the Hill Country of Central Texas, but I find most of my inspiration in the rugged lands of West Texas. While West Texas may seem more connected to Country and Western music, I think there is a connection between that land and more electronic based sounds. 

The possibilities are endless. It's about how the land makes me feel.

Tell me a little more about the Hindu God of growth, referred to on track 10 of your album Milestones.

Ayyappan is a deity, the son of Shiva and Mohini ,the female avatar of Vishnu. I have a friend in India named Ayyappan and he is an amazing man. Very smart, devoted to his family and never, ever complains about anything, even though there are many aspects of his life that are worthy of complaint. It is this latter aspect of his behavior that has taught me so much and that is how I have personally grown, both spiritually and emotionally. I did not know what his name meant, until I looked it up much later in our friendship. Our friendship is definitely a milestone in my life. He has unwittingly taught me to be thankful for what I have and to not be unhappy about what I do not have.

How did you come to meet Ayyappan, your friend from India?

My main profession is that of a landscape artist and I often post my work on some Facebook watercolor groups. It was there where Ayyappan often commented on my work. We have shared our art and methods with one another for a couple of years now. The internet is not always a friendly place, but I'm thankful that his and my paths crossed, because we are very good friends now, even though we have never met in person.

How did you come to meet the legendary ambient electronic audio artist Howard Givens?

I ran into Howard at a Steve Roach concert in Tucson in 2017. I knew who he was, so I introduced myself and we immediately began talking about the possibilities of my forming a relationship with Spotted Peccary. In the end, it was Howard, acting as producer really, who gently guided this first release to fruition. Had it not been for him, I seriously doubt that this album would sound as polished as it does, and I don't mean just with the mastering, but how I approached the entire project. I've never had anyone help me with my music in that way. He is an important part of any success this album experiences.

If you had a dream place to live, where would it be?

While I love my Texas, I do not love her heat. I'm definitely wired for cold weather. I guess my dream home would be somewhere in Western Wyoming or Eastern Idaho. I have a thing for mountains and clear rivers. Both are deeply inspiring and peaceful places. Maybe I would spend Winters in Southern Utah, Arizona and West Texas. The Desert Southwest is crazy beautiful to me.

What is your most treasured accomplishment?

To date, my most cherished accomplishment would have to be getting my art into the American Watercolor Society shows. The AWS show is the best of the best and getting accepted the first time was literally a dream-come-true. A close second is achieving a growing audience for my music. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that so many people would reach out to me and tell me how my music has changed their lives in some positive way. That is a deeply rewarding thing to hear for any musician. Two of my albums were nominated for One World Music's Album Of The Year. I was very honored by that.

How has a daily routine shaped your creative life?

We are what we tell ourselves we are, so that is why I try to always think positive and try every day to do my best. I fail more often than not, but I try to learn from it. I make my daily habits revolve around my art and music and my health, so that I can improve as a musician, a husband and a man. When I'm gone, I want to leave behind something that others can enjoy for a long time. If I just played video games and ate junk food all day, I wouldn't be leaving behind anything good. I think that doing something – anything – that requires creative thinking is vital to our happiness, even when (or especially when?) it requires struggle and practice. It teaches us discipline, perseverance, dedication and the value of hard work. Nothing good ever came from being a couch potato!

What was your most positive discovery in life?

That anyone, if they set their mind to it, can achieve their dream. Early in life, I did not see my potential, even though others saw it. Find your passion and pursue it with everything you've got. You will be surprised at what you can achieve. Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.

Where do you come up with your best ideas?

Oh, that's a tough one. Usually, they come when I am exploring during sound design. Most often, a song is built around a particular sound and not the other way around. Sometimes, I do have an idea that requires that I design a sound for it. Melodies come to me from only God knows where. They just pop into my head. It's truly difficult to explain sometimes how I get my ideas, but I like to think of it as a language. Musical notes are like the alphabet. Chords are like words, melodies are like sentences and songs are complete stories. You just have to figure out what you want to say, then figure out how to write the story. It does take practice but also an understanding of harmony and, to an extent, music theory. Ultimately, it boils down to what sounds good to you.

What is your favorite album to listen to for inspiration?

Another tough one. Probably a three-way tie between Rush – Subdivisions, Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon and Steve Roach – Mystic Chords And Sacred Spaces. 

What is your advice to artists who are starting out?

Above all else, you have to practice. Let nothing stop you from doing what you love to do, even when someone tells you that you don't have a chance at success (yes, it happens). Do not listen to the naysayers, listen to your heart. Also, find a worthy mentor, someone who inspires you and is willing to help you learn your craft, so that you benefit from their experience and avoid developing bad habits. Experiment often, try different methods, follow tutorials, take workshops. That's another thing, don't let anyone tell you that going to a college is required. It is not. Most universities teach very little about what it means to make it in the music or art world. They teach their own, focused agenda that often has little to do with your ultimate goals. I'm not saying that college won't help you, but I am saying that it is not required (at least it wasn't for me and many others). What is absolutely required is an undying passion for your work, whatever it is. Find what you love to do and make it a way of life. 

What have been your most important discoveries?

That you get out of life what you put into it. 

The late Neil Peart, drummer for Rush, sums this up best: “You can fight without ever winning, but you can never win without a fight.” If you persevere, amazing things can happen. This knowledge can only truly be understood by experiencing what perseverance can bring about. 

What would you tell a youngster about getting ideas for composing?

I would stress the importance of experimenting. Exploring sound and sound relations. Ideas often come from being inspired by music you love. Maybe NASA and all their achievements inspire you. Maybe a video game soundtrack moves you to create your own compositions. Do not copy, do not steal, but let the work and actions of others inspire your own ideas and influence your explorations. Experimentation is a huge part of what I do, both in music and art.

How did your parents introduce music into your life?

Music was always on in my house, growing up. My dad loved Country & Western. He was actually pretty good with his harmonicas and accordion.  My mom loved a lot of contemporary music during the 60s, 70s and 80s, like Burt Bacharach, Chicago and Roberta Flack. My sister loved pop, like the Beatles, Elton John, Jim Croce, The Eagles, Bread, etc. I was exposed to a staggering variety of music growing up. All of it was important in finding my own interests.

Did your parents insist that you practice?

No. They encouraged it, but it was never forced. That probably would have killed my interest in music in short order. My mom paid for my piano lessons for a while and I played a few recitals, but I wasn't inspired at all. When I formed my first rock band at age 18, we practiced every night (!) in my garage. They most definitely did not make me practice then. They still supported me, though, and even helped me buy some of my gear. God bless them. They endured two years of the most godawful racket, but it was quite important in my musical journey and I think they knew that. How they didn't lose their minds is beyond me. Also, I was never without art supplies. I have friends whose parents actually tried to quell their kids' creative endeavors, calling it a pointless waste of time. I'm eternally grateful that my parents, who actually met in art school, always actively encouraged my creativity in every way. 

THANK YOU for your time!!! 

Thank you for this opportunity to share my story!

You can hear all the albums of of Hollan Holmes musical work on bandcamp (https://hollanholmes.bandcamp.com/), and you can purchase Milestones directly from Spotted Peccary Music (https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/milestones/),  in CD format and in 24-BIT AUDIOPHILE, CD QUALITY LOSSLESS, MP3 and streaming formats. 

About Spotted Peccary Music:
Portland-based Spotted Peccary Music is North America’s finest independent record label with a focus on deep, vast and introspective soundscapes. For over three decades, the artists of Spotted Peccary have been on a mission to develop, produce, publish and release ultra-high-quality, deep-listening experiences that engage the listener and exceed expectations. Every release is carefully prepared in a variety of high quality formats from MP3 to high-res studio masters. Explore more than 160 titles and 45 artists at www.SpottedPeccary.com and www.AmbientElectronic.com.

Links:
Spotted Peccary Album page: https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/milestones/
Spotted Peccary Artist Page: https://spottedpeccary.com/artists/hollan-holmes/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spottedpeccary/
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/spottedpeccary
Album unboxing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPr3fw3qB3g
Bandcamp: https://ambientelectronic.bandcamp.com/
Artist website: http://hollanholmesmusic.com

Videos

https://vimeo.com/127713907
"Access" Glare Technologies
Fractal animation by Michel Mastriani: mmastriani.deviantart.com
Soundtrack by Hollan Holmes: hollanholmesmusic.com
Designed and rendered in Chaotica: chaoticafractals.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBvmY4m0mMg&t=22s
Hollan Holmes - An Uninvited Guest
5 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HacyfHp9AU&t=25s
Hollan Holmes - The Spirits Of Starlight
5 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWFzkdj4Bko&t=29s
"Lost Memories" From The CD, Phase Shift, By Hollan Holmes
6 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuSrh2bKNw4
Hollan Holmes - Zero Point Energy
6 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMvtIYhV4fQ
Hollan Holmes - Outskirts, from the CD, The Farthest Fringes
7 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVRwf0M-6Po&t=40s
Hollan Holmes - Aeon, from the CD, The Farthest Fringes
7 years ago


© Copyright 2020 Robin James. All rights reserved.

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