Album Reviews

Koen Holtkamp – Motion

(Thrill Jockey) UK release date: 24 March 2014

Koen Holtkamp - Motion Koen Holtkamp may be primarily known as one half of Mountains, the psych-ambient-drone outfit he plays in alongside Brendon Anderegg, but he’s building up a body of solo work that, while not hugely distanced from the music he creates as a partnership, increasingly deserves to be viewed and judged on its own merits.

Last years’ Centralia album was arguably the strongest Mountains album to date, rich in instrumentation and widescreen in sound. Their music has always projected an organic, topographical quality and it’s a trait Holtkamp also conveys successfully when working alone. To an extent parallels can be drawn with ex-Emeralds man Mark McGuire, who followed a similar path in releasing Along The Way to modest acclaim earlier in the year.

For Motion Holtkamp changed his methodology and working practices, creating the album entirely in the studio as opposed to using ideas and sounds derived from live performances (a process that has contributed to previous solo releases). It’s not too far-fetched to view the four pieces that make up the album as being suggestive of a synth-based, ambient symphony of sorts. Its relative succinctness is very much a strength and encourages individual tracks to be viewed as brief chapters in a wider musical volume.

The use of guitar alongside synths has always been a feature of his work but he draws more heavily from the latter pool of sounds on Motion. Opening track Between Visible Things sees pulses and patterns slowly emerge from under the lush electronic streaks that wash over us. Following track Vert may see him utilise electric guitar, but it is filtered in such a way to make it sound closer to the analogue synths that dominate elsewhere.

The polished, reflective surfaces of Crotales meanwhile see him drift further into ambient territory. It’s a far cleaner and more crystalline sound than we’ve occasionally heard elsewhere in Holtkamp’s back catalogue – certainly compared his 2008 debut album Field Rituals which integrated field recordings, found sounds and tactile acoustic guitars into one pleasing body of work.

The album closes with the proliferating sounds of Endlessness, a piece that is longer than the previous three tracks combined, and the most overtly drone-based (and Mountains-esque) track on Motion. It shows that regardless of environment, aesthetic and personnel, Holtkamp is as capable as ever of making quietly unassumingly transporting music.

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Koen Holtkamp – Motion