Switched On – James Holden: Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities (Border Community)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Four albums down, James Holden is showing another side to his artistry. Holden has always been closely associated with electronic music, but this instalment finds him looking to recreate what rave music was about in the early 1990s.

To do that he has in tandem a fleet of classic analogue synthesizers, and has personalized his approach with recordings of the young Holden on violin and piano.

What’s the music like?

The wordy title is a homage both to rave classics of the time but also brings to mind early Pink Floyd or 1970s Krautrock excursions. All are present in Holden’s music, though he keeps well away from derivative writing, instead bringing through riffs that are fresh, vital and energetic.

It is a big but wholly enjoyable album, one that goes back to first principles in making music for enjoyment, pure and simple. You Are In A Clearing is evidence of that, referring to some of the work Steve Hillage has done with System 7. Like Hillage, Holden gets his synths to talk, sometimes with dolphin-like keening noises, other times with soaring arpeggios.

The young Holden gets his look-in on Contains Multitudes, a longer expression of musical warmth where the violin and piano recordings complement the synths. Worlds Collide Mountains Form also uses the violin, though here it acts of a drone with a dubby bass for company. Common Land occupies similar ground, returning to the early Ibiza triumphs of 808 State for inspiration.

Does it all work?

It does. It may be a long album, but the high dimensional space does indeed realise all possibilities.

Is it recommended?

Enthusiastically. This is a joyous homage not just to early 1990s rave but also the more fantastical end of 1970s Krautrock – and yet James Holden makes the album even more than a sum of those parts. A wonderful and essential album that somehow works.



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