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Held

Held


There's a semi-regular column in the somewhat holier-than-thou free music magazine The Stool Pigeon which seeks out - based upon the tweetings of @solovelythatithurts - uses of the phrase "achingly beautiful" from reviews and descriptions around the world, and collates them into a handy column so that readers can sneer and scoff at how unimaginative the writers have been in using it.

On the surface, "achingly beautiful" doesn't seem like the most clichéd of phrases. Sure, you know you've heard it before, but it's not as if it's "nice" or "good". It has a much more poetic ring to it and, unlike "good", takes you on an exploration of the fragility of human emotion within the confines of its seventeen letters. Should I be blissfully entranced by this concerto / cinematography / Lana Del Rey song, or should I be wincing and reaching for a softer pillow to sit on? What if Lana Del Rey's lips and this pillow are actually so hard to distinguish that they're essentially the same thing, as pain and pleasure can often be? Would I rather sit on Lana Del Rey's lips than this pillow? Well yes, I suppose I would, although I don't see the relevance in this instance.

Listeners to Holy Other's previous work will be well accustomed to walking around with rouged cheeks and dilated pupils by now. 2011's With U EP was one of the year's finest releases, possessing the ability to almost physically stupefy the listener, creating such an overpowering whirl of emotions that numbness was always just on the verge of being induced. The Manchester producer's debut full length, Held, continues in a similar vein, meshing together hope, desire, resignation and despondency into singular bursts that are so sonically heavy that they'd probably be unbearably oppressive were it not for the snatches of pitched vocals and cinematic elegance that flit in and out of the songs like loose petals blowing in a gale.

As a whole, Held is a somewhat safe, restrained record, with just a few tracks matching up to those heard on With U. Those that do - 'Tense Past' and title track 'Held' are probably the best new additions to his catalogue - are stand-outs, but in reality this isn't an album that should be taken one song at a time. Having dubbed it "safe" and "restrained" but two sentences ago, it could be considered that these are in fact not derogatory terms at all, but actually the core of what makes Holy Other's music so powerful. It's the comforting, unassuming nature of it that has such a numbingly potent effect. And when you're aching from too much beauty, a bit of numbing could be just what the doctor ordered.

by Now Then Sheffield