Holy Fuck’s new LP Deleter finds the Canadian electro-boffins back after five years and setting a self-consciously lighter tone than in previous albums. They’ve gone all out to make something captivating, polyrhythmic and blissed-out. I’m not sure if it’s aural catnip or if it’s exhausting and overstimulating. It may be both.
It’s impossible to discuss Holy Fuck without exploring their process a bit. For instance, the opening track began life as an improvisation they recorded live from the mixing desk as an encore during a gig in Luxembourg, hence its title, ‘Luxe‘. Holy Fuck improvise a lot and rely heavily on analogue synths, toy keyboards, and weird vintage fetish objects like 35mm film synchronizers to get their sound. Does it go without saying that they’re a legendary live band? Hope so. Anyway, to get the sound for ‘Luxe‘ absolutely right they sent guest vocalist Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip to Jack White’s Third Man Studios to record his contribution in an ancient Voice-O-Graph Booth.
The result captures something both rapturously euphoric and somehow achingly sad. The Voice-O-Graph was never intended primarily for music. In an age when recording equipment was inaccessible to most people, you could cut a snazzy aluminium record of yourself and mail it to the folks back home. Taylor’s vocals then have the authentic ring of an old field recording from the forties. It’s partly hauntological, partly hedonistic, like that time ATP booked the Overlook Hotel.
The rest of the album is suitably scuzzy and ecstatic. They’ve had a good long look at the dance music of the nineteen-nineties and come up with a selection of tracks that for the most part wouldn’t feel out of place on a Big Beat Elite compilation. ‘Free Gloss’ goes right for the amygdala and ends with Pond’s Nicholas Allbrook channelling Neil Tennant at Castlemorton. ‘No Error’s block-rocking bass-line patrols a bad neighbourhood of half recognised sound effects and ‘Moment’ is so accurate a pastiche of some of the shit that was going down in 1994 that it might actually dilate your pupils.
And that’s the trouble. A lot depends on how far you want to sanction such an exercise in nostalgia. Just last week I was arguing in the case of Algiers that it was nice to find a band acting like the nineties never happened. It’s hard not to have mixed feelings about immediately then encountering a record that wallows in that era so unashamedly. More than once I find myself wishing that I could just chill out and enjoy it. None of these thoughts are necessarily criticisms. But you might need something for the come-down when you finally drag yourself away.
The only actual misstep is ‘San Sebastian’, which sounds too redolent of Wire’s Pink Flag if Wire had had too much money, too much acid and little by little had gone insane. It’s redeemed by the Krautrock escapade that is ‘Near Mint’, because fuck it, at my age I need a little Krautrock now and again. Helps me get off to sleep.
Still, Holy Fuck have come up with a worthy new chapter their ongoing adventure. By eschewing digital and making all the sounds the old fashioned way, there’s a quality in the grain that gets somewhere between the organic and the human-made and which collapses the false opposition between humanity and technology that’s dogged the synthesiser since Kraftwerk. Or you could equally well just slip into your Global Hypercolour t-shirt, dance to Holy Fuck, and forget these vain illusions of self-hood.