Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Luke Abbott, Holkham Drones

Luke Abbott, Holkham Drones
Border Community

This week comes another excellent new release from the excellent Border Community label, accompanied by what will most likely be an excellent show at Ginglik in Shepherd's Bush. The line-up includes Walls (the brilliant splicing of Allez Allez and Banjo or Freakout) plus DJ sets from Nathan Fake and James Holden.

The record is Luke Abbott's first proper album, Holkham Drones, which follows last year's mini-album Whitebox Stereo (also on Border Community) with essentially more of that same quintessentially BC sound, strongly influenced by label head James Holden. Pulsing, underwater beats, woozy analogue synths, warm rushing drops and percussion like icicles shattering in your cochlea.

And early listens got me thinking. Rock hacks and everyday folk often like to reel off sad little top tens of 'druggy' albums like Screamadelica or Forever Changes or fucking Sgt. Pepper, but really none of those records, acceptable as they may be in their own individual ways, come close to actually offering an auralisation of the drug experience.

Not that I'm going to stoop so low as to start some debate on the authenticity of 'drugginess' on record; Christ, what could be more boring, really, than talking about how drugs have influenced music, or vice versa? As though 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' is any more than a nursery rhyme about the munchies just because - OMG! It's got DRUGS in the title!! They were proper on it! Shit, they should sack off the whole David Mitchell-the-doggie-drugs-mule ad and just broadcast a Public Service Announcement in the shape of all the lamest 'head' music ever committed to wax: Kids! Put down your cocaine pills and syringes full of 'the new terrifying legal high' Ivory Wave! Don't be like Jerry Garcia!

"Well, I had some very weird experiences. My main experience was one of furious activity and tremendous struggle in a sort of futuristic, space-ship vehicle with insectoid presences. After, I had this image of myself as these little hunks of protoplasm that were stuck together kind of like stamps with perforations between them that you could snap off."

Woah, crazy shit, right kids? You'd definitely give acid a bash if you thought it'd be that exciting. Except - nope, turns out that's what Jerry was seeing when years of Elvis burgers in roadside diners put him in a diabetic coma. Mmm.

So to get back on point, psychedelic ker-aziness is just not what I call an "auralisation of the drug experience". I'm going to ignore psychedelia-influenced stuff that does attempt this in other, more successful ways (Spacemen 3 maybe) and just argue that Luke Abbott (and by extension, Border Community releases in general, because they do have a very identifiable shared sound) manages to replicate in sound not so much the state of 'being on drugs', but the emotional responses held within all of us that drugs can sometimes toy with, either by exacerbating them or cutting them off or reshuffling them in ways not previously experienced.

I think Abbott does this through a combination of 1) pulsing, almost soft beats, like hearing your heartbeat in your inner ear, or playing a drum kit made of cotton wool, and 2) a rushing warmth that's constantly tweaked up and down, in and out, sometimes dropping you from high into that full, analogue warmth that's like a pure serotonin hit; like walking outside on a hot and beautiful Sunday morning when you've nothing to do but go get the paper and make scrambled eggs.

So not drugs. Just emotions, I guess. But those kind of emotions that, though they're available to everybody, tend to get unlocked more readily with recreational drugs (I'm not going to get scientific and talk about serotonin/dopamine levels etc because I don't understand enough about it, and probably neither do you, and it's really not terribly important to the point I'm trying to make).

And I suppose that's what I look for in so much of my favourite music, maybe without realising it. There are certain songs that I find I can't listen to too much because I fear I'll somehow deplete the effect they have on me, an almost physical effect that taps into those emotions and neurological responses and reassembles my brain jigsaw in disorienting but intensely satisfying ways. I'm sure everybody has different songs that do it for them. But 'Whitebox', by Luke Abbott, is probably one of them. Check out the YouTube clip above - but don't go overboard now.

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