Sacred Places – Spotted Peccary Music SPM-4403
“My travels to the places I love are the main focus of this album Sacred Places. There are special places on this Earth that are sacred to me; places that, when I am there, move me deeply and spiritually. There is an energy in these places that is palpable. I tried desperately to transfer that same energy into this music.”
1. About the album Sacred Places
Hollan writes music about energy from many points of view, the essence of it, stories about all facets and themes, Energy is a big thing, always has been (and probably always will be). I could be wrong. What counts is the sound.
The cover tells the story, combining nature and science. Daniel Pipitone is the amazing and resourceful Graphics Maestoso at Spotted Peccary. What I see is a lonely winter beach, with magic swirls in the air and some squiggles. Hollan puts it best: “The average person may not know: They are waveforms! Specifically, a Saw, Square, Triangle and Sine wave. They are the four most common waveforms generated by the oscillators of subtractive synthesizers. Each has their own sound, their own characteristics and can be shaped and manipulated into myriad other sounds, even combined in creative ways to make all new waveforms. But what real business do they have been on the cover of my CD? The name of this album is Sacred Places.
The music is intended to celebrate the…
…places that are spiritually significant to me. The main reason I included these waveforms on the cover is because, if you look carefully at each waveform, they are indeed glyphs, or representations of various elements of our natural world. Look at them again; Mountains like the Tetons, desert bluffs of Monument Valley, trees in the forests of the Sierra Nevada and water, which many of you know, is a profound part of my love of nature (my last album was all about water and rivers). This album is all about the extraordinary natural world in which we live and, in many cases, have lost sight of our relationship with nature.”
Civilization is separated by only a thin veneer from the natural world. To ignore this relationship would be folly. – Hollan Holmes
There is an energy in these imaginary places that is palpable, this collection of compositions represent the places Hollan has visited in his life, various locations that have special meaning and importance to him personally. The music is primarily sequencer-driven, with infusions of Tribal and Ambient passages.
“My goal was to capture sonically the spiritual and emotional energy of these places.”
2. The tracks
The opening track of Sacred Places is “Order Out Of Chaos” (6:06) which fades in slowly, overall an awakening and then working through the numbers following the patterns which are building up interconnecting layers, and then the song’s power surges. For me, the atmosphere is perfect as a background for kinetic tasks, the push is met by the beat. I also figured out that I can rest and listen to energetic music, using my breath to just slow down and listen. Rest is good for the heart and mind.
We have territory to explore! The map says, “Temples Of Stone” (7:20), these temples have always anchored living people to the powers above. I do not know how it works. Now a wind whips past leaving a calm sensation but for a moment, until the throbbing ascension resumes its grip. Here these one-of-a-kind temples are ancient remnants from never-forgotten dramas. Now eternal days and nights throw shadows about until in the end when one pulsing bass note leads the universe as storm clouds come and go.
Now the atmosphere is a misty distant forest, find yourself on a sled ride through the snow, which turns out to be soon flying just above the treetops and everything is covered in snow as far as you can see, in the moonlight at midnight, Sacred Places’ third track “Bristlecone” (5:19), hear layers of cold aromas and hissing breezes combing the pine needles while smoothly sailing along.
Followed by a new snappy tempo, walking at a…
…brisk pace, “Drawn To An Intangible Energy” (6:37) the music is putting me into a dream. The butterflies are using intuition to guide their way into a forest, some are following repeating melodies and are pulled by the hidden power. It is intense, I hear millions of passionate drone insects scurry to complete their assignments until the bass takes us all the rest of the way there.
Here comes the electric guitar, not hidden inside a dramatic processional, a pounding electric guitar performed by Bill Porter, who punches hard and raw while always remaining very clean and riding upwards on a lift. With dancing crystal light and dazzling atmospherics, this entire up-tempo framework with a view rising above the sky, “An Elevated Life” (5:52) is tight fitting and burning, as the power increases. There is a lot of forward velocity contrasting to the somber title, swirling towards a new destiny on “Hallowed Ground” (5:01), bold cinematic flight sensations.
It all flows along so quickly, jumping to a bass driven force that is well crafted, like a tree in a forest. I hear layers of circular patterns and sparkling chromatic melodics that feel very calming to take in. Track seven of Sacred Places brings a sense of slowing down now, the tessellated circles spin along, calming at first then strengthening and easily blending the intensity with noble darkness. I am realizing my humility, “Walking Among Kings” (7:11). The feeling is proud and enlightened, calm in the face of terrifying might, the lower toned throbs buzz while the stage rises and then melts, I doubt that the royal vigor is aging, we are walking slowly.
I see holy skeletons dancing with obvious certainty…
…and confidence, “The Divine Connection” (6:38) bringing unimaginable torments and impossible delights. The feeling is snappy-happy, I feel fast moving swirls and mist, and on and on the tempo flies into the clear light. Pause, remembering the impressive devotion and passion, while crisscrossing melodic components entwine with dark and light, sparkling with many small vigorous units coming together to form a gigantic whole quickly rising into the storm, rapid notes pounding and burning across the sky.
Now growling reptiles consider fight or flight, evoking the cycle of life and death. Track nine is cautious and slow. “Primal Instinct” (7:56) becomes dark and scary, the feeling is nimble but grim, a philosophical reading of the unity of the human being’s spiritual history, each of us alone and starting slowly in the dark. Here the air tingles, there are layers of beats approaching and tension builds. From the start, the complexity draws me in, and all the pieces fit perfectly. Always there is rising energy, now becoming a thunderstorm of passion, rippling dangers, and caution, always reaching into the forgotten behavior based on natural reactions and subconscious urges. Always with no thinking, just action. I might hear a khoomei throat singer making a buzzing overtone sound, I could be wrong.
After starting to feel a lighter dancing beat, more…
…power brings a joy that is triumphant in every way, “A Light Unto The World” (7:09). This new day delivers repeating cycles that swell and flare, a conquest of the crystal spheres, weaving and layering evolving forms of gently building excitement that expands and swells while the mountain flashes with fire into eternity. I do think that it is possible to find relaxation and release in listening to complex electronic energy, passively watching a movie for the ears. Imagine this is a movie about good outcomes and celebrations.
The powerful and bold magic keeps on blossoming and changing, returning to the ancestors to ask them about the mystery of perpetuity, the feeling is respectful and celebrative, not too dense while remaining always complex and multifaceted, seemingly forever a powerful deep boom marks each cycle explosions and everlasting resistance that in the end sails away on the ocean never to return. The final track is the title track, an anthem of forever, with a ghost piano blending into electronics, “Sacred Places” (6:06). There is a plethora of subtle details in much of this music that may not be observed on the first listen but can be discerned through repeated and careful listens.
Sacred Places was composed, performed, and recorded by Hollan Holmes in The Decompression Chamber. “As with most of my work, sound design is at the center of my creative process. The character of the sound determines its use in a composition and is most often the single greatest influence on the direction of the melodic explorations that evolve into the final piece.”
Hollan says that “Music has always been for me an endeavor to convey my emotions. It does not have to connect with others the same way that it connects with me, but if the listener feels their own connection or is emotionally moved in any way, then I have achieved my most elusive goal… This music does, to an extent, reflect my continued explorations into sequence-driven rhythmic melodies, but, as always, I have made every attempt to impart my deep emotional connections with the places that this music represents.
This music is also more complex than in many past efforts, containing myriad nuances and details that attempt to focus on a specific musical experience that encourages repeated listening. Additional technical efforts were pursued to ensure a higher quality recording than all past efforts, which was the result of a greater understanding of the tools that I used in the production of this music.”
Hollan used the following instruments and…
…tools in the production of this album, Dave Smith Instruments: Prophet 12, Pro-2; Oberheim OB-6; Moog Prodigy; Propellerhead Subtractor, Europa, Thor; Native Instruments Kontact; Arturia Pigments; Spectrasonics Omnisphere; Valhalla DSP Room, Shimmer, Space Modulator, Delay; FabFilter Pro-Q, Timeless 2, Twin 2. The Electric Guitar on “An Elevated Life” was performed by Bill Porter.
Holmes once said that software synthesizers (soft synths) can make sounds no one has ever heard before. Hollan uses those sounds to describe human emotions or to tell a particular story in highly creative ways. Also, working with soft synths is both very efficient and intuitive (most of the time). “Sound design is something that makes up half of my interest in all of my musical endeavors. It’s very important to my overall music making experience.” Holmes still owns and uses (and must regularly calibrate) an old analog classic Moog Prodigy. In the early 80s, he discovered Jean Michel Jarre and, later, Tangerine Dream, both of which would forever alter his musical direction.
At this time, altogether Hollan has eight albums in his catalog, most of them self-released. His first album with Spotted Peccary Music is titled Milestones, using synthesizers to create new sounds to accompany and enhance these electronic realizations on a continuum of spatial imagery and emotion pure atmospheric minimalism. His second Spotted Peccary album Emerald Waters offers all the colors of the blue and green spectrum and is also inspired by the Berlin School Electronic Music, with its sharper, icier precision and fascination with melody, repetition, and textures. I feel the implied messages about technology’s impact on the planet. Sacred Places blends ornate sequencer passages with intricate yet intimate landscapes in the listener’s mind.
4. Where to buy the album Sacred Places?
Written by Robin James, January 19th, 2024