James Holden has managed to carve out a niche for himself that is all
his own - try and pigeonhole his sound at your peril. The boy wonder
with a maths degree from Oxford University honed his production and
DJing craft in his student digs, with a £500 computer and some free
software, and took the dance music world by storm in 1999 with the
powerfully emotive 'Horizons' on Silver Planet. Although he has since
moved on from the progressive sound that made his name, the haunting
melodies of the genre can still be found twisting eerily in and out of
the warped soundscapes of his more recent productions.
Despite his rise into the DJ A-list, James Holden's studio set up remains very much unchanged, and he maintains that "the computer can become an instrument like any other". Not many producers (let alone mathematicians) can create the sounds that James Holden teases out of that small box of electronics. Layer upon layer builds up to create tracks that manage to be both stripped down and deeply complex at the same time - records that fit easily into the set of a house, techno, electro, or downtempo DJ.
2004 saw the release of James Holden's sublime reworking of label mate Nathan Fake's 'The Sky Was Pink' - a spine tingling euphoric slice of twisted electro-techno-trance that was a massive underground anthem. In 2006 he released his debut artist album - the critically acclaimed and aptly-titled 'The Idiots are Winning', which not only ripped up the techno Rule Book, but chucked it out of the window, along with other literary classics such as Electro-by-Numbers and How to Write Bog Standard House Music. His 'At The Controls' mix album was equally anti-establishment, taking in music from psy-trance to 70s krautrock, and somehow making it work like magic.
Like his productions, James Holden's DJ sets draw in elements of house, electro, breakbeat, techno and genres that probably haven't even got a name. As far from 'minimal' as you could possible get, simply because there is so much to draw you into this weird and wonderful hazy musical world - James Holden is the man to get even the most jaded dance music aficionado excited about music again.
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