James Holden recently announced his third album recorded together with his newly-expanded band as James Holden & The Animal Spirits. The Animal Spirits will be released 3 November via his own Border Community label.
Let electronics guru James Holden and his newly-expanded band The Animal Spirits transport you to a magical other world with this third album: a bold new set of synth-led folk-trance standards, fusing elements of psychedelia, krautrock, world and spiritual jazz with Holden’s usual propulsive melodic vigour into his most ambitious – but also most accessible – work to date. The synth-and-drum core of Holden’s Inheritors-era live touring outfit has picked up several members along the way, incorporating saxophone, cornet, recorder and cosmic percussion, all recorded live together in one room under the direction of band leader Holden to produce a genre-blending new form of universal music that feels inherently fluid and alive.
This heady blend of the electronic and the acoustic came into being during the hot and sticky summer of 2016 under the direction of fledgling band leader Holden at his Sacred Walls studio in London. In a bid to capture what he calls the unfakeable “psychic communication” of a group performance, The Animal Spirits was recorded live in one room together in single takes, no overdubs, no edits, in accordance with his own self-imposed dogma.
What has emerged out of these sessions is a genre-blending new form of universal music that feels inherently fluid and alive. Just one example of the record’s wide-ranging influences, the relentless, elastic and hypnotic polyrhythms of ‘Pass Through The Fire’ grew out of Holden’s 2014 trip to Morocco to work with legend of Gnawa music Maalem Mahmoud Guinia.
The first song he wrote for the band, ‘Pass Through The Fire’ took shape over months of pre-show dressing room practice, as Holden set about transmitting the distinctive Gnawa rhythm to drummer Page. It soon made its way into the pair’s live shows, adding Jaumet’s on-the-hop improvised sax contributions further down the line.
Holden says, “This was where I got the idea that songs are just backbones or seeds and the strong ones teach/reveal themselves to the players rather than the other way round.”
Following the announcement and the sharing of the relentless, elastic and hypnotic polyrhythms of lead single ‘Pass Through The Fire‘, today he has shared the second single to be taken from the album, ‘Each Moment Like The First’.
As the only track on the album not recorded in the one week-long mammoth live recording session with the full band, ‘Each Moment Like The First’ sits both as an anomaly and as a glimpse at the records core.
The track’s recording is the first time Holden played it with drummer Tom Page during an early rehearsal. “What you hear”, says Holden, “is us making it up as we go along, playing melodies I hadn’t written yet as they occurred to me, finding where the song wanted to go. And although we tried rerecording it later with more players and better mics, there was something untouchable about the truth of that first time.”
The idea of a musical recording capturing a unique moment in time which can’t be recreated is central to Holden’s personal recording dogma, and so this raw, stripped back – yet undeniably magical – rehearsal version of ‘Each Moment Like The First’ sits at the centre of the album, offering a revealing window into Holden & Page’s improvisational process.
In embracing his new found knowledge of Morocco’s Gnawa trance tradition and repackaging the brash tones of pure trance into the accommodating spiritual jazz band format, The Animal Spirits can even be viewed as a kind of coming to terms with Holden’s early trance past, only now his focus is on the parallel evolutions of folk traditions the world over and their hypnotic effects on the brain,
Recorded live in one room in single takes and born out of of the sheer unbridled joy of live performance, Holden’s third artist album The Animal Spirits is the momentous culmination of a radical transformation, as the former trailblazer of the early noughties computer music revolution is dramatically reborn as live musician and band leader
1. Incantation For Inanimate Object
2. Spinning Dance
3. Pass Through The Fire
4. Each Moment Like The First
5. The Beginning & End Of The World
6. Thunder Moon Gathering
7. The Animal Spirits
8. The Neverending
9. Go Gladly Into The Earth
Along with the announcement, the band – consisting of long-time collaborators Tom Page (RocketNumberNine) and Etienne Jaumet as well as Marcus Hamblett, Liza Bec and Lascelle Gordon, Holden also recently announced his first London show since 2015 at Islington Assembly Hall on 6 December
Also James Holden is set to curate a stage at Utrecht’s Le Guess Who? festival, with a lineup of artists that includes Moroccan Gnawa musician Maâlem Houssam Guinia & Band, Sex Swing, Hieroglyphic Being and Bosnian accordion master Mario Batkovic. Holden will also present his new live show James Holden and The Animal Spirits.
Le Guess Who? takes place November 9-12 in a range venues across Utrecht and will coincide with the largest record fair in the world. Utrecht’s Mega Record & CD Fair hosts over 500 record dealing stands in the Jaarbeurs convention centre.
6 December – London @ Islington Assembly Hall – TICKETS
10 November – Barcelona, ES @ MIRA Festival
11 November – Utrecht, NL @ Le Guess Who? Festival
26 November – Boulogne Billancourt, FR @ BBMix Festival
28 November – Berlin, DE @ Gretchen
29 November – Leipzig, DE @ Conne Island
30 November – Mannheim, DE @ Alte Feuerwache