First off, this is not the typical record that your average, casual music listener is used to — and fo’ sho’, Lonnie Holley has not taken the career path that your normal indie rocker have taken, but please let me implore you to really take in this music because it is rewarding as fuck. Indirect, psychotropic, danceable, poetic, artistic, and soulful — these are all words that can describe this bizarre and beautiful music created by Holley, and if you give it a chance — this music has the ability to take you higher … way higher.
Holley first came to prominence as both a visual artist and as a human rights advocate, both fighting for African American homeowners rights and then making artwork depicting that struggle. His found object art works have been displayed in prominent museums all through his home state of Alabama and throughout the American Deep South. Holley has always made music that sat somewhere between ambient, spoken word and jazzy R & B, but made it in relative obscurity until Psi-x hero Bradford Cox (of Deerhunter fame) started heavily personally promoting this music (no surprise as Cox’s own music finds a way to bridge the art and rock world with its own unlikely mix of rock and ambience).
Which brings us to Holley’s new release Keeping A Record Of It. The album has been recorded in dribs and drabs over the past six years with a list of who’s-who in the Atlanta D.I.Y. scene (featuring members of Deerhunter and Black Lips). This record is really interesting: no real “choruses”, no overt sampling, no recycled indie clichés, just a unique, experimental yet satiating mix of chilled out rhythms and seemingly stream-of-consciousness spoken (not sung) lyrics. Sonically it can often sound like that sunny early 60s So Cal jazz popularized by Joe Williams, but playing Krautrock covers.
Keeping a Record of It has a lot of low-key, jazz-associated acoustic instruments and often prominently features a loud Wurlitzer organ. However, after sonics, that comparison falls apart quickly as the chords rarely change. “Six Space Shuttles and 144,000 Elephants” is the most song-y cut and features sing-song incanting — nonsensical lyrics about birthdays, transformations and internal dialogues. Note: getting overtly interested in understanding the album’s lyrics might be a giant waste of time. The feeling to me is that Holley is more like a chanter, the vibration of the word is more important than the content. In fact, vibration may be a good word to describe a lot of what I like about this record. Truth be told, I’ve done yoga to this record and played this record while I was meditating as the overall ambient quality of this really cleared my mind, mostly because I could “sense” the good vibes (almost silly vibes) of Holley and his repetitive, hypnotic grooves. His singing/talking feels at times more like a wolf’s bay rather than a human voice. This is really interesting stuff.
I normally talk a lot about specific instrumental qualities or lyrics or melodies, but for Holley’s new album, Keeping a Record of It, I really feel like that kind of talk almost belittles the work somewhat. What’s important here is the vibe of the record and the feelings that vibe is giving the listener and I really think that if you’re in the right mood for something like Lonnie Holley, I recommend this record highly.
Words by Stephe Psi-X
Lonnie Holly Tour Dates:
10/03 Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church *
10/04 Providence, RI – Columbus Theater *
10/05 Boston, MA – The Sinclair *
10/06 New York, NY – Webster Hall *
10/08 Ithaca, NY – The Haunt *
10/09 Pittsburgh, PA – Carnegie Lecture Hall (Chamber Music Hall) *
10/10 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom *
10/11 Detroit, MI – Trinosophes *
10/17 & 10/18 Columbus, OH – Wexner Center
^ = w/ Deerhunter
* = w / Bill Callahan
# = w / Avey Tare’s Slasher Flick