Since the release of 2013’s epic pagan saga The Inheritors, the kraut-tinged synth-and-drum core of the live touring outfit assembled by Holden to spread his alternative electronic message around the world has picked up several additional members along the way. Legendary jazz band leaders Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders provided the blueprint for this quest to assemble “something like a spiritual jazz band playing folk / trance music”, but here cornet (Marcus Hamblett) and saxophone (Etienne Jaumet) function as the complement to the star soloist of Holden’s ever-strident synth. Meanwhile drummer Tom Page is inextricably bound to Holden’s synth care of self-coded interactive drummer-following software, keeping pace with the almost imperceptible – yet unmistakably human – micro-errors in timing which lend live drums their natural magical groove. Producer Holden’s creative control over the project is absolute, from building his own synth and software, writing the musical backbone and steering his players, to self-recording, self-mixing and eventually also self-releasing the finished collection on his own imprint.
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. 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, rather than the narrow formulaic European musical genre. This one-time international DJ has now officially hung up his headphones to turn his attention to setting a new standard for interconnected live electronic performance, as he gears up to take his new five-piece musical collective out on the road this autumn. And now we are through the looking glass into a new realm of inherently organic live electronic musical performance, there can be no going back to the prison of the rigid world of computer beats.