8 April 2017

Hologram Earth - Black Cell Program (2017)

About bloody time!

I didn't believe Luuk Van Der Velden when he told me that it has been 5 years since Hologram Earth's first EP hit the shelves. I still listen to it in my darker moments. Having now checked I can confirm that it has indeed been 5 years. You can read my review of it and a bit of a rambling introduction to the band on a post I wrote back then.

Luuk has always promised that there would be an album someday. I've always promised that I would go and see the boys live. Up until yesterday we were both equally bad at delivering the goods. Now it's just me :-(

I'm delighted to announce that the long-awaited first album is here! Woohoo! It was launched yesterday. I must have listened to it 16 times already. I was going to do a post about my latest linocut project, but you know what... stuff linocutting... today it is all about Hologram Earth and the gradual eroding of my sanity. Ha ha. Pull up a chair and I shall begin...

Here's my super slick vinyl edition that arrived yesterday. Perfect timing! It's a gate-fold double-album pressed in white vinyl. Nice! The cover art is a wonderful design made by Klooster. I haven't had chance to learn much about who or what Klooster is, but I will at some point soon hopefully. If you have details... then send them my way.

Update 09-Apr-2017: I've details on the elusive Jasper Kloosterboer. "Constantly learning and experimenting, he approaches design in a systematic way." I want you to hold this thought for my next post. You can check out some of Jasper's work here.

Hold on, hold on... I'd better not go too far without giving you some details on where to get the album from. If you are old-school like me you can get records and cds from Bandcamp. You better be quick if you want the limited edition record. I see that there are only 8 left!

If you are of the new world, then you can also listen to Hologram Earth on Spotify. I'll try to embed it here for you and let's see if this works...

And here is the full album on Youtube!

I've joked in the past that I have no idea what Michiel Meurs is singing about half the time. It seems that the boys listened; Inside the album I've found the lyrics. I won't pretend that I've read them yet... because I haven't. The words aren't important right now for this review. What I'm going to try and give you is an idea of how this album makes me feel. I want to talk about emotions and music. You can go read the lyrics yourself in your own time. ;-)

First up is "Immaculate Conception". It's as if the boys never left! I feel myself transported back to the original days. What an introduction! If ever there was a Gothic Anthem to begin a Flash Gordon-like space opera, then this is surely it.

This tune is a scene setter for what is to come. After a crashing first third we stagger into the middle part. It's a bit like stumbling out of a maze into the light, wondering were the hell you are. What on earth is going on? I love the buzzing bass and steady tapping beat as the music drops. It's round about this point that Michiel does one of the best "WOWs" I've heard in a long time and we're off again.

Something I've noticed more of in this album than other recordings is the subtle introduction of atmospheric ambient background noise. It works incredibly well. I'm a fan!

Track 2 is "Outnumbered". I love this one. It starts with a Knight Rider Killer Car type vibe before we're being slapped about the face and poked in the eyes by Thomas Cochrane on what I think might be bass.

There is an ethereal almost ceremonial quality to the music and vocals in here, but the surprise is the mournful trumpet that leads us by the ears to our doom. The funeral procession ends with guitar stabs and punching drums.

Track 3 is "Circadian" which if memory serves me, was released some time ago as a bit of a teaser for people like me.

It's a tight little tune which starts gently with a beautiful sweep of trembling guitars. Michiel is at his most adventurous and I think it works well (do more!). After some roaring, what comes next is mournful in its delivery. I felt myself wondering... Is he in pain? Is Michiel hurt? Is he hungry? Should I send food? It's a great mix of vocal sounds.

I'm wondering now if this is a different vocal take on the album compared to the earlier recording I heard? Anyone know?

My favourite bit in the whole song is where Michiel shouts "ARE YOU AWAKE!" It scares the life out of me every time. Yes... I'm awake Michiel... please don't hurt me! After that is the absolutely outstanding trumpet and Daft-Punk-like guitar section... And then we return to madness and shouting.

I love this song.

In retrospect, I think that I will send food to Michiel... food, and throat sweets...

Track 4 is a trick.

"Moment of Despair" starts off with what could be quite an uplifting introduction. I was fooled into thinking that this was going to be a happy tune. After a cheeky pitch-shift, in chug the guitars. Hold on a second... Out of nowhere I find myself being chased through a forest by a mad man with an axe. Holy shit! He's got a trumpet! M.u.s.t.r.u.n.f.a.s.t.e.r....

MoD features a guest appearance by Jørgen Munkeby on saxaphone. It's a lovely mash of lilting Lisa Simpson-like jazz that gets crazier and crazier until she's ultimately murdered and Michiel and Jorgen slug it out in a question and answer battle of wits.

I'm beginning to regret reviewing each song now.

I've started, so I'd better finish...

Track 5 is a lovely tune called "Rebirth".

It's an instrumental and I can just imagine how this one got onto the album...

It was Thomas. One day, he turns up at the studio and he's got ideas! Not little ideas... BIG ideas! Guys.. How about we do a song that starts with ambient, haunting sounds. Stillness. A repeating rhythmic melody. Water dripping into an underground cavern. Picture this... a child raised by wolves drinks from a septic pool. Above, Pagans burn Christians. Below, Molemen dig deeper and deeper in search of gold.

I bet this is how it started! Nitin Sawhney would be proud.

I love the electronica feeling held true by understated drum. This is a triumph in its vision. I'd go as far as calling it "Epic". We've got everything. The wailing guitars are sublime and when the Mexicans arrive with their trumpets we really know that the shit is going to hit the fan in a big way.

What a great tune! For me, the ending evokes an image of a giant Michiel bursting up through the earth, smashing all in his way. In his wake, is rubble and destruction. Magnificent! This is rebirth!

My favourite track on the album.

Track 6 is "In Ashes We Sleep".

This is guitar madness with bizarre riffing, squeeks and squelches.

Don't tell Michiel, but I reckon his impression of Morten Harket is spot on. The choruses are sweet and soulful; The last little yelp evokes memories of the late 80s and mullets.

I get a real sense of tension in this tune. Michiel has got his feet in chains and the water is slowly rising. There is a beautiful operatic quality to this song. Its placing as second-to-last on the album is a real stroke of genius as I think that it sets us up for a rip-snorter of a finale...

We're here! Song 7 and the title track "Black Cell Program"

We end the album with a return to pounding grunge. After a slow pensive start we embark on a race through Hell on a sleigh dragged by skeletal dogs. Woohoo! Bending guitar riffs backed by a devilish beat call the Druids to the temple. It's a sight to behold.

There is a sort of mystical feel interspersed with machine-gun-like guitar stabs. I sense schizophrenia as Michiel reveals a dual personality. Everything is discordant and rhythmically challenged.

How does it end?

We're shot into space.

WOW! I love this album. I apologise for all the nonsense I've written, but hopefully you've got a feel for what to expect when you fire this one up. It's already the top album of 2017 for me. Well done to the boys. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: There's so much talent here. I love the variety and creativity of the whole package from artwork right through to the meticulous mixing. This is the beginning of great things... you mark my words!

Next time, I talk about lino-cutting ;-)

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