The Holy Family – s/t : Album Review

The Holy Family – David J Smith and friends – take us on a swirling psychedelic trip.

Release date: 2nd July 2021

Label: Rocket Recordings

Format: CD / digital / clear vinyl (sadly sold out…)

Let’s start with some connections – The Holy Family exists in some sort of bizarre Venn diagram where Knifeworld, Guapo and The Utopia Strong crossover. David J. Smith acts as conductor along with longtime collaborators Kavus Torabi, Emmett Elvin, Sam Warren and Michael J. York. A bit of a modern psychedelic fantasy football dream team. Like having Mount, Foden AND Grealish in the England footy team.

“I guess if I had to try to put it into words it’s my attempt at a musical interpretation of a very trippy and psychedelic murder mystery tale, or otherworldly dream / hallucination,” says Mr Smith. He offers further insight – talk of metaphysical trance states, heat-haze atmospherics, febrile incantations and the like – but you can check that on their Bandcamp page. Improvise and refine seems to have been the philosophy and order of the day and the result is a sprawling double album (in old money) of craft and creation.

It’s clear that no boundaries were harmed in the making of thirteen tracks that drip with rich in adventurous philosophy. On the one hand, it makes the likes of progressive pioneers like King Crimson (and Gentle Giant who dared to be deliberately contrary) seem restrained and unimaginative. On the other, its down to their pioneering efforts that we land at The Holy Family.

We’re promised an intrepid voyage through sound-worlds that takes in all manner of incarnations, as we’re regaled with spidery zeuhl (yes, I’ve read Kavus’ and Steve Davis’ Medical Grade Music), pastoral interludes and cinematic-styled scores. Of course, the trip heads straight for the outer limits while the lyrical moments are inspired by Angela Carter (whose infamous 1991 short film The Holy Family Album birthed the band name) and the surrealist art of Dorothea Tanning.

So how can we describe the music? In fact CAN we describe the music? Can we delve into the tracks and speak of what’s on offer without tripping ourselves up with unintelligible descriptions of psychosonambulistic ecstasy? Can we disguise the sounds in a language that’s flowery enough to deceive the reader into thinking they’re actually read an album review? Probably not, even if we invent our own words in trying to unravel what’s on offer. In short, The Holy Family is indescribably therapeutic. Akin to musical incense.

So – See, Hear, Smell, Taste combines thoughts of musical boxes and carousels, where Inner Edge Of Outer mind is much more of the nightmare-ish, haunted house variety. Stones To Water combines chimes and bubbling percussion before literally shifting that bubble to underwater ambience complete with sonar bleeps and the two parts of Chasm seem based on the provision of a texture over which all manner of invention can occur. However, the opening fifteen minute combo (probably Side One in old money or if you’ve been smart enough to capture your clear vinyl set) ) is hard to beat, taking an easy route into some snaking ethnic incantations and hypnotic forests of your imagination.

Ultimately we have a rather splendid soundtrack for your chill out zone. A bubbling auditory stream from the sensory garden. A revelatory brush with the extraordinary. And so on. Personally, I’m really getting into these sounds (thanks Kavus) but feel like an amateur, only scratching at the surface, but it’s going to be a brilliant learning experience. Old dog, new tricks and all that. Meanwhile, for those who’ve ever pondered (as you do) what exists at the inner edge of your outer mind? Seek ye no further…


Here’s St Anthony’s Fire:

The Holy Family online: Bandcamp

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