The identity of Holy Other is a mystery, but do we really want to solve it? In Myspace and SoundCloud profiles, he or she appears beneath a glistening black veil. But this veil doesn’t serve to protect any truth, at least any truth that really matters to the average listener. What more information would we actually be getting if we knew his or her name? A set of two or three words that we can presume refers to the author of this five-song EP, and not much more. It’s not the face under the veil that is of interest, that is wholly other, but the specter of the veiled face itself. On With U, Holy Other places such a veil across the sounds of R&B, dubstep, and house music, and in so doing, lends them an obscurity in which the contours of a new, uncanny, wholly other presence can be glimpsed.
With U stands as only the fourth release by the genre-defining/defying Tri Angle Records, not counting the digital mixtape in tribute to Lindsay Lohan that made their name. Tri Angle has been selective and tasteful even as the barrage of chopped and screwed goth that came in the past year is beginning to see its moment pass. Releasing the official debuts of How to Dress Well, Balam Acab, and oOoOO, Tri Angle’s Robin Carolan has a perfect batting average so far (which looks to continue as the label prepares to release the Rainforest EP by Lil B beatmaker Clams Casino). For the past year, Holy Other gained attention for the self-release of a few pristine, gaseous tracks, but With U is Holy Other’s first major statement. Holy Other has lived in Berlin and Gothenburg, but the current location on his or her SoundCloud page is Manchester, home of fellow dubstep necromancers Demdike Stare. On this EP, we hear the sounds of all three locales: the pure pop of Sweden, the retrofuturistic echoes of Manchester’s Factory Records, and most of all the minimal 4/4 sounds of Berlin, all shot through with a death march delay and an airless echo.
The house influence on this EP gives it life. Even as the songs on With U rock in place, they achieve liftoff of a sort, if only a dubious levitation, visible only to the initiated. “Touch” shuffles together a dead-eyed banger out of fingersnaps, crunk basslines, and stabs of diva vocals. “Yr Love,” released digitally last year, is a slow-motion house track composed with smooth and clean (although unpredictably pitched and wordless) vocals. On “Feel Something,” what might be 20 seconds of an Aphex Twin track takes a ride on a slow-moving but well-aimed torpedo. The veiled sounds of these tracks are like the mysterious shadows of the bedsheet that graces the cover of the EP. Are they the imprints left by a pair of lovers or the outline of a still body? On which side of the sheet’s surface does the truth lie? As with Holy Other’s namesake, the answer seems to escape and transcend any earthly binary.
This is not dead music, but it’s perhaps as close as you can get without passing over. It is music with palpable warmth, not nearly as cold as your average techno track. With U is about that moment just in between life and death. The characteristic chopped-up delay of this record is the sound of the heart skipping a beat, the sound of the Stillness in the Air — Between the Heaves of Storm. In that space in between death and life, in order to perceive this music of the gathering vacuum, of shrouded cadavers that are still warm to the touch, of Breaths gathering firm For that last Onset, we have to lean in close to hear, and it is with this closeness that Holy Other unites the deathbed with the dancefloor.