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CD Feature/ Photophob: "Circadian Rhythms"

img  Tobias

I was taught to always start with the bad news before getting on with the good. In this case that means beginning with the information that there will be no American edition of “Circadian Rhythms” despite prior claims to the contrary. Which is to say that the small print run of 100 copies pressed by Laridae, the label photophob’s Herwig Holzman heads with Stefan Aigner and Bernhard Hansbauer, will be the only ones available (and if you badly want one, subscribe to our newsletter, as we’ll be giving a copy away for free this month). On a more positive note, the album sees Holzman delivering an ever more personal vision of “intelligent dance music”, devoid of cliches and full of promising openings.

Long-time fans needn’t worry, though: Broken beats and looped chord progressions are still the backbone of his music. Compared to the razorsharp performance on “Still Warm”, his second full-length for groundbreaking American outfit Hive Records, however, the rhythmic component has shifted to the background just a little bit and hardly ever serves the purpose of a self-sustained layer in its own right. The same can be said about the implicit theme of the previous release, the contrast between the technological and the organic. Of course, juicy analog pads are still counterpointed by poignant digital stabs, but the duel remains on a subcutaneous level, instead of pushing the record forward in general.

Instead, the emotional aspect of his harmonies has taken center stage. With just a few notes per piece, “Circadian Rhythms” conveys striking landscapes of solitude, melancholy, drifting awareness, bizarre majesty and elevating energy. Short melodic arches rise triumphantly, as thick layers of sound unfold over clattering percussion chains. Surreal scenes of scifi-jazz are sandwiched in between the tracks, creating a radioplay sensation and suggesting a concept of sorts behind it all – even though it remains unspoken. And despite the pieces mostly coming in a comfortable radio-format, they are stuffed with ideas and reveal an urge for something bigger.

These ambitions come together perfectly on the almost six minute-long “Old School Daemon Comes at Night”, a stretched-out track which opens with the photophob trademarks, retreats into a mould of stop-and-go, before building a futuristically supercharged climax and finally picking up the main theme in a haunting piano outro. On previous occasions and of course through his ambient output, Holzmann has declared his intentions of not wanting to be restricted to a single style or genre. With “Circadian Rhythms”, he has come very close to building a niche of his own. That, as you might have guessed, is the good news with which we want to close this review.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Photophob
Homepage: Laridae Records

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