Somnambule - Writing About Music

Holkham ~ Komatta Saru

Holkham. Komatta Saru. Sounds like a foreign language to this English speaking reviewer, perhaps it is. Those words sound like something that should be intelligible, but aren’t. Track titles such as Chichan, Bose Bose, Sck and Lpm appear to be set to a template not a million miles from Autechre’s own gnomic approach to naming conventions, but the music, though distinctly electronic, ends up somewhere else. That place is a a little further out of reach than tentatively stretched fingers may reach.

Komatta Saru manages to be simultaneously anonymous and noteworthy perhaps the latter follows on from the former. Its sixteen tracks vary between twelve seconds and more than seven minutes in length. The shorter pieces are as interesting in their own way as their longer counterparts. All of them are united by a number of qualities: a certain pensiveness, elusiveness, elegance and delicacy. Some tracks such as Mercury Sizzle have a brooding quality recognisable in Brian Eno’s On Land. Juv3_1 arrives on the sound of distant artillery combined with a roar that might be the ponderous turning of windmill sails. A chugging, chuffing rhythm succeeds this passage and pacifying tones gradually appear over the horizon before each element ceases one after the other, bringing the track to a close. Rhythms throughout are unhurried, spaces do not have to be filled.

Komatta Saru may be the electronica equivalent of a genre painting such as a 17th century Dutch still-life or domestic scene. It feels as though if one were to be distracted even for just a moment, Holkham’s music would disappear. Similarly, paying too much attention would have the same outcome, Zelig-like. Fascinating.
Colin Buttimer
June 2004
Published by the BBC